I am a complete ignoramus when it comes to any kind of fantasy fiction, but even I have heard of Nancy Springer and I am thrilled that she has agreed to stay in with me to tell me about one of her books today.
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Staying in with Nancy Springer
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Nancy. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought The Oddling Prince because I am so glad it has finally found a home. I wrote it with all my heart, but then it struggled for years to find publication. I was told “that kind of fantasy” wasn’t popular anymore. Ouch, because “That kind of fantasy” was a return to my roots, the first fantasy novel I wrote, The Silver Sun, in which two warrior comrades love each other with all loyalty and eventually discover they are brothers. The Oddling Prince is like the captured essence of much of my previous mythic fantasy to me. It had to be published. And now, finally, it is, by Tachyon.
(Ouch indeed Nancy. I think it’s interesting that so many writers struggle to find a home for their books because they don’t fit a prescribed genre or perceived niche in the market. We readers want a range of books otherwise it’s like eating the same meal every day!)
What can we expect from an evening in with The Oddling Prince?
Let me read you a brief excerpt:
In the benighted courtyard, the rider and his horse stood like a great alabaster statue surrounded by a multitude of pale ovals, the frightened faces of guards and soldiers with their swords out, or their pikes raised, or their bows with arrows nocked to the drawn strings. Yet he, the horseback rider, sat at ease among them as if on a coracle floating amid water lilies.
A slim youth. Perhaps no older than I.
He drew no weapon.
His hands stirred not from the reins.
He gazed straight ahead of him as if in a dream.
He and his milk-white steed, both horse and rider far too beautiful to belong to this mortal world, shone in the night. They glimmered head to foot as if they carried moonlight within them.
My neck hairs prickled at the sight. My heart halted like my feet, like my staring face, and for a moment I felt as if it might stop entirely. But I could not weaken; a king’s son is not permitted to weaken, ever.
(This is a great hook for the reader Nancy.)
The narrator is only seventeen years old, but he must take charge. He orders the men to lower their weapons, and he welcomes the eerie stranger, and that is how Prince Aric of Calidon meets the oddling prince.
So The Oddling Prince is a book about two princes. The Brian Giberson cover symbolizes its theme perfectly: two swords for two heroes, and a heart joining them in troth.
(It’s a really attractive cover too.)
I’ve written so many other fantasy novels with paired heroes that I have to wonder why. In my early novels, I see in hindsight, the yin-yang heroes were me trying to accept and love me, trying to get my messed up-self together. (I’d had an incredibly repressed childhood.) But in The Oddling Prince , the two heroes are no longer dark and light, moody and sunny, night and day to each other, Instead, they are like two sides of the same golden coin. I’m not sure why they mean so very much to me. Perhaps I am envisioning another sort of wholeness?
(Perhaps so. And I think that is what makes writers and their books so intriguing. I love finding out why writers write as much as how and what they write.)
What else have you brought along and why?
May I introduce the ghost of my Aunt Nancy, after whom I was named?
(Erm, I’m having trouble getting a fix on her.)
You can’t see her?
(Sadly not, but do tell me more.)
I met her only a few times, because she lived in Ireland, but let me describe her: short, thin, elderly, and I’ve never met anyone who looks more like a benevolent witch. Her nose and chin very nearly meet to embrace her dried-up apple face. In her high-necked long-sleeved starchy white blouse, brown woollen skirt nearly touching her sensible brogues, and with a scarf on her head, tied under her jutting chin, she dresses like the strict headmistress of a girl’s boarding school, which is exactly who she is. According to my father, she is a scholar who speaks seven languages and never married. Older than him, she was born around 1900 and written down by the parish priest as Anna Hadassah O’Connor. Nancy was her nickname. Despite her fearsome features, she is smiling at me, her niece and namesake.
(She sounds quite a lady! Why did you invite her along?)
Why is she here? Because I need to give her credit. I had no godparents or grandparents, but I had Aunt Nancy. Every Christmas and birthday she sent me a present, always a book, often one about the Little Good People or folk tales or National Velvet, something British. Moreover, once I reached school age, several times a year she sent me letters, written very correctly and in exquisite detail, about commonplaces: seasonal changes, holidays, lambing, harvesting. Because she shared her thoughts without condescension, I would try to write back to her the same way, so I grew up loving eloquent prose and everyday beauties. She did something amazing: while I was raised as an American kid, she gave me roots as a British writer. The prose, the mythos.
If Aunt Nancy hadn’t stuck her long nose into my childhood, I might have had a very different outcome. I think I ought to give her at least partial thanks for The Oddling Prince and all my Celtic fantasy novels.
(What a fabulous guest to bring along. I’m so glad she inspired you to write Nancy.)
Thank you so much, Nancy, for staying in with me to introduce The Oddling Prince. I know some Linda’s Book Bag readers in particular will love it and I wish you every success.
The Oddling Prince
In the ancient moors of Scotland, the king of Calidon lies on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that cannot be removed from his finger. When a mysterious fey stranger appears to save the king, he also carries a secret that could tear the royal family apart.
The kingdom’s only hope will lie with two young men raised worlds apart. Aric is the beloved heir to the throne of Calidon; Albaric is clearly of noble origin yet strangely out of place.
The Oddling Prince is a tale of brothers whose love and loyalty to each other is such that it defies impending warfare, sundering seas, fated hatred, and the very course of time itself. In her long-awaited new fantasy novel, Nancy Springer (the Books of Isle series) explores the darkness of the human heart as well as its unceasing capacity for love.
The Oddling Prince is published by Tachyon and is available for purchase here.
About Nancy Springer
Nancy Springer is the award-winning author of more than fifty novels, including the Books of Isle fantasy series, the Enola Holmes mystery series and a plethora of magical realism, women’s fiction, contemporary young adult and other titles. She received the James Tiptree Jr. Award for Larque on the Wing, the Edgar Allan Poe Award for her juvenile mysteries Toughing It and Looking for Jamie Bridger, and has been a frequent nominee for the Nebula and World Fantasy awards.
Forthcoming from Tachyon Publishing, The Oddling Prince is a heartfelt return to her beginnings, forty years ago, in the fantasy genre. She currently lives in the Florida Panhandle, where she rescues feral cats and enjoys the vibrant wildlife of the wetlands.