Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zoli

Zany.   Meerkats are Turbotot's favorite.

Here I am at the end of the alphabet.  I'll conclude with another character interview. Echoes of Oblivion has Zephyr, but I'm really not in the mood for Zephyr's attitude today, so instead, I'll introduce a character from my newest book, Shadows of Absolution, which was released last week.  Zoli Achara's backstory does not come into play in the book very much, so I thought it would be fun to reveal my notes about his character that are not within the context of Isen's narrative.

Today I would like to introduce my readers to Zoli Achara, father of Isen Layel, narrator of Shadows of Absolution.  To start off, why don't you tell me a little about yourself.  When were you born?
Can we make this quick?  I'm supposed to be in the herb garden today.  I was born seven years after Malora fell.  My parents were busy landscaping what was left of the world when I was conceived.  They lost two babies before me, and when she started having early contractions, the midwife in their refugee party told her she needed to stay on bedrest and she might lose me, too.  She complied and the refugees stopped moving around for a while.  They were in an area of Lusifal called the Liban Hills.  They decided it was a good enough place to stay, so my dad built the Gana range around them while they were waiting for me to be born.  More people joined us and by the time he finished construction, there were about 200 people in Gana.  There are 600 now, so we're doing well.

How long ago was that?
Fifty-three years.  Web be damned, am I really that old?  I don't feel that old.

You don't look that old.  I'd guess you were about 35.
Thank you, that's flattering.  People on my mom's side of the family don't really age normally.  We're not entirely human, so I have no idea what our lifespan is.

Who do you look like?
My dad.  Entirely.  Black hair, amber eyes, same facial features.  I didn't inherit much from my mother.

Tell me about your family.
My family is great.  I told you about my parents a little, already.  My father Onyx is a Geophorian priest, and my mother Thora Achara... well, she's one of those Acharas.  Yes, the Ganebran Acharas.  She's also a Geophorian, which I imagine caused her some problems when she was young.  I have two little brothers, Vedan and Orien.  My wife is Lusa Layel.  She's the leader of the rangers.  We have three children.  Our daughters are Isen and Adi, and our son is Lian.

How did you meet your wife?
We had a huge influx of refugees into Gana not long after I was born.  That's about the time my mom named our people Baku and named the city Jata.  Lusa's parents were refugees from Kiribar.  She's five years younger than me, so I never really thought about her until we were older.  I thought she was after Vedan, but she surprised me.  When I was twenty-five and she was twenty, I was drumming at the festival.  She sat and watched me the entire night.  When I was putting away my drum, she cornered me and proposed to me.  I was shy and she caught me off-guard.  It took me three weeks to give her an answer, three weeks of her coming by every day to ask and me stammering in a corner.  I finally said yes and it was the best decision I ever made.

So, in the Baku society, women propose to the men?
Yes.  It's one of my mother's decrees.   She's the chieftan and what she says goes.  I've heard we're backwards from what society used to be, but my mother doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of the past.  Our women are warriors and leaders and our men take care of the children and the gardens.

Do you like it that way?
Hmm?  I don't really know anything different except stories of the old world.  I was a little upset when my mom told me I wasn't her heir, but I got over it.  I'm really not cut out to lead.  I'd rather be gardening.

What was your childhood like?
Rough.  Malora was a mess, and for a long time we were only focused on survival.  My mom worked really hard to relieve some of the tension in Jata by staging festivals, but it was a long time before people were interested.  It started to get better once my talent revealed itself.  I was able to grow enough food for everyone, and my brothers joined me once their talents displayed.  All three of us have the same talent, and we passed it on to our sons.  Maybe the Web influenced our abilities because we were needed, I don't know.  Back to my childhood... my mother wouldn't let mere survival be my only focus.  She was stuck on bedrest for all three of her surviving children, as well as the four between us who didn't survive, so she spent a lot of time reading to me.  She had a huge library and my father liked to search the destroyed cities for books to bring her.  I wasn't born yet when the world fell, but she didn't want me to forget why our lives were difficult.

What is your greatest dream?
It used to be stability for the Baku.  We had a hard time when I was young, but we're doing well now.  We no longer worry about making it through the winter.  We're happy, I'm happy.  Except for one thing.  I want to see my daughter smile again.  Isen has had a difficult and tragic year.  The man she loved died and she shut down emotionally.  I want to see her happy and I'm not sure if she is able to come back to that place on her own.  She's not receptive to our efforts, so it might take someone outside of our family to break her heart out of the icy cave she hid it in.

What is your greatest fear?
I'm afraid of too much.  The wandering predators, especially the wolves after I saw what they did to my nephew and Torin.  I have nightmares about that.  I'm afraid that our gardening talents will vanish and we'll starve.  My brothers and I aren't just green thumbs, we have a magical talent for coaxing plants to grow in horrible conditions.  I'm afraid of Holly Thula, my cousin.  I only met him once, but he terrified me.   Mostly right now, I'm afraid of Isen.  I don't think she's suicidal, but she seems to have resigned herself to a life alone.  It is hard to watch my child decide all she deserves is loneliness.  She deserves better than that.  She doesn't even speak normally anymore.  She's going through the motions of life instead of living it.

What is your favorite memory?
I have three.  The births of my children.  Lusa was in labor with Isen for two days.  She was two weeks late and I was starting to wonder if we'd ever meet her.  Finally, she came out and I caught her.  She was born in the caul, which is supposed to be lucky.  I hope that proves true for her someday soon.  My daughter Adi was breech and her head got stuck.  The midwife was able to maneuver her out, but she had to be resuscitated.  That was the scariest moment of my life, and when she finally opened her eyes and cried, this huge wave of relief and love washed over me.  She wasn't as alert as Isen was and it took her a while to finally nurse, but she was beautiful and alive.  She has some problems still from her birth, but she's doing all right.  Lian couldn't wait to get out.  He was born three weeks early after two hours of labor.  That was intense.  Lusa's other labors were long so we hadn't even called for the midwife yet.  We thought we would have another twelve hours at least, but then, all of a sudden, there was a baby.  Lusa decided she was done after him and three seemed like a good number to me.

You've told us about gardening and drumming.  Do you have any other talents or skills you'd like to share?
I can read runestones reasonably well.  I'm a good cook.  Lusa tells me I have a great singing voice, but I'm afraid to bring it out in public.  There are a couple of other things I do really well, but I doubt Lusa would want me to talk about them.

What magical talent do you wish you had?
Um... mine.  It's subtle, but useful.  We can't survive without food and it's fulfilling to watch seeds grow into edible plants in a matter of days.  It would be fun if I could grow them instantly, but all I can do is coax them to grow a little faster.  I can't think of anything else I'd want to do.  Some of my family members have nightmarish talents.  My uncle and his youngest son, especially.  Both of them affect the moods of the people they're near, one positive and one negative.  I don't think either of them can even touch anyone without an effect.  Even worse is my grandfather's talent.  I don't think I could handle anything like that without going insane within a week.

So you just want to be you?
Absolutely.  But taller.

I'll let you get back to your gardening now.  I look forward to learning about more of your family in Shadows of Absolution.
And I look forward to finding out what the abyss you do with my Isen.  Does she ever find her heart?  And if so, who helps her find it?  I really want to know if she'll be all right.

Damn.  I tried.

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