Interview with Jacqueline Carey!
I was absolutely overjoyed when Jacqueline Carey agreed to do an interview for us here at New Stories, Old Book. Her Kushiel’s Legacy series has inspired Biblical FanFiction in so many forms, and she incorporates inspiration from several different areas of spirituality. It’s also a series with a fantastic level of passion, adventure and settings that have enchanted a massive fanbase. Marque tattoos have become a popular expression of the intensity for which fans have fallen in love with the series, and Jacqueline is a wonderful inspiration for authors everywhere.
She’s also quite busy these days with a deadline looming, so we are honored to have her share her time with us today.
You are known as one of the pioneers of authors finding wording within the Bible (or other religious texts) that inspires a story: a different version of “what happened” than is already told. I think the book of Genesis is one of the more common books to be interpreted in a new light, but the vast world of Terre de Ange and the plots layered throughout Kushiel’s Legacy are some of the most advanced ideas to spring out of such an inspiration. In structuring the world of Terre de Ange, how did you strike a balance between referring back to the religious texts that sparked the idea, and allowing your creativity to sculpt the world?
The idea of having “fallen angels” commingling with humankind and bringing them gifts of art and knowledge was actually inspired by the apocryphal (except in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) Book of Enoch, which relates the story referenced in Genesis in greater detail. I added a figure of my own creation in Blessed Elua, the deity born of the mingled tears of Mary Magdalene and the blood of Jesus Christ. That development, in turn, was inspired in part by the book “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” which explored the theory that the bloodline of Jesus was kept secret and continued in the Merovingian dynasty in France – a theory that was popularized by “The Da Vinci Code” a few years later. So I was already combining two unrelated storylines in Judeo-Christian mythology, then added my own spin by rendering Blessed Elua in the tradition of the wandering Dionysian fertility god. I think that combination of disparate elements resulted in a theology and a world that felt at once familiar and original.
It’s well-known that sex is viewed as a sacred thing in Terre de Ange, in service to Naamah. Naamah, however, has a negative association in much of theology, being referred to as a demon, a form of Lilith (or her sister). Here at New Stories, Old Book, we love new variations on Lilith and all the different interpretations of her existence. What drove you to decide to portray the service of Naamah, and the incorporation of sex as a sacred factor in religion, as a positive thing? (Which, by the way, I LOVE. #EndFangirlMoment)
The history of Terre d’Ange is a “hidden history,” a revisionist riff on the story of fallen angels from the Book of Enoch in which the offspring of the angels, or Elua and his Companions, weren’t monstrous or dangerous, but beautiful and sophisticated (and a little vain). According to cabala, Naamah is one of the angels of prostitution. Since I was turning the narrative inside-out, it made sense that rather than a social ill, prostitution would be a sacred tradition in Terre d’Ange. And, frankly, it created the opportunity to explore multitudinous facets of human sexuality in a way that was intrinsic to the setting, which of course was a lot of fun!
Surprise surprise, something else I love: Dark Currents, the first installment of your Agents of Hel series, incorporates supernatural beings of all forms: vampires, fae and ghouls, to name a few. But some of your readers have expressed they missed the depth of spirituality in it compared to Kushiel’s Legacy. Do you find it hard to “stand in your own shadow” and maintain the momentum that Kushiel’s Legacy generated?
I’m very glad you enjoyed it! In answer to your question, to some extent, sure. I made my name writing vast, intricate, sprawling epics dealing with powerful spiritual and emotional themes. For some readers, that’s my “brand,” and that’s what they’ve come to expect and want of me; anything else suffers by comparison. I understand that. But as an artist, I need to take on different creative challenges, and after thousands and thousands of pages of painstakingly researched, densely plotted tales, I needed a breath of fresh air. Ultimately, whether it’s a complex epic or a light-hearted urban fantasy, I write books that I wish existed because I want to read them.