When one reads a novel like Storm Dancer, one that is very unique, enchanting & some may even say scandalous, he/she will inevitably want to know more behind it.
Here is your chance, reader, to take a look inside the mind of Rayne Hall…
1.What got you started wanting to be a writer?
As soon as I realised that there were people who wrote books, I wanted to be one of them. It seemed a more exciting than becoming a housewife, and less painful than becoming a martyr. I think I was about five at the time. Of course, as I grew older I allowed myself to be sidelined into more sensible career options, but the writing vocation caught up with me in the end.
2. What authors did you read when you were younger? What authors do you enjoy today?
As a teenager, I loved the horror stories by Edgar Allan Poe and the historical novels by Rosemary Sutcliff, as well as the works of fabulous German authors you’ve probably never heard of: Hans Baumann, Anna Müller-Tannewitz, Otfried Preußler, Karl May.
As a voracious reader, I have hundreds of favourite authors today. I enjoy exciting fantasy fiction (especially epic and dark fantasy) by Dave Duncan, Tanith Lee, Gene Wolfe, and also horror (the kind that’s psychological, atmospheric and creepy, not the slash & gore stuff) by authors like Amelia Edwards and Robert Aickmann. And I still love the stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
3. What was the inspiration behind Storm Dancer?
Many ideas clicked together like jigsaw pieces.
The first idea came to me when I was staying in a ger (yurt) at the edge of the Gobi desert in Mongolia. It was a vague idea at first – two people who hate each other must become allies to survive, and although they have previously betrayed and harmed each other they must now depend on each other and learn to trust. Storm Dancer is set in a fantasy world loosely based on the cultures of the Bronze Age period and the climate and geography of the Middle East, so my travels in the Near and Middle East and in North Africa inspired many colourful details. A few elements from Asia – including Mongolia – have also found their way into Storm Dancer. I also used personal experiences of what it’s like to work in a distant Third World country, cut off from all support, at the mercy of an employer who doesn’t honour the terms of the contract.
My experience of performing and teaching bellydance has found its way into this novel, too, so when Merida learns to bellydance in the harem, and when she entertains in a tavern, those scenes have authenticity.
Further inspiration came from ancient cultures, especially Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Persians and Hittites, and from quirky characters and bizarre situations I’ve observed. Storm Dancer also explores a subject I’ve thought about a lot: how we’re not responsible for what fate deals us, but we’re responsible for how we deal with it. Dahoud is a troubled hero with a dark past. As a siege commander, he once razed, raped and killed… and he enjoyed it. Now he needs to atone. He has sacrificed everything to build a new identity and a life of peace, and he devotes himself to protecting women from harm. But Dahoud is not alone. Inside him lives a devious demon, a djinn that demands he subdue women with force. It torments him with pains and tempts him with forbidden desires. How much of it is the demon, and how much is the dark psyche? How can he learn to control the evil inside him? How far must he go to redeem himself?
4. Why djinns? They are not a popular subject, but very interesting. Why did you choose them as opposed to vampires or ghosts?
The djinns are creatures of my own imagination. I invented them, inspired by demon mythologies of different cultures, especially North Africa and the Middle East. They are fantasy creatures, and at the same time they are a metaphor for human weaknesses that undermine our moral strength – for example, drug addictions. Dahoud’s battle against his djinn is similar to an addict’s struggle. Several former addicts have written to me to say that they recognised the similarities and identified with Dahoud.
The message I want to convey through the djinns is this: We may not be responsible for our problems, but we’re responsible for how we deal with them.
5. You made very realistic characters. Were any of them based on real people?
The characters exist only in my imagination and my fiction, although I take small elements I’ve observed in real people. Quirky habits, surprising attitudes, overheard snatches of conversation, they’re all fodder for my fiction. Some characters have a mind of their own and don’t stay the way I created them. Dahoud, for example, was meant to be a normal swashbuckling fantasy hero. I had no idea how much pain he carried inside him, or what atrocities he had committed in the past, or how much he admired strong women. I didn’t even realise he was possessed by a djinn! I had written the whole novel before he revealed these secrets, so of course I had to rewrite the whole book. Sometimes I think that characters are real. Maybe they have lived before, and their souls are in limbo, like ghosts who find no peace until someone writers their story. They haunt the author until she gets it right.
6. What was it about the subject matter (rape, imprisonment, etc.) that made you want to write about it?
I didn’t want to write about any of that! Storm Dancer was meant to be a nice escapist sword&sorcery novel. The dark elements crept in during the writing. The characters had their own ideas what they wanted the story to be about. They did terrible things and paid no attention when I begged them to stop.
7. Were you concerned that people might be offended at the scenes you depicted? I know many will say that this novel degrades women, though I don’t think so, personally.
If anyone suggests that Storm Dancer degrades women, they might also say that Uncle Tom’s Cabin degrades black people, or Grapes of Wrath degrades migrant workers.
The women in Storm Dancer are strong characters who know their own mind and take their fate into their own hands.
In the Samil – the country where most of the novel takes place – women are viewed as superior to men, and their decisions take precedence of their male counterparts’. How can that be degrading to women? Even in Quislak – where women are largely relegated to traditional and ceremonial roles – it’s the women who yield the real power behind the scenes. Take Teruma, for example. Officially, she is nothing but headwife in the harem, but in practice, she rules the country. Yes, there is violence against women. There is violence against men, too. The Bronze Age was a violent time without 21st century standards of political correctness.Animal activists might get upset, because a dog gets murdered and two horses get ritually sacrificed.
8. What can you tell readers about other things you have written to get them interested in reading your other works?
Most of my fiction has a dark slant. I write a lot of horror stories – the subtle, atmospheric, creepy kind rather than violent and gory stuff.
9. Do you foresee yourself writing about these types of things again in the future?
Creepy atmospheric horror? Sure. I enjoy scaring readers.
10. If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
You mean as a career? I’d probably work in some other role in the publishing industry. As a trained publishing manager, I’ve been a magazine editor, investigative journalist, production editor, cover designer, literary agent, book publicist, acquisitions editor and more, so I would work in that field. Or I might teach in adult education. I used to teach creative writing, journalism and bellydancing. I’ve also been a bellydancer, tarot reader, translator, museum guide, development aid worker and more, though those are perhaps not long-term full-time career options for me. I might be a gardener or an archaeologist, too.
11. Where do you usually get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from many sources. Usually I have far more ideas than I have time to write. Places where I’ve lived and travelled have provided a lot of inspiration. I live on the south coast of England. Rural cemeteries with lichen-encrusted tombstones, ancient stone circles, mediaeval castle ruins, roiling seas and wave-lashed cliffs are perfect for writing dark and scary stories.
12. Where do you see yourself & your career in ten years?
Hopefully on the bestseller lists!
13. What is it that you, personally, hope readers feel/think after reading Storm Dancer?
Above all, I hope they’ve enjoyed their time with Dahoud, the sun-baked desert, the magic, the battles, the adventures, the love, the dangers, the journey to redemption. I want them to think about what they’ve read, to ask themselves questions, to probe their own hearts: Are they willing to forgive Dahoud the evil deeds of his past? Would would they have the courage to do what he did? What are the djinns in their own lives that undermine their moral strength? I hope that having shared Dahoud’s journey will inspire them to fight their own djinns, whatever those may be.
14. Do you have anything new in the works & can you tell us anything about it?
I’m always working on several projects at once. Right now, I’m revising a steampunk story about a werewolf in a funicular railway car and a quirky fantasy story about an introvert dragon. Several other fantasy and horror stories are in the works too. I’ve started another book for my bestselling series of writing craft books for authors, a practical guide titled Writing Dark Stories. A sequel to Storm Dancer is also in the making. The working title is Flame Bearer.
15. Thank you for doing the interview! Can you please leave the reader with three things that might surprise them about you?
Let me see… I’ve already mentioned that I used to be a bellydancer, so that’s no longer a surprise.
1. I’m German.
2. I don’t watch television.
3. I’m a mistress of the art of procrastination – a procrastinitrix. As a writer, I’m allowed to invent words, right?
Find Rayne Hall online via the following links: