Interview - S.D. Hines – Author of the Heroines of Classical Greece - Medusa
I am always left in awe when I get the opportunity to literally connect with people on the other side of the world. The fast click ability always leaves me fascinated as I recall my initial exposure to a computer just over 15 years ago. PC’s just started coming into fashion at that stage and going on the internet was still a big -- Wow. Now here I am today, willing and able to chat to pretty much anyone I set my sites on.
It is a great honour for me to introduce and interview S.D. Hines ( from Alaska) the newly published author of the series -- Heroines of Classical Greece, a series I am sure many readers will grab with much interest.
Scot thanks so much for granting M.A this interview.
As a start would you mind giving readers a bit more insight on yourself? What is it that made you decide to write?
Like most of your readers, I’m a committed bibliophile. Growing up, I was the classic nerd who would sneak a flashlight and read under the covers at night. Even now I have a couple or three novels going at any one time. When I was eventually forced to grow up, I settled into a medical career and did a great deal of teaching, often tying in my field (neurologic disease) to the humanities. I commonly used examples of medical illness that were prominent in many famous paintings and novels to make a clinical point. One of my favourite topics was mythology.
I had written off and on through the years, but nothing too serious. One day, while contemplating how unfair many of the old myths were to innocent mortals, I thought “why somebody doesn’t tell the story from their standpoint of view?” Then I realized… that someone could be me.
Your first novel revolves around Medusa. In your intro you gave an intriguing piece on what led you to write the story. Could you share that with our readers?
Medusa was a pious priestess who was cursed for resisting Poseidon when he raped her in Athena’s temple. When I first read this I was mortified. How fair was that? In almost all modern media such as movies and books, Medusa is cast as an evil monster. That paradox got me thinking about how the mortal women prominent in mythology were either monsters, victimized/helpless/inept, or just plain wicked. Think of Medea (killed her kids from jealousy), Pandora (let the evils of the world into the world…similar to Eve), the Amazons (brave but always lost to men: Hercules killed a dozen, one right after the other), and of course, Medusa.
But in our daily lives, the real heroes that shape our lives are often women who persevere despite impediments put in their way by virtue of having an extra “X” chromosome. Even in the 21st century, women have a tough time getting a fair shake. My own wife is a neurologic surgeon and despite her skills and compassion, she must work harder and better than her male counterparts for acceptance. If things are slow to change even now, imagine what it was like 3,000 years ago. What did Medusa have to endure? Ariadne?
What makes your story different from the historical facts that are known to us today?
I would argue that my story is likely to be closer to fact than the current tales that evolved through the centuries. My belief is that there were once real events that shook the ancient world and were passed down verbally to later became our myths. My stories rely more on proven science and history rather than the mystical to explain the origin of these tales. Some myths say that Poseidon destroyed Atlantis. I say that it was a shifting of tectonic plates. Was a giant an twisted creature descended from unholy deities, or was he an acromegalic shaped by an excess of growth hormone? Was the bull of Marathon a monster, or rather an ice age remnant, a prehistoric auroch? I am a firm believer that science is far more magical than shrugging off something unexplained as being the work of the gods.
In my stories, the gods are present, but they are shadowy figures with peripheral roles. The true heroes are the men and women of the stories. Just like today.
Why focus on Classical Greek heroines?
At the risk of sounding parochial, I would argue that like it or not, and for better or worse, Western culture has permeated our world, particularly the media (print and all others). Ancient Greece shapes our politics, our science, our philosophy, or religion, our ____ (fill in the blank).
So Greek Mythology is a universal theme. It is a clear "winner" in terms of a genre with potential interest to all, if done right. Why pick the heroines instead of the heroes of Ancient Greece? Quite frankly, the heroines were more complex, more intelligent, and more...heroic.
I was fortunate enough to meet Ken Atchity (storymerchant.com and others), author of THE MESSIAH MATRIX, who patiently shepherded me through the bewildering world of publication. I later found out that in addition to his impressive literary credits, Dr. Atchity is a Fulbright Scholar and a recognized expert in classic literature.
Why is it that Medusa’s story – which according to your research was initially sympathetic towards her situation - changed at a later stage to the extent of her being condemned?
Scholars find that the most ancient version of Medusa's tale suggest that after having been horribly savaged and cursed by Poseidon, she was a sympathetic figure. There were even some shrines to Medusa, and I shudder to imagine the circumstances that would drive some to seek these sites of worship. But over time as Greece prospered, Medusa took on a role as a monster who somehow deserved the curse. Some theorize that with a more sophisticated culture and more economic opportunities, women had potential of a role other that of child-bearing and child-rearing. To stave off competition, her role changed to give a moral lesson as to the inferiority of women. As I mentioned, within this same time period almost every mortal female figure in mythology had weak morals, was evil, or failed attempting to imitate the glory of her male counterparts.
Your second novel in the series is now available on Amazon. From having released the first to now launching the second how have readers responded?
ARIADNE: A Tale of the Minotaur was actually launched first, even though it was the second penned (the order of the series doesn't matter). It was shorter, and was a fast moving, exciting tale that we thought it would be a better one to get out initially. It had a potential appeal to a YA (young adult) audience as well, since it essentially is the ancient version of The Hunger Games. The book is doing very well. It has even more of modern science within, in an easily understandable way. As one reviewer said, it has more twists and turns than the Labyrinth. But when you read it...beware. All your preconceived notions of the story of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur will be shattered.
How have critics responded towards your take on history?
So far it's been positive, but I don't doubt that I'll get some objections from some that prefer the original stories dating from thousands of years ago. But my history matches up quite accurately, and I try to take as little poetic licence as possible. Let's just say that if my stories aren't accurate portrayals of what actually happened, they should have been ;) Gregory Maguire did something similar when he took the classic tale of Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ and fleshed out WICKED from its literary bones. Although I try and include as much proven research in the books as possible, when you come down to it, the genre of "Mythic Fiction" is essentially "Fiction".
How many novels will you aim to cover in this series?
That’s an excellent question. Two down and one in progress (ARACHNE). So long as I have readers that love the stories, I have plenty of material available that will keep me writing. HELEN and CIRCE come to mind as future endeavours, among others. I'm open to suggestions!
Will you ultimately take this series to film or are you happy to just focus on being published?
I’d guess that the number of writers who wouldn’t love the idea of their work ending up on the big screen or stage falls somewhere between one and zero. But I’m just happy to have works out in print, and am not holding my breath. One of the classic Sci-Fi tales, Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME, is due to come out on film this fall. It was written in 1985. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) was based on a Tim Powers novel written in 1987. Computers and CGI technology make movies possible today that couldn't have been created in the past, but the books that make it to film quickly like “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” are the exception.
Since first being published up to now, how has having your work out there changed your life?
The books haven’t been out too long, but already I feel more vitalized as a published author. When I first started writing, I wrote mainly for myself and my daughter. I felt there were stories that just needed telling. But with the interest and positive feedback I am getting, I must admit that I feel more motivated to find time to write more. I love the life I have and don't want to change it, but writing opens up a whole new realm of creativity in my life.
From what I understand you work in the medical field where you provide healthcare to Alaskan natives. In this type of industry where and when do you find time to focus on writing?
I not only find writing and my medical practice compatible, but complementary as well. When my patients are reading when I enter the exam room (let’s face it...with a potential wait most bring books) I always ask them about the book and take some time to discuss literature. I often incorporate medicine into my writing. Sure I am busy, but I can always find time to type out a page or two before bed or work while I’m flying off to far northern places like Barrow, Alaska. There is a rich history of physicians who are also authors. The list is long, but includes such notables as Anton Chekhov, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Michael Crichton, and Christiaan Barnard.
Are there any other novels on the horizon?
Sure. ARACHNE is in progress. Like most of my works, I compose them in my mind first while jogging, hiking, etc. and then later write them down. But I need to be more attentive while running in Alaska: last year a friend and I almost ran into an aggressive grizzly bear while out on a road near my home (thank you, whoever was in that blue SUV and opened up his back door so we could dive inside to safety). I also have a YA Fantasy and a Sci-Fi book shelved for now that might eventually see the light of day with some polishing. But for now the Heroines of Classical Greece series takes priority.
Where can fans connect with you and your work?
It not only highlights the series of books, but has information regarding that time of Classical Greece. There is art, history, archaeology, and the culture of the Greeks, as well as mythologic tidbits and posts about the science and history relevant to the series. It’s interesting and a lot of fun, but I can’t take credit for the bulk of it (Thanks Chi-Li Wong).
Scot it’s been an enormous pleasure to pick your brain. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to brushing our fingers across your wonderful adventures.