In With The Out Crowdby Mary Holland
“In the world of The Bone Road, it’s hard to have a living baby. The Deom people are divided into two moieties, or tribes, called Wid and Zeosil. Babies live if a Wid and a Zeosil mate with each other. If they are careless or unthinking or criminal, and a Wid gets pregnant by another Wid, or a Zeosil by a Zeosil, the baby will be a Shun. Shun are infertile, and often do not survive their birth. It’s a tough world and people have to make hard choices so their society can survive.
I came up with Deom society quite easily. When I was growing up in a working class town on the East Coast, the big division in my high school was between the Whites and the Italians. I was a ‘half-breed’ with an Italian last name, a non-Italian mother, and not a member of the Catholic Church. However, my last name barred me from acceptance as a ‘White’, so I had early experience as a member of the out crowd, i.e., Anyone Not Us.
The out-group gives the in-group a sense of belonging, importance, and meaning. In fact, the in-group cannot survive without having people to exclude and look down on. If everyone belongs equally, the classifications are meaningless and will cease to exist. Humans are very good at creating new in/out groups as the old ones lose importance: White/Black, Arab/Jew, gay/straight, popular/unpopular, it’s an endless list. Dividing people between Italian and White sounds ridiculous now. I can only hope that, with time, the other divisions become just as ridiculous. But we are all human beings, members of the same biological species, and a definition of species is the ability to cross breed. Miscegenation is not a biological term.
When I was creating the Deom of The Bone Road, I took this one step further. What if groups of humans couldn’t interbreed? What if the pairing of a Catholic and a Jew was biologically impossible? Or, inverting the idea, what if a Catholic and a Jew had to interbreed for humanity to survive? What kind of world would that be? How would the society be structured, how would they have children, how would they live? I always knew the world would be pre-industrial, certainly pre-technology, so how would a woman know if a man was a safe or proper mate for her? I thought about magic, which led me to divination, and then to the idea of a ‘divvy’, which is another word for fortuneteller. At that point I had my main character, Rhona, and her special skill.
World building in fantasy is wonderful for playing with concepts. If I have a major premise and I am logically consistent I can work out the rules of the world and structure my plot around them.
As I’ve said, The Bone Road is a tough world. The Deom don’t believe in a life after death, and there is no mourning. When a Deom dies, their body goes into the Road and their name is never spoken. The Deom grieve, but they grieve in private. Rhona brings bad luck down on herself when she mentions her dead mother’s name, and she knows she deserves it for breaking custom. She achieves her purpose, but she also lives with the consequences of her act.
Rhona is a powerful woman. Deom society is matriarchal, because property inheritance and moiety affiliation go through the women, so Rhona has never lived in a subordinate position. The idea makes no sense to her. I enjoyed writing her a great deal, and I tried very hard to present her as a woman who has strong feelings, a sense of honor, and no sentimentality.
I tell the story of The Bone Road through three points-of-view: Rhona, her son Jak, and the girl Ani. My favorite character is someone the reader sees only from the outside: Matteo the Shun. This was deliberate, because Matteo is an enigmatic figure, and extremely reserved. I wanted the reader to see him as the other characters see him. Rhona tells her son part of Matteo’s story, but even she, who knows him best, only knows a part. Matteo is the ultimate outsider. He is a Shun, unable to breed, and traditionally despised by both Wid and Zeosil. He is also estranged from other Shun because he insists on living with Wid and Zeosil. And finally, he is a moneylender and extremely wealthy, so he picks up an extra ration of hatred from the less fortunate.
Because Matteo is such an excluded and despised figure, he has no allegiance or loyalty to any group. His vision of Deom society is clear and unencumbered. He relates to each person he meets as an individual. He judges them by their actions, not their status in society. And because he is an outsider, he’s the first to notice the disruptions and odd changes happening in the south and to understand the consequences. That’s the power and the great value in being an outsider: your mind is not locked into one way of thinking.
The Bone Road is a complete story in one volume, not part of a trilogy. But I might do another stand-alone story set in that world, and some of the same characters might be involved. A great deal of Matteo’s back-story wasn’t told, and he is, as I said, the type of character who sticks with you. After I finish my current, and new, project, I might revisit Rhona and Matteo and the Bone Road. Anything can happen. It is fantasy, after all.”
For more information about Mary Holland, visit her website: http://www.mary-holland.com To buy her books: Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/The-Bone-Road-ebook/dp/B007W6RDBY/ Smashwords (epub): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/153422 Lulu(paperback): http://www.lulu.com/shop/mary-holland/the-bone-road/paperback/product-20733757.html
Thanks again to Mary Holland for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have an empowered day! – Vonnie