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An Interview With ANA JORGES
By Darcy Moline
EDITOR'S NOTE Darcy Moline is secretary of the Ana Jorges Fan Club, and a regular contributor to the FreeLook BookStore. In addition to writing short stories and poetry, she occasionally works as a photo model, an actress, and is an award-winning tap dancer and baton twirler.
I had the opportunity to meet with Ana Jorges in the offices of the FreeLook BookStore about four months ago, after I submitted a story to their E-Zine, "Not Quite E.T.", which appeared in the March issue.
I had read a number of things by Ms. Jorges in the past, and love her writing style, which I find very reminiscent of Tolkien, except much easier to read. Through Charles Calvin (CC Charles), we arranged a formal interview, which we have here.
I have to say that, my first impression of Ana Jorges was in her role as an editor for the FreeLook BookStore, where she made me rewrite my "Not Quite E.T." story several times this didn't make me happy at first, but I have to say she definitely is a great editor, and she helped the story.
She also wanted to take a look at this interview before we stuck it online, but I told her "no deal!" we've got to have some independence, don't we? So any typo's, bad wording, and stupid grammatical errors are totally mine.
Ana Jorges is a slim and highly energetic lady in her late fifty's or early sixty's with dark hair and eyes, and a very gentle and warm personality. She struck me as very modest and humble, but none-the-less willing to share ideas on a wide range of subjects from fantasy to science fiction, to politics, to writer's rights. We talked for about an hour over the phone (me wearing a head set and typing like crazy!) and when that didn't work out, we met at the offices for another two of hours, and I taped the whole conversation.
So, this is pretty much exactly how the interview went!
Darcy I've read both "The Falcon", and "The Phoenix", and am eagerly waiting for the third book in the series, "The Crown". How is that progressing?
ANA JORGES It's virtually ready now. I have to give it one more run-through and then we'll post it for you. That novel has been through a lot of editing over a number of years the sort of thing you think is finish, until you get a fresh insight into a character and realize that he or she did not do or say what you had thought and that can mean a lot of rewriting. But I have to say that Ware and Steel are some of my best friends now and it will be hard to part with them.
Darcy Part with them?
ANA JORGES Of course. They belong to you now. It's rather like seeing your children grow up: they become independent and make their own way. See I really am attached to them!
Darcy Is there any chance of a fourth or even fifth book in the Falcon series?
ANA JORGES Ware and Steel may not have more adventures, but there are already several stories about Avianne and Berachan, that include some of the same characters that appear in "Falcon," "Phoenix," and "Crown." One of the main characters in "The Naronesh Diary," which is set in Reiiat, appears briefly in "Crown," and also "The Serpent and the Bear," which, you'll remember, takes place mostly in Berachan and Ezzeen.
The desert people call their country Esseen, by the way. The Avianni pronounce the word with a buzzing "Z" sound, but the Essens themselves pronounce it with a much softer, hissing sound. And Berachs pronounce everything differently, of course, in their rougher, more guttural accent. All the countries in that region speak the same language, but their accents are so different that sometimes Berachs and Avianni can hardly understand each other at all.
Darcy Where did you get the ideas for these books?
ANA JORGES Oh, it's like reading history to me now and one event leads to another, but the first glimpse I ever had of Avianne is the same one you have in the opening chapter of "The Falcon." I sort of saw a falcon with her jesses caught in a holly bush. And then Someone heard the bells and came to help her. As soon as I saw the falcon, I knew it was Steel; I even knew her name. But when I saw first Ware, all I knew about him was that he was a baker, and that he was also much more than that, and that he and Steel had been waiting for each other all their lives only neither of them knew it yet. It took me a long time to get to know Ware. I didn't even know his name, and I started out by calling him Bakersboy, just as Ess-issa does the first time they meet. Hmm. I don't think that answered your question, but it's the best I can do.
Darcy I can tell that you were greatly influenced by Tolkien. What other writers have influenced you?
ANA JORGES Fantasy and SF writers? Ursula LeGuinn, of course. Until I read "The Dispossessed," I never realized how deep and dense this kind of fiction could go. I think Bradbury really began it writing serious fiction in an SF format, I mean. I read "The Illustrated Man" many years ago and I was so impressed that I took it to one of my college profs. He had said that science fiction was just trash and I should read more serious literature. He was kind enough to take my argument seriously, and he actually read two of the stories so he could give me a real opinion. When he was done, he shook his head and said, "But this is not science fiction; it's serious writing in a science-fiction format."
I thought at first he was just quibbling, but he was making a real distinction. And he was right. Just as good children's literature is good literature that happens to be directed toward children, so SF and fantasy books should aspire to be more than just Superman-saves-the-world stuff. Good fantasy should give you the same complexity, the same nourishment, the same vivid characters you would expect in any other good writing. I don't know whether I live up to my own ideals, but that's what the ideals are.
Darcy So what would you say are your favorite books?
ANA JORGES Darcy, where can I start? I have seven or eight bookshelves overflowing with books I just love! Um - Henry James' "The Ambassador," and almost everything Saul Bellow has written, and Virginia Woolf's "Mrs Dalloway," and Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," and Plato's "Death of Socrates," and the "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius, and of course I love a lot of mysteries. And a whole slew of children's books. And well this is too big a list. [ garbled ] you have to understand: reading and writing is my living.
Darcy I am fascinated by the "magic" aspects of your books, in particular the idea that people have animal natures. How is it that a human can turn into an animal?
ANA JORGES To begin with, I don't believe in "magic" in any literal way. I mean there's no magic-wand-and-Kapowie!-now- you're-a-blonde-and-your-dress-turns-into-red-velvet! But on an entirely different level, I believe there are more possibilities around us than we guess. When two people understand each other well, one usually has a pretty clear idea of what the other is feeling. And our minds can leap to the stars and carry us with them. What could be more magical than that!
As to people turning into animals people are animals! And the distinctions among us are smaller than most people think. We may have less fur, but we share many of the same emotions. Why does your dog tear up the house when you're gone? Because he's lonesome and cross with you, of course! And a lot of people behave the same way. The largest difference between us and other animals is that they are innocent when they do wrong. The lion and the shark try to eat you because they are hungry, not because they want your stuff!
In quite another way I've tried to use violent animal behavior to parallel violent human behavior. Maybe you remember in "The Falcon," there is a scene in which Zex and Ware are angry with each other? When Zex lets the rage take over, his "human" nature becomes submerged in it, and he is in danger of turning into a bear physically. But that only happens after he has become a bear emotionally. A literal FANTASY expression of a genuine NON-FANTASY human phenomenon. Ware, on the other hand, who manages to keep his cool, is in no such danger.
Later, in the "Phoenix," when Eldest is telling the story about how FirstKing received the magic stone from the Chief of Eagles, Ware speculates about what it would be like actually to change into another sort of being. He tries to imagine what the physical change would be like: toes curling out of his boots to become long, terrible claws, fingers stretching and stretching to become the long, strong pinions of flight. He thinks of how his bones would move and crack with pain. And become hollow [ garbled ] and fill with light and air. Thinking those things, he is playing with the whole idea of what such a physical transformation would entail. And that's what writers do. We play with the ideas that come to us, trying to make them real. Make them into music!
Darcy Wow! I see! Now, here is a trite question, but it seems appropriate. What kind of animal do you think you would be?
ANA JORGES Couldn't guess. Some sort of cat, maybe. But of course, we could all just as easily be cockroaches! Who knows, maybe cockroaches have a higher intellectual vision than we think!
Darcy Maybe! I think I know a few cockroaches myself. Anyway, I am also fascinated by the idea of "the talisman". Have you ever studied black magic, or any of the occult?
ANA JORGES Nope. Wouldn't want to. I only believe in good magic!
Darcy Would you call yourself particularly religious?
ANA JORGES Probably not in a conventional sense, though I do attend church regularly. But I can sum my beliefs, if you're interested. Just like the intro to Mission Impossible: "Your mission, should you choose to accept it" is simply to do the best you can and the most you can, to be the very best person you can, as much of the time as you can. To use yourself all up to leave no stone unturned. And at the same time to live in harmony with the world. Sounds pretty easy; pretty hard to do sometimes.
Darcy Here is a personal question I hope its not to presumptuous but have you ever done any drugs?
ANA JORGES I'll sometimes have a glass of wine with dinner, but nothing other than that. I'm not looking for any experience that takes the reins out of my own hands. If I make a mistake, I want it to be my own mistake not something I did because I was under the influence of anything. And if I'm able do something that seems beyond me. I want it to be really my own, not just because of something I took. I'll shoulder my own blame, but I want all the credit!
Darcy My friend Charles Calvin is a big believer in the quantum mechanics theory of alternate worlds. He's studied physics you know and has explained it to me in some detail. According to this theory, any thing that is possible actually exists in an alternate level of existence. What do you think about this?
ANA JORGES It's an interesting idea, and I know that the Nobel physicist Richard Feynman worked along that line, I know [ garbled ] but I have to admit that quantum theory is way beyond me.
Darcy What do you think the relationship is between God, Love, Evil, and Magic?
ANA JORGES Relationship? I wouldn't put all those concepts in the same box. And your question implies a sort of God-love, Evil-magic arrangement, which I wouldn't necessarily accept. And no this isn't a political joke a lot depends on what you mean when you use each of those four words.
I've already said where I stand on magic. So let me start by saying that, in contrast, I believe God and Love and Evil really do exist, although I have my own ideas about each one. Let's talk about Love and about Evil, for example, because we can see such clear evidence of both of those all around us.
Setting aside things like romantic-love and mother-love and the undeniably immediate love most people feel for things like chocolate and puppies, there is a kind of love that makes some people work themselves to exhaustion, again and again, to benefit people they may not even know. If you want examples, I could cite organizations like Doctors without Borders, and [ garbled ] and, of course Project Gutenberg. And think of the thousands of good schoolteachers all over the world who really care about the children they work with, and volunteers from all walks of life who work long hours to help people in need. And on a tiny scale, consider the stranger in the supermarket line who says, "You're in a hurry go on ahead of me and check out; I don't mind waiting."
Technically all that is altruism. But altruism is a very real aspect of love, and the world is a far better place because it exists.
Evil is the other side of that coin. If love is the desire to give benefits, evil is what takes them away from easy, terrible examples like World War II's gas chambers and various episodes of "ethnic cleansing" to the petty cruelties people practice on each other every day. But, you know, we have to be careful how we use the word "Evil." Careful not to apply it to something that is simply unfamiliar or different from what we think we know. The acid test is evil does real harm.
Darcy The Falcon and the Phoenix is a highly romantic story. Have you ever thought about writing pure romance?
ANA JORGES Yes. Life itself is so complicated, and people are so complicated that when you unravel the whole rope of life and look at one single strand it's hard for me to make that one thread as interesting, even though it's a lovely thread.
Darcy Is there a difference between romance and sex?
ANA JORGES Many people think so. Women mostly.
Darcy Is romance magical?
ANA JORGES What a funny question! But maybe it is, if magic means changing something into a different form, or giving it the illusion of being different. But if that magic causes us really to change, and our lives change and evolve, and if the fact of a relationship between two people changes the way they continue to live in the world, then that's not romance, Darcy that's love!
Darcy I understand! How about writing pure science fiction?
ANA JORGES Yes I did in my first real novel, "Destroy Brava." But I've done very little of it since. Years ago, science fiction was more fiction than science. But now, modern science fiction is based on harder science. And you know how you sometimes see SF films or a TV series in which the science part is laughable? Well that spoils it for me and I don't want to spoil anybody's enjoyment in what I write; I don't feel well-enough grounded in any scientific discipline to write science-based fiction.
Darcy The idea of the usurper is prevalent throughout the trilogy. What is the significance of this?
ANA JORGES Here's a round-about answer: I read a lot of history, and it seems pretty clear that a nation's government has a real impact on its citizens. The Usurper is an exaggerated example of totalitarian government, one that rules by fear and force, and tries to control even the thoughts of its citizens. Dur's rule is the antithesis of freedom. Everyone must conform to his whims. Even the music is tainted by his determination to influence what the Avianni think and feel. He literally eats the lives of his subjects, turning them into ghosts of themselves. And nobody is allowed to oppose him. Hawk resists; Hawk must be destroyed. Steel resists, destroy her too. That's Dur's simple arithmetic.
Hawk represents a more benevolent style of government, but he's still a king-dictator. And as Farmeadow points out to the boys, if a good king sheds a larger light on his people's affairs, by the same token the bad king casts a larger shadow. Even Hawk acknowledges the truth of this. In the third book, the "Crown," I've tried to indicate another course that is open. It may not be the best way, but it represents an improvement over the past.
Darcy What other writing forms are you interested in? For example, I know you've published a fair amount of poetry...
ANA JORGES I'm really most interested in the long novel the rest is just a diversion.
Darcy Outside of writing and editing, what are your major interests?
ANA JORGES Gosh, that's about it. I care deeply for my family, and I feel strongly about a lot of subjects, of course social justice, the welfare of children, and education to name just a few but I have to stay with what I know and what I can do best in order to make a difference in the world.
Darcy I notice in your biography that you did ballet dancing for a time. You know I also have some experience dancing and performing. Do you think this experience has had any impact on your writing?
ANA JORGES I never thought about that. Perhaps the self discipline that's required by each the fact that you have to practice and repeat and practice and repeat as you work to refine your skill. I'd have to think about it some more to give you a better answer.
Darcy Let me ask you a few questions about The FreeLook BookStore. You seem to be a big believer in the concept of "e-texts". Why?
ANA JORGES Because they're so economical, so inexpensive to produce, so versatile, and so completely accessible.
Don't mistake me. I really do love paper books. Why else would I own so many? But unless you've worked in a print shop, as I did years ago, and seen what printing even a few pages entails, you have no idea of the cost and effort, and waste, that go into creating a paper book! And once the effort and materials have been expended, then the books have to be stored, and shipped back and forth. And after you buy them then you have to lug them back and forth, wherever you go. And every time you move do you have any idea what it costs move five or six hundred books! Much as I love them, I can tell you, it's intimidating when I think of the time and physical effort involved. Bound books are beautiful, but the part of the book I really love is the content. It's what's on the pages that counts! You can own hundreds of e-books for the cost of half a bookshelf of paper-and-binding books. Think about it: to be able to own, and store, all the classics, to have them at your fingertips any hour of the day or night. What a banquet!
Darcy So you think there is a big future for the e-book concept?
ANA JORGES I absolutely do! Think about it: Gutenberg changed the world with the invention of printing in 1452 no more hand-made books, each of which was a year in the making. For the first time, ordinary people learned to read and could afford books of their own. The whole world changed!
Another example: in the early 1900s, the industrial revolution wasn't just a change from hand-work to machine work; there was new transportation, new communication, and new ideas and new ways of sharing them. Dazzling changes took place almost overnight.
Does that sound familiar? It should once again we're living such a change. How did people live without computers and faxes and cell phones and the internet? Information flashes all over the world in seconds! And e-books are a part of that immense world-change.
Darcy I've taken a free look at everything at the store, and bought most of everything that's up there. I agree these books are very easy to read. But do you think these books are for everyone?
ANA JORGES Of course. More so than paper books. Can't get out? Live in an isolated area? E-books are there. Vision problems? Reset the print size and get all the world in large-print format. Not much money? E-books are cheap. And they're amazingly easy to read!
Darcy Bill Gates of Microsoft has called the e-book concept a mega-trend. Do you agree?
ANA JORGES I think e-books will take over. They won't completely replace paper books, but they'll come close. I can see the day when the kids will have only one thing in their backpacks an e-book reader that holds a whole year of subject matter: reading, science, math, history, language, and all the library books they can read. And the difference will be that they own it all! Hey no more round-shouldered kids!
Darcy What you think the impact of emerging e-book technology will be for writers and authors?
ANA JORGES Oh heavens! Constant ongoing revisions! Have you ever known a writer who could leave well enough alone? More seriously, it will put authors more in control of their destiny. It could shorten the interval between finished book and distribution. I can see the day when any author can buy an off-the-shelf program that takes an ascii file right through to the finished book product. There's real magic for you! There will be more bad stuff out there, maybe, but there are a lot of fine writers too, who never got that crucial break and now they can make their own!
Darcy Do you see a similar impact for readers?
ANA JORGES Yes: a wealth of knowledge and pleasure at our fingertips! I think I said that before, but it's worth saying again.
Darcy How about the impact on literacy?
ANA JORGES It might change the world yet again.
Darcy You know I am a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy. Why doesn't the FreeLook BookStore have more of this type of fiction?
ANA JORGES Well we do feature a number of science fiction titles. There's a lot of seminal SF in the Classics Club Edgar Rice Burroughs' the "John Carter of Mars" series, some wonderful Jules Verne books and of course H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds." Even Jack London wrote a little SF. And in our new book list, we have William Angle's short-story collection that includes several sci-fi stories. And there's your own short story "Not Quite E-T" that appears in the March issue of the E-Zine. We're always looking. Are you working on a book yourself, Darcy?
Darcy Speaking of sci-fi, my friend Charles insisted I ask you this question: Who is "William Angle" and why isn't he returning any of Charles' e-mail messages?
ANA JORGES (Laughs) You know I can't discuss William Angle. Charles also knows that. We are pleased to forward e-mail to any of our authors, but we can't guarantee a reply, of course. Our relationship to our readers is extremely important, but our relationship with our authors is paramount.
Darcy Yeah Charles is a pest. No argument there. Do you think the new information age will destroy anonymity? And is that really bad?
ANA JORGES Charles is not a pest he's an enthusiast, and I sympathize completely with his desire to know more about a favorite author. But I know "William Angle" rather well, and if he wants to remain anonymous, we must respect that.
Darcy What is the impact by Japan on today's fantasy and sci-fi? In particular, all the Anime, Manga, video games, and other Asia influences?
ANA JORGES The Japanese are doing some very interesting work. Some of it is very crude, and some is astoundingly good, just as is the case in many developing art forms. The themes are pretty violent, some of the story lines are too simplistic, but with a lot of meaningless detail and I personally think those sad-faced big-eyed kids belong back in the Sixties. But that said, it's also visually stimulating, and just crackling with excitement. As the art form begins to mature, I think it will have an impact on everything the rest of us do from now on.
Darcy Yeah! You know, I think that we are just now "getting it" -- like for example, the Otome "webring" stuff that we are putting on the website. Anyway, what are you going to do next?
ANA JORGES Why Darcy! everything I can!
This ended our interview, which lasted about two hours. There was some other stuff we discussed regarding politics, but I've decided to hack that stuff mainly because my tape recorder conked out during that part of the interview (which might have been for the best.) Suffice it to say that Ms. Jorges is a strong liberal, with some socially conservative ideas.
We also had a fairly long discussion about the third book in "The Falcon" series, which is "The Crown" I am omitting this part of the interview, and in fact am a little sorry that I asked so many questions since now part of the story is ruined for me! I will spare you this part of the interview, except to say that the series has a really super ending!
Finally, Ms. Jorges was extremely patient with me I spend a lot of time fumbling with my stupid tape recorder trying to set the sound level right. After the interview, she said she was flattered and enjoyed our conversation, and offered to do a follow up interview at a later time.
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