Lou Hoffmann’s Key Of Behliseth
I have recently rediscovered my love of fantasy stories. So when I read about this book I knew I was going to love it. I cannot wait to read it! I had a chance to sit down with Lou to get an idea of where her idea came from and had fun talking with her. Key Of Behliseth is a YA book so don’t go in expecting hot and steamy. But after reading the blurb and the excerpt, that you can read below, it’s obvious the book doesn’t need it to make me want to read it. At the very bottom enter to win an e-copy of the book.
Amanda C. Stone: Good morning Lou! I’m so glad you could join us today. Where did the idea for the story come from?
Lou Hoffmann: I don’t remember exactly, Amanda, but I had been reading about string theory, and the idea that many possible futures or consequences may come from an action, that whenever more than one consequence followed an action a split was created so that two (or more) worlds would proceed onward from there, more or less parallel. Sometimes, these other realities might be short lived digressions, but in some cases they would persist. The question that comes to mind is how parallel worlds coexist, as they would occupy the same “space.” I don’t know the answer, but I made one up—the Ethra and Earth in my story. 🙂 So, I got the idea from my poor understanding of quantum physics and string theory, short answer.
ACS: I have to say that’s the best use of quantum physics in my opinion.
LH: A second source of inspiration for the series is (Arthur C.) Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I am intrigued by the fact that, despite advancing science, the belief in what is essentially magic (whether it’s called that or not) persists, that people practice it and claim success and do appear to be successful at times. And, the farther we progress in science, the more we realize that what we once thought of as magic looks more and more scientifically plausible. So, in this story, in this alternate universe, instead of pitting science and magic against each other, made them allies. In my earlier planning, science itself played a bigger role, but my magical characters stole the show.
ACS: I love this concept. Science and magic can co-exist and the world won’t explode.
LH: And speaking of characters, that is a third inspiration for the story. I knew a boy when I was in grade school that was so very intriguing, and I’ve never forgotten him. Main character Lucky was modeled in a basic way on him. He’s one of the few characters I’ve written that actually started with a memory of a real person. Finally, I love swords and sorcery, and the idea of the wizard and the complementary warrior. I got to really play with that writing this story.
ACS: Characters based on or modeled after real people are my favorite. How long did it take you to build the world you created in this story?
LH: I’m one of those writers who must start writing before I can fully develop a world—or even a character. I spent probably a month dreaming up the places and people, and during that time I also made sure the magics used were systematic—in other words they don’t just happen and they always have a cost, sometimes great and sometimes very small. I worked out a history. But instead of filling in all the wheres and hows ahead of time, I let the characters and the world I’d plunked them down in reveal themselves and their story to me as we went along.
ACS: It’s amazing to me that you don’t get confused by doing it that way. Though that’s probably just me that gets easily confused. What is your favorite thing (person, animal, scenery, whatever) you created for the story? Why?
LH: I’m not really sure I can answer that, but maybe if I hedge a bit. 🙂 In Key of Behliseth I adore my MC, Lucky. He’s a teenager through and through despite the fact that his life is in no way typical. He has many great characteristics and some flaws. He thinks of himself as someone who isn’t strong and isn’t particularly noteworthy, and he doesn’t want to be anything but “normal.” He is gay, but that isn’t what he means when he wants to be normal—his life is a mystery; he means he wishes he had the same kinds of easy answers to the “who am I” question that he believes is available to others. It really is impossible though, for me to choose a favorite character. That said, the one who stands out has always been Han Shieth, the quintessential warrior.
ACS: Han Shieth sounds like an amazing character I want to get to know better.
LH: As for things, there is a device called the M.E.R.L.I.N., which stands for Magic for the Evocation and Reorientation of the Ley-lines Interweaving Naught. 🙂 Scenery, there is a myrtle grove with a spring that makes me want to be there. Creatures, my favorite would be flame eagles—yes, they breathe fires, and the dragon has such frigid breath it turns everything to ice.
ACS: The world you created is so fascinating. I can’t wait to immerse myself in it. If you could be a wizard, what kind of powers would you have?
LH: I would answer questions “why.” All of them. (Thurlock, the wizard in Key of Behliseth, calls “why” the wizard’s question.” I would conjure hot, delicious strong coffee without leaving my bed. I would study and study and study. I would need to live a very long time. I would be tempted to try to eliminate pain, evil, hatred, cruelty, illness, but I would hope I would not give in, because if I did that the people affected would no longer grow or understand joy. But maybe, I would have sufficient skill and knowledge and wisdom to see those cases where I could relieve suffering without unweaving the whole world. And, you know that saying, there’s someone out there for everybody? I would devise a means to find my someone lickety-split.
ACS: I can think of tons of uses for magic that would make things easier. But I know I’d wind up like Sorcerer’s Apprentice and have a house full of water and mops taking over. Which mythical creature from your book would you want to have as a pet?
LH: I’m not sure I can truly say she would be a pet, but Thurlock has a very special horse named Sherah, whom I would love to know.
ACS: Oh Sherah sound a wonderful companion. Thank you so much for joining me today. I loved having you.
LH: Thank you Amanda! I’ve enjoyed the interview and I’m delighted to have a spot on your blog!
On his way to meet a fate he’d rather avoid, homeless gay teen Lucky steps through a wizard’s door and is caught up in a whirlwind quest and an ancient war. He tries to convince himself that his involvement with sword fights, magic, and interworld travel is a fluke, and that ice-breathing dragons and fire-breathing eagles don’t really exist. But with each passing hour, he remembers more about who he is and where he’s from, and with help, he begins to claim his power.
Lucky might someday rule a nation, but before he can do that, he must remember his true name, accept his destiny, and master his extraordinary abilities. Only then can he help to banish the evil that has invaded earth and find his way home—through a gateway to another world.
Isa left her four Ethran servants to tend the boy until she could return and summoned her recent Earthborn recruits. She gathered them in the vast circular sanctum, the better to show them their insignificance, to inflame their need to serve the Demon Queen. She preferred dimness and shadow, but weaker, ordinary eyes needed light. With a dark word and a flick of thin, sharp fingers, she set a ring of torches burning behind them, blue and cold.
She stood tall in the center of the space, robed as always in blue. Acolytes surrounded her, all Earthborn and easily enslaved by magic. They numbered fifty-two, and huddled in kneeling quadrants of thirteen each. Not as many as she would have liked, but a fair number considering the limitations of time.
Mordred waited in the dark outside the circle, bearing a small stone dagger and a mirrored tray holding four large crystal goblets. Each cup contained a potion brewed of red elder, skullcap, bindweed, and rue. As Isa had taught him, Mordred had, in each cup, drowned a wolf spider and weighted it with moonstone and jet. The final ingredient, the one that would bind them to Mordred, and through him to her and to Mahl, would be added later, in ritual sacrifice.
Having earlier cast a glamour to mellow her voice and visage, Isa lifted her draped arms and bade the supplicants raise their eyes. She began to speak, preaching with a rhythm and flow designed to mesmerize. As eyes glazed in the audience, she blended her words into Dark Chant, low and guttural, sending shadows into their hearts to bleed them of heat.
The last syllables of the spell echoed into the vastness of the sanctum. From the slaves, no sound, no movement.
“Mordred,” she called, and all heads turned to follow him as he came forward, placed the tray at her feet, and went to one knee. He turned the knife and offered it. She took it and then pulled him to his feet, raising his hand to present him to the gathering.
“Here is your captain,” she said. All bowed their heads, and a slow smile of satisfaction twisted Mordred’s face. His eyes glittered in anticipation of new power.
After a moment, Isa instructed the Earthborns to stand in their places. “As is proper, your captain will fortify you with his own strength, through his own sacrifice.
“Behold his gift.”
He knelt again before her, and she drew the knife three inches down each of his forearms, turning the knife to slide under the skin and increase the flow of blood. The smile didn’t leave his face. He uttered no sound. He held his arms over the tray and let his blood, dark with the taint of Mahl, fall into the cups drip by drip.
Quietly, Isa said, “Sufficient.”
Mordred stood, bearing the tray, and waited while she instructed the supplicants.
Isa had named a leader for each quadrant of thirteen, a person with some small portion of magic underlying their greed. To each of these four, while his tarnished blood still flowed down his arms, Mordred entrusted a crystal goblet. They did not drink first, but passed the cup each among their twelve.
When all the others had partaken, the leaders took the cups again and drank, draining every drop of potion until stone and spider fell upon their pallid lips, a sorcerer’s kiss.
Lou Hoffmann, a mother and grandmother now, has carried on her love affair with books for more than half a century, and she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—partly because the list keeps growing as more and more fascinating tales are told in written form. She reads factual things—books about physics and stars and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. Through all that time she’s written stories of her own, but she’s come to be a published author only as a johnnie-come-lately. Lou loves other kinds of beauty as well, including music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, rivers and seas. Proud to be a bisexual woman, she’s seen the world change and change back and change more in dozens of ways, and she has great hope for the freedom to love in the world the youth of today will create in the future. You can find Lou on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lou.hoffmann, or twitter @Lou_Hoffmann.
Dreamspinner Press eBook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5395
Dreamspinner Press Paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5396
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