This month fantasy author Maria V. Snyder launches her new Healer series with Touch of Power, featuring a heroine with a very special power. Avry of Kazan is a healer who can mend the wounded with her touch — but this gift comes at a price. Avry internalizes the pain of those she heals, and is being hunted by a government who blames healers like her for causing a plague. Today Snyder shares an insider's look at her heroine's extraordinary ability, and reveals the personal inspiration behind Avry's healing powers.
The idea of Avry being a healer came from a variety of sources. At first, I had this vague notion about doing a story with a healer as the main protagonist (or an apprentice healer) during an epidemic. She was either going to be sought after for her powers — like everyone wanting her, or be hunted. I wasn’t sure. Then one night my daughter couldn’t sleep and she wanted me to tell her a story. She knew all my other books, so I started telling her about this healer. And every night, she’d ask, “What’s next?” That’s why Touch of Power is dedicated to my daughter.
As for why I choose healing powers, I dabbled with those powers in my Study series and I wanted to explore it further. Many of my readers have already commented on the similarities between Yelena’s abilities to heal and Avry’s. They both can “assume” the person’s injuries or sickness and then heal themselves. While this is just one of Yelena’s magical powers, it’s the only one for Avry. Another important difference is Avry must be touching the person skin to skin for her to heal him. The power of touch is very important in this book. Tohon’s life magic and Sepp’s death magic also need a skin-to-skin connection to work. And touch lets Avry see the world through Kerrick’s eyes.
The ability to heal with magic is very appealing to me. As a mother, I hate to see my children sick or injured and always wish I could make it all go away. I also have seen what illness and chronic pain does to a person’s quality of life—as in there is none. All the money in the world cannot compare to good health. And whenever I’m asked in an interview which magical or super power I’d want, I always say the power to heal.
I recently had a discussion about healing powers with my daughter. She had her wisdom teeth removed and was in pain. I gave her some medicine, but I told her I wished I were Avry. That comment led to us speculating on what it would really mean in today’s world. So many suffering people would seek after my powers. Our house would be mobbed and I wouldn’t have time to write or be with my family. And I’d be in pain or sick most of the time (I avoided this problem in the book since healers in Touch of Power are considered criminals). Would I really want the power then? Unless I could remain anonymous (maybe by wearing a cool disguise) and still have a somewhat normal life, then the answer would be no. Would you?
I also have to give credit for the idea to an old Star Trek episode titled "The Empath" about a race of healers/empaths who can take on the injury or illness of another (like Avry). The Empath sacrifices her life to heal Dr. McCoy, and I always wondered would I do that for another. Before having children, I’d have to be honest and say probably not. But once my son was born and I held him in my arms, a very strong mother bear instinct kicked in. No doubt I’d give my life for my children.
- Maria V. Snyder