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Birth of the Hadra

I have often been asked where the Hadra came from, how I made them up. It wasn't like that; I didn't make them up. Actually I think they were laying in wait for me, ready to spring to life.

I certainly didn't set out to write my first Hadra book, Journey to Zelindar. Instead it wrote me. It started out as a fever dream on a hot summer day. I was sick and had taken refuge at a friend's house in town. Just as I was beginning to doze off I had this odd little fantasy about a young woman going to the ocean to kill herself. I had no idea why she wanted to do such a thing or who she was except that her name was Sair. But I could see her very clearly, walking down the road toward her death.

The scene persisted, going round and round in my head like a tape loop. Finally, to get some peace, I got up and wrote it all down. This later became the actual first page of the book, almost word for word. After that I shut my eyes, hoping for sleep. Instead I saw the women who rescued her. I became Sair, lying on the sand--wet, frightened and angry--staring up at these very strange looking women. And that is how the Hadra first came into existence in this world.

When I got back to my land community everyone else went off to a music festival. I didn't want to go so there I was, all alone in the middle of nowhere with no phone and no distractions. The piece of paper with the beginnings of Sairizzia's odyssey fell out of my notebook and all of a sudden I found myself writing a book -- not one I had planned or had any idea was there.It was as if this thing had been tightly coiled up inside me like a spring. Once it was out, there was no stopping it or putting it back. I wrote nonstop and had a rough draft mostly dialogue and action in a week and a half.

Though I wrote almost continuously (long hand, no computer then) I had no clear plan of where it was all going. I found myself writing the outline at the same time that the book was writing itself. Often it would wake me up at night with bits of information: a raft trip and a flood, with a method for making cloaks complete with the name of the plant they used, a list of names. If I resisted, the information simply persisted until I wrote it down. And the book came in a strange sort of archaic English. When I tried to modernize the language, Sair just stopped telling me the story. I quickly found I could only access it through her. Though Sair was from a very patriarchal culture she was my window into the Hadra world of free women.

Even as I was being driven to write this book I was already wondering where these women came from and how, in such a hostile world, their culture had been able to develop. Long before Journey was finished and published, scenes from the prequel were bleeding through and I was trying to hold them back. That next time, however, I was not gifted or cursed with having a book almost write itself and I had to struggle for it. By then, I had openly declared that I was "writing a book." I might even have had the nerve to call myself "a writer," and in doing so I invoked THE MONSTER-OF- RESISTANCE. Luckily I drove up to New York by myself at that time and so much of the information got itself talked onto tape. Somehow there is less resistance in a rolling car.

That next book -- which quickly turned into two books, Daughters of the Great Star, and The Hadra -- takes place two hundred years before Journey, and tells how the Hadra began. The tale was related to me in the passionate, intense voice of Tazzi, one of the original Hadra. All the Hadra books have come to me with a first person protagonist through whose eyes the story emerges. Often I see scenes from their lives played out in front of me as a double exposure laid over my ordinary life or dialogue will suddenly start speaking itself in my head, often in the form of lively arguments that insist on being written no matter what else I may be doing at that moment. Sometimes I think the Hadra already exist on another plane or dimension and just make use of me to come through into this one.

After I finished with Daughters of the Great Star and The Hadra I declared I was not writing any more Hadra books. They were too difficult and complicated with so many characters and scenes to track. I wanted to write something more manageable and was already two thirds of the way into writing another book when a Hadra story came galloping into my life and took over, sweeping aside everything else I was doing. This time I was gifted not with just one story teller but with three main ones plus two more who put in an occasional appearance to tell their own tales. So much for having control and things being more manageable! And then this book began turning into two books right before my eyes, becoming Clouds of War and The Redline of Yarmald.

So who is in charge here? Is someone up there laughing at me? And now there is another Hadra book taking over my life called Her Sister's Keeper? with four protagonists all eager to tell their part of the story.

As for who the Hadra really are, on one level it's true that I did not consciously invent them or think them up. They came to me, very much on their own. On another level it is easy enough to see them as a female archetype and also easy to see why I needed them in my life, why we all need them. I had been reading a lot of fantasy and sci-fi though I was much too snobby to think of writing in that genre. This was still at a time when it was a mostly male dominated field and I was very tired of stories in which women were non-existent or very peripheral or handmaidens or victims or window dressing. And I was not much enamored of that other, more modern type of story in which the female hero was just as violent and killed with as much ease and pleasure as her male counterpart. I longed for stories with women at the center, stories in which we were brave and powerful as we went on our own odysseys and journeys of discovery. And so the the Hadra came to me in my fever dreams, women who have powers of self-protection so they cannot be physically harmed and cannot harm others even if they wish to, women who are strong and self-actualized, but who are also emotional and vulnerable and volatile, crying easily and with no shame, and living always in a web of interdependency with each other because of their mind-to-mind communication.

The Hadra are neither victims nor violators. Knowing only too well the conditions for women in this world, I envy them that. I need their world as a place to go to for strength and comfort and reassurance -- a sanctuary. I often ponder what it would be like to grow up knowing you could not be physically harmed or compelled by another. Hard to imagine when so may of us are violated in childhood. Even as adults we are not safe in the streets or in our own homes and we are certainly not safe from guns and tanks and bombs when men decide they need to make a war. Imagine not having those sorts of fears as we move through our lives.

I am not just trying to escape the violence of this male-dominated world when I write about the Hadra. I am also trying to find a way, through the power of imaging and imagination, to move us closer to their world and their ways, and to find access to those powers which may lie dormant within each of us. I also have to say this about the men who have come into my books the ones who are not villains: they have come on their own. Not planned or summoned by me, they suddenly appear and insist on being part of the story. Perhaps they have come to give me hope and tell me that change is really happening, that there may even be the possibility of future partnership between women and men in creating a different kind of world , a place where women do not need Hadra powers to survive and thrive, and men are allowed and even encouraged to be fully human.

Blessed be.

Now in print from Bella Books

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Daughters of the Great Star | The Hadra | Clouds of War | Red Line of Yarmald | Journey to Zelindar | Her Sister's Keeper | The Smuggler, the Spy and the Spider

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