We are delighted to have 2009 RITA award winning author, Joanna Bourne join us once again. Her newest release, The Black Hawk, (Check out my review here), is the latest in the series that started with the RITA-nominated, The Spymaster's Lady, and RITA-winning, My Lord and Spymaster. Joanna writes historicals that are so vivid and rich, they capture the imagination and stay with the reader long after they reach the end. As I said in my review, "Reading a Joanna Bourne novel is a feast for the senses: the decadence of a rich chocolate torte, the crisp, bubbly effervescence of a glass of champagne. Light and dark, sweet and spicy. Everything you could ever want and more." Please welcome the incredibly talented, and equally wonderful, Joanna Bourne to The Romance Dish.
The Girl Has Stones
I've been thinking about female characters and gems.
You thought I meant something else, didn't you?
What it is . . . gems and precious stones have stories woven about them. Topaz and turquoise and tourmaline aren't just pretty. They're the stuff of myth. As far back as we know, rare stones were thought to heal, protect, awaken magic.
Now I'm going to presume these fabled talents and proclivities of rocks are not, y'know, actually valid. But they're the center of universal and ancient beliefs. Without setting my characters to reading fortunes in crystals or dueling with magical sapphires, I can still call on The Power of Stones.
When we write, we reveal our characters by every means possible. We hand visual clues to the reader, telling her what kind of people we're writing about. And we like to be efficient about it, since we're busy and want to settle down to telling story. So we write some of our description in symbols and shortcuts and, if we're not careful, cliches. When our gal picks up a candle and heads down the mysterious staircase, if she's wearing a virginal white gown, we can be pretty sure something scary is going to jump at her out of the darkness. If she's sashaying down in a slinky black silk number, we expect somebody quite different to be waiting. We might assign our heroine long flowing locks, or sassy, bouncy curls or straight hair, hacked off ragged and short. Shortcuts and symbols.
So I'm thinking about gemstones and what they say about a character and how we might use them in telegraphing information to the reader.
Right this moment I'm working on Pax's story. In Chapter One, our heroine opens a letter and a child's ring falls out, a ring with 'a single, rather fine pearl'. Having written that, and thinking about it, I see that pearl saying, 'innocent, vulnerable, and pure'. There's really no other stone I could pick that would convey the same association. I lay down a picture of that ring and brush the reader's mind with two thousand years of legend and art about the pearl. Handy work for a single sentence in Chapter One.
Now, I generally can't load my heroines down with actual sapphires and opals. They're busy and often in hazardous circumstances and can't go running about decked out in gemstones. They are, you might say, always up to the elbows in the dishwater of danger and if they have rings they've put them carefully up on the window sill before they plunge in.
But, in the back of my mind, I assign my folks precious stones that characterize them.
Jessamyn, in My Lord and Spymaster, owns lots of jewelry, being amazingly and unnecessarily rich. For instance, she owns one of the great pearl necklaces of the world.
In a black velvet nest, dozens of pale moons glowed, not white, but the most fragile golden pink. Here were pearls the color of dawn. Mushajjar pearls, from the Gulf of Persia. The largest was the size of his thumbnail. He cupped them in the palm of his hand and they weighed no more than dreams and sea foam. You had to know a lot about pearls to realize just how astonishing this necklace was. It should have been locked in a vault.
Can I compare this string of remarkable pearls to the huge diamond Eve Dallas wears under her cop clothes? The pearls, like that diamond, are a gift and prized because of the giver. The pearls and that diamond are wealth that never succeeds in owning the wearer.
At the end of Spymaster's Lady we have the passage --
Deep, unconditional love swept across her. Thus Grey paid for her freedom with that great secret from his store of secrets. He was like a rajah laying down the legendary ruby of his kingdom to ransom his woman.
"Owl, at work, was bright as the edge of a diamond, hot as fire sparks."
**I'll be giving away a copy of Black Hawk to some lucky commenter (U.S. and International)**
*Please stop by and check out my blog here. Lots of interesting things over there you won't want to miss.*
So tell me, when you look at your favorite heroines -- what gemstone do you see for them?