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
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.