18th century, 19th century, anthology, ballads, called, Canada, church-run institutions, Dorcas, England, erotic, gothic, Idaho, interview, Jean Roberta, life of service, loving Christians, Mini-Author Interviews, nobleman, properly domesticated, Rebecca, sagebrush, servant class, sexually-exploited maid, technology, The Water-Harp, Underwater, water
Mini-Author Interviews for UNDERWATER:
What inspired your story?
Reading old ballads as well as gothic stories and novels from the 18th and 19th centuries, and imagining what a jealous upper-class husband could get away with in an era before modern forensic technology was developed!
Did you have to do any research? If so, what kind? What did you learn?
I didn’t do any research specifically for this story, but I love to read factual details about past eras. Although I don’t have much respect for organized religion in general, I have known some loving Christians who feel “called” to help those in need. I can easily imagine such people finding their way to Church-run institutions in the past, simply because that was where one could live a life of service.
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
Dorcas is practical, and also in touch with her instincts and emotions because she has always been able to escape to the natural world. Most other people feel uneasy in her presence because they find her startlingly beautiful, and she is not a “properly” domesticated woman of the “servant class.” She never rebels openly against an unjust social system, but her spirit is never broken, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to survive.
Was Rebecca sent to Dorcas on purpose?
No. Rebecca found her way to the convent because she wanted to escape from her job as a sexually-exploited maid for a nobleman. She prefers the company of women, and hopes to find a home with the nuns who run the orphanage where Dorcas has been raised. There is no safe place for her in the culture she is living in, but Dorcas never forgets Rebecca, and intends to look for her. (Rebecca might be a central character in another story.)
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
The setting is an older version of England, full of forests and streams. When I was growing up in southern Idaho, I spent much time in the sagebrush-covered hills where my family lived beyond the town limits. I wanted to capture the feeling of a barefoot childhood in the wild but in a place where English-speaking people lived before the 1860s (when white North Americans discovered the “West”).
What would you like readers to know about “The Water-Harp”?
The exact nature of this instrument that creates music when water flows through it is meant to pique a reader’s curiosity. However, it’s not fully described until the last scene.
Jean Roberta lives on the Canadian prairies, where the vastness of land and sky encourage daydreaming. She has taught English in the local university for over 25 years, and now teaches creative writing there. Her diverse fiction (mostly erotic) has appeared in many print anthologies, an out-of-print novel, two out-of-print story collections, and two available collections: Obsession (Renaissance), The Princess and the Outlaw(Lethe Press) plus The Flight of the Black Swan: A Bawdy Novella (Lethe, also in audio). She coedited Heiresses of Russ (Lethe), an annual anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. The opinion pieces she wrote for a monthly column, Sex Is All Metaphors (based on a line in a poem by Dylan Thomas), are available as an e-book by that title (www.eroticanthology.com). She looks forward to revising her backlist and doing more writing during her sabbatical (2016-2017).