You know I’m a nut when it comes to Eden. I’ve written how “our cat Patches was one cool cat. Until . . . catnip entered the picture. If he caught even the faintest hint, he was absurd. Gone was his cool swag as he made the pathetic mewing sounds and gladly followed anyone with catnip to the nearest brown bag where he could roll in it like a fool. Eden is my catnip.”
As I interacted with Helena Sorensen when we read her book Shiloh, she casually mentioned that the next book in the series was about Eden. Little did she know that suddenly I could see nothing else she wrote. The only way to focus myself was to say, “Amy, you have got to pull it together. Do not act like a lovesick school girl at a concert and come off as a creepy fan girl.” The only way to stop my soul from catnip twitching was to assure her we would read Seeker.
And here we are. Happy dancing and ridiculous grinning by me. Helena is such a sport and I’ve emailed her a couple of questions. I’ve told myself I can’t read more until I write about the first third of the book without knowing what will happen. If you’ve read on, no worries! If you haven’t started, this book is worth the investment.
Since the story is still unfolding, I’ll share my first impression and themes I’ve noticed. Well, color me surprised. I thought this book would start off in “Eden” and then move to the Lost Clan. So, I have to admit, I was a bit disoriented at first. Was there going to be a flashback scene? Where is Eden? Why are we outside of “the garden” before being in the garden? And I remember names from Shiloh, but since it has been a few months I was still getting my sea legs the first few chapters.
Now that I am a third of the way in, I’m intrigued to see where this book is going. I’m thinking of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren. What was it like to grow up outside of Eden, yet so close to it? They had no personal experience of Eden and I would imagine that as the years went by, the reality of it began to fade. How is this book reminding me of the reality that was not intended to be my reality? The Shadowland I live in?
I see three themes emerging:
1. Jealousy—Cormac’s jealousy of Evander is agonizing to read. What has stood out to me is the difference in their focus. Cormac keeps his eyes on Evander, he is obsessed with what Evander is doing and how people are responding to Evander. Evander, however, isn’t focused on Cormac. Instead, he is focused on the community.
2. Tradition—Tradition in particular when it comes to fighting dragons. “We did as we have always done,” (986 in the Kindle version). When Evander suggested a defense strategy, a change in tradition, “having a defense strategy was a great comfort to them. It was so simple, so obvious, they marveled that they had not thought of it before,” (1018). I wonder where tradition in my own life and ministry is not serving, but blocking me.
3. Loneliness—Maybe it is because we have just studied 1 Kings 18 and 19 during the retreat; Evander reminds me of Elijah. Evander is faithful and loyal to the community and serves them well. Yet. Yet he seems so lonely.
What themes are you noticing?
Now to my favorite part of today!! Talking with Helena.
When you wrote The Shiloh Trilogy, did you know before you started what the basic premise of each book would be? Or did you know you wanted to write a trilogy and let each book unfold without knowing exactly where the series would land?
When I finished the book, I had no plans for where the story should go next. I was, however, thoroughly curious about Evander and the Lost Clan. I had constructed just enough of that story to want to fill in the holes and meet these people whose names echoed down through the centuries. From Shiloh, I had the names of Evander and Valour, I had the fate of the clan, and I had Hadrian’s lantern. The lantern led naturally to the making of colored glass, the colored glass to the Fayrewood, and so on. Gosh, I love my job.
Writing a prequel for the second book in a trilogy is a bit awkward, I know. But I think it was the right move. And when I finished Seeker, I had a far deeper love for the world of Shiloh and its people, and so much more to carry into Songbird. That book begins, as it must, at the moment after Shiloh ends.
I’ve only read the first third of Seeker, but I see themes of jealousy, tradition, and loneliness emerging. I’m curious how you see the intersection of storytelling with themes. One of my beefs with poor writing is that it either hammers a point so that any beauty is lost, or a theme is so blatant and cheesy I roll my eyes. Your writing is neither. As a writer, are you conscious of including themes?
I believe I touched on this a little when I shared my writing process, so forgive me if I repeat myself. My first drafts are usually all over the place thematically. In that initial writing push, I’m hunting for what the story wants to be, so I tend to follow rabbit trails. Maybe the most crucial part of the editing process is when I read through the completed first draft and listen to it. At that point, one or two main themes tend to make themselves heard, and in my next draft I clear out everything that doesn’t illuminate those themes (or try to).
Seeker is about desire and loss, but I can certainly see where you get themes of jealousy, tradition, and loneliness, Amy. It’s funny–when you try to write a book about everything, it ends up being about nothing. When you try to write about one thing (or maybe two), all sorts of themes emerge, many that you didn’t know were there.
Helena, thanks for chatting. Your last comment was a lightning bolt of truth and I hope everyone reading this (and in cross-cultural ministry) will heed your wisdom.
“When you try to write a book about everything, it ends up being about nothing. When you try to write about one thing (or maybe two), all sorts of themes emerge, many that you didn’t know were there.” Wow. I think many of us feel the pressure to do or be all the things. And in the doing and being, your ministries (and even your family and your very life) can end up being about nothing. But if you live about one or maybe two things, all sorts of meaning emerges.
I am going to be returning to this thought again and again in the weeks to come.
People, what say ye? What comment is waiting to burst forth having read about Evander, Grey (hello?! we didn’t even touch on her name), Chase, Mina, Valour, the dragon fire. Let’s talk in the comments!
P.S. Here is the reading plan for the next few weeks: