Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guest Post: Jackie Morse Kessler

Photo by Michelle Rowan
Jackie Morse Kessler grew up in Brooklyn, NY, with a cranky cat and overflowing shelves filled with dolls and books. Now she’s in Upstate NY with another cranky cat, a loving husband, two sons, and overflowing shelves filled with dragons and books (except when her sons steal her dragons). She has a bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature, and yet she’s never read any Jane Austen (with or without zombies). She also has a master’s degree in media ecology. (The living study of technology and culture. Which is cool, but she still can’t figure out how to use Tweetdeck.)

Jackie spends a lot of time writing, reading, and getting distracted by bright and shiny new ideas. (She just came up with a new idea right now.) She has a weakness for chocolate and a tendency to let her cat take over her office chair. 
I am delighted to have Jackie Morse Kessler, author of the HUNGER and RAGE, here today, as part of her blog tour. She very kindly wrote up this great guest post about the steeds (you know, that thing Donkey gets turned into in Shrek 3 - just kidding. Sort of...) that accompany the Four Horsemen (or women) of the Apocalypse.

By Jackie Morse Kessler

When I started writing HUNGER, I knew that Lisa, the anorexic protagonist, would have a black steed. Can’t be a Horseman (or Horsewoman) without a horse, after all. But what was very open was exactly what sort of role the steed would play—would it be nothing more than a car on legs? Would it be an extension of the Rider? Would it be an important supporting character? I really didn’t know. What I did know was that the horse had been in the role for a long time, and so it knew what was expected of it: bring Famine to areas of abundance and areas of need. It seemed pretty straightforward, and I could have just let the horse effectively stay in the background.

But as I wrote the book, I realized that the horse couldn’t just be a convenient means of travel for Apocalyptic Riders—at least, not in Lisa’s case. Through her interaction with her steed, she begins to discover certain truths about herself. She’s immediately drawn to the steed and even gives it a name, and she begins to trust the horse in ways that she doesn’t even trust herself. She lets the horse help her, even though she’d been pushing away others who have tried to do the same. (One of my favorite scenes in HUNGER is when Lisa and Midnight are in Egypt: first the horse fetches some fruit for her, and then Lisa finds a shop that sells pralines, which, according to Death, are the black steed’s favorite.)

The issue of trust and allowing others to help comes into play in RAGE as well. Missy is a self-injurer who’s used to bottling up her emotions and cutting when she can’t ignore those feelings any longer. As the Red Rider, she gets a warhorse — literally, the horse of War. Unlike the black steed, the red horse is not interested in working with its Rider. It’s used to displays of power, of control, and that’s the only language it first. Where Lisa was introduced to her steed, Missy had to figure out how to gentle the warhorse. She succeeds, and then she pauses to compliment the horse, tell it how magnificent it is, and she, like Lisa, names it. (Ares, after the Greek god of war. Death comments that she’s just feeding the horse’s ego.) That’s the point when I realized that until it had Missy for a Rider, the warhorse had been little more than a tool or a weapon. And until she met the warhorse, Missy was a person whose trust had been shattered; Ares helps her learn to trust again — others, and herself.

So even though I hadn’t planned it, the steeds in the Riders of the Apocalypse books reflect certain aspects of their Riders. Except, possibly, Death’s steed. :)

Wow, this is so interesting. Lisa and Missy's relationships with their Steeds is one aspect of both books that I really enjoyed. Seeing the characters grow, alongside the horses felt natural, but happened in unexpected and emotional ways. I'm really looking forward to seeing the relationship in the next book.

You can check out my review of HUNGER from earlier this year and don't forget to stop by tomorrow to read my review of of RAGE. 

Jackie's next stop is Confessions of a Bookaholic


blackroze37 AT said...

i love jackies books!

Bere said...

Wonderful guest post, Jackie. I have yet to read your books but I think I will be reading them soon. I'm completely intrigued. And also, thank so much for the giveaway. Thanks, Nikki =).

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