Saturday, May 23, 2015

Author Mike Cooley on the archetypal power of crystals

A very warm welcome to Mike Cooley, an author of science fiction and fantasy, a passionate dreamer and a skilled wordsmith. Over the course of the interview I found out that he and I have a lot in common as far as our tastes in speculative fiction and film are concerned. Thank you, Mike, for taking the time to talk to us about your Legend of the Crystal series.

MJN: There are so many fantasy novels featuring crystals. I've often asked myself about the roots of our fascination with crystals as vessels of mystical powers. There must be some Jungian explanation behind it. It's in our psyche to tremble before a hard, glowing cluster of minerals.

MC: I agree. There is something about light reflecting through crystal that touches us in an ancient way, like the flickering flames of a fire protecting the entrance to our cave.

I’ve always been fascinated with artifact stories, where the artifact is mysterious and has powers. In Crystal Warrior I wanted the source of magic to manifest itself in many different ways. Originally there were supposed to be eight crystals, but I realized that would make things a bit too complicated, so I settled on six. Each crystal has a color, a power, and a god or goddess that it represents. And although the temples to the gods have crumbled over the centuries, the legends remain. Here are the crystals, their alternate names, their colors, their powers, and the gods they represent:

·        Crystal of Foreboding (Spirit of Kiefer) — White, future sight, Kiefer (God)

·        Crystal of Accuracy (Eye of Gort) — Red, accurate aim, Gort (God)

·        Crystal of Healing (Hand of Malkt) — Green, self-healing and healing others, Malkt (Goddess)

·        Crystal of Time (Skull of Platkar) — Gold, temporary time stop, Platkar (God)

·        Crystal of Illusion (Skin of Serna) — Silver, invisibility & changing appearance, Serna (Goddess)

·        Crystal of Love (Heart of Palnk) — Purple, makes others love and obey you, Palnk (Goddess)

MJN: When you come up with fictitious names of places and species of birds and animals, is there any particular ethos you draw your inspiration from? For instance, do you seek to make them sound Native American, or Celtic, or Arabic, or Greek?

MC: That’s a tough question! In the Legend of the Crystals series I tried to make the names fit the characters, while not making them sound too Earth-like. Since the story takes place far across space on a planet that has never heard of Earth I didn’t think the characters should have common names. Larissya, of course, is a fairly normal name, but many of the others are not. In particular there is a magical creature named Taradahn. I named him that because he is similar to a pterodactyl in some ways and I liked the way the name sounded. Often with names I go with hunches and how they sound. I also try to avoid using names that are hard to pronounce, as I think that gets annoying for the reader. The Widgen—who are kind of like tree elves—have more whimsical names, like Jinga, as I thought that fit in better with their personalities.

MJN:  In your biography you say that you enjoy to explore the dark and surreal landscapes of the mind. Can you name a few of your favorite filmmakers? I imagine you would be a fan of Lynch and Cronenberg.

MC: I love this question! I am heavily influenced by dark fantasy and science fiction. When it comes to filmmakers, you are correct, Lynch and Cronenberg are near the top of my list along with Kubrick, Ridley Scott, John Carpenter, Paul Verhoeven, and Joss Whedon--to name a few. Some of my favorite films are: Bladerunner, Alien, Serenity, and The Matrix.

MJN: Your Crystal series feature the same model on the cover. Would you say your readership for that particular series is predominantly female?

MC: I wish I knew! From the reviews and emails I get I think it’s about 60/40, with females in the lead. Those covers were done for me by a friend, and she sent me a few choices to choose from for the model. Then, once I chose the model, there were a limited number of shots to choose from for books two and three. I wanted it to look like she was growing up a bit from book to book since the timeline from book one to book three is a number of years. All I knew before the cover was created was that I wanted her to look like a teenager with long dark hair and green eyes. I sent the first four chapters to my friend and asked her to use her best judgment about what model would work.
MJN:  If you could introduce an element of magic into our reality, any element, what would it be? Can you think of a particular supernatural talent? Would it be granted to everyone to the same degree, or would it have to be earned by the select few? How would it potentially upset the balance of things?

MC: I’m a firm believer that magic needs to be limited, and that using it shouldn’t be “free”. If there isn’t a price to pay then I think it’s less dramatic and feels more like a cheat to get the author or characters out of a jam. When it comes to magic in our reality, I would introduce a healing ability like Melanie has in my novella, Alpha Male. And it would be rare, which would make it very sought after. I’m torn between whether it should be earned or inherent, but I lean toward inherent but hidden until triggered by something. A magically augmented empathy like that, where a person is willing to take another’s pain in an effort to save them appeals to me. And I think it appeals to others, on a deep level, since almost everyone at one point or another has probably wished they had that power.

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