inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #51 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 27 Oct 16 11:54
    

In the mid 90’s, I traveled with my husband and Joan Marler (Marija
Gimbutas’s biographer) to Romania and Bulgaria where I took what I
call “location photos”—that is photographs of sites where I might
place a city or a nomad camp. We also visited museums, two of the
best being the Gold Museum in Varna, Bulgaria, and the Anthropology
Museum in Bucharest, Romania. 

If you would like to look at some of my research photographs of
artifacts from Old Europe (small goddess statues, pots with sacred
designs, etc.), you can see them here:

http://marymackey.com/photos-europe-6000-years-ago/
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #52 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 27 Oct 16 11:54
    

By the time I had done all this research, I felt that I had a good
idea of what the world of Old Europe had looked like, smelled like,
even tasted like. I had already developed my characters thoroughly
by other means (among other things, I ask myself 50 questions about
each main character so I can get to know him or her the way I’d get
to know a real person). I also already had a preliminary plot
outline. 

At that point, it was simply a matter of combining these three
elements—character, plot, and location--and seeing what happened.
The wonderful thing about fiction is that characters and plot change
as you create them. There’s a bit of chaos theory in the development
of fiction—you can start something but you can never be completely
sure where it’s going next or where it will end up. If you don’t
have this flexibility, this ability to go with what it working, they
your writing often seems mechanical instead of organic.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #53 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 27 Oct 16 11:58
    

I suppose I do look very disciplined from the outside, but the
secret is that I love research, love travel, and love writing.
Nothing on TV or on the web can compare to the images and stories
that come into my head when I sit down to write. It's fun. It's the
best game ever.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #54 of 93: Pamela McCorduck (pamela) Thu 27 Oct 16 13:15
    
Your extensive research really shows in the books, Mary, and not in
any pedantic way. It just all feels very real. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #55 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 27 Oct 16 14:13
    

That's good to hear, Pamela. That was my goal.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #56 of 93: Joe Flower (bbear) Thu 27 Oct 16 15:50
    <scribbled by bbear Thu 27 Oct 16 15:51>
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #57 of 93: Joe Flower (bbear) Thu 27 Oct 16 15:52
    
> There’s a bit of chaos theory in the development of fiction—you
can start something but you can never be completely sure where it’s
going next or where it will end up.

Which leads me to the main question that really did occur to me as I
was reading. One of your main characters gets, how shall we say,
pulled inside out quite suddenly, becomes a different character. It
was a pretty surprising bit of storytelling, made more pointed to me
because the novel I am working on right now is essentially about the
main character getting powerfully transformed. I did wonder how much
that transformation was planned from the beginning, and how much it
kind of sneaked up on you.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #58 of 93: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Thu 27 Oct 16 16:34
    
Ooh, good question (Joe slipped).

What a wonderful conversation!  I loved being immersed in the world
you created... and since I haven't read any of the other books in
the series, I may be one of the rare readers who has three more to
look forward to!

I also just returned from the Bioneers Conference
<www.bioneers.org>, which has a strong thread of indigenous peoples
and wisdom in its DNA.  So I had the pleasure of having The Village
of Bones still in my imagination while I listened to and spoke with
some of the people who can say, "We're still here."

Here are a couple of things that were said, that felt very much to
me like versions of your Six Commandments.  

Patricia St. Onge (Mohawk), said, "When people try to understand
reciprocity, they'll often think it means 'give and take.' But
that's not it; it's really 'give and be given.' It's the difference
between, 'I want,' and, 'We are in relation.'"

And Ilarion Merculieff (Aleut) said, "The business of the mind is to
take instruction from the heart, not the other way around."

I share your hope that if we once lived this way, perhaps we can
imagine our way back, and I just wanted to bring up my experience
because it profoundly reminded me that something of what feels so
lost 6000 years ago has actually been carried forward to this day
and is available.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #59 of 93: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Thu 27 Oct 16 16:37
    
Ilarion also had a story that he told humorously, but I think
there's a germ of truth to it - and it's a version of your Mother
Book story.  He said, "You know, the Elders all over the world are
speaking up now.  Long ago we knew this day would come.  We didn't
have the internet, we had the inner-net.  So people all over the
world discussed how to make sure the teachings weren't lost, how
they could be preserved for maybe thousands of years, and they
decided that each group would carry a piece, and they would hide
that piece by forgetting.  Everyone would forget something, but it
would be a different thing.  So they would not do certain practices
for at least two generations.  And now we are all remembering, and
bringing our pieces."
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #60 of 93: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Thu 27 Oct 16 21:56
    
I love revisiting the making of all four of these amazing books in
this inkwell conversation, Mary. And posts like keta's, also.

So much is worthy of noticing--the values you portray as the basis
of a non-violent culture in which the earth and all her creatures
are treated as kin, as possessing a great equality of being, as
(there's no other word for it) sacred.

A sentence you said earlier caught my eye: " A vivid imagination
coupled with empathy is the best substitute we have for time
travel." 

I suspect that a vivid imagination coupled with empathy is also the
best antidote we have for narrowness, brutality, and disrespect.

A couple years ago a study came out saying that reading literature
raises people's baseline empathy. Your books do advocate real
values. They come out of a whole person. But--chicken and egg silly
question perhaps--do you have any sense of whether empathy arises
from imagining well, or the imaginative power of your narratives
arises from your desire to empathically enter the lives of others?

It sounds to me as if you've been saying that you were drawn to the
culture you discovered in Gimbutas's work, and found that the best
way to steep yourself (and us) in it was imagining your way into
actual lives, caught at the point of transition. But equally, you
are clearly a natural storyteller and natural educator--maybe your
stories were looking for something worth telling?

This is really a question about the origin story at a slightly
different level than you've already described it. A craftperson's
question. 

I also have a really trivial question, but I was wondering, being
geographically challenged, where exactly is the Freshwater Sea? 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #61 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sat 29 Oct 16 11:29
    

The Sweetwater Sea is The Black Sea. It's not as salty as the
Mediterranean. I thought the name nicely reflected the kindness and
peacefulness of the cultures that once inhabited its western shores.
Each copy of "The Village of Bones," "The Year the Horses Came,"
"The Horses at the Gate" and "The Fires of Spring" comes with a map
to help you get oriented.   

I had to make up names for all the places in these novels because to
call them by their modern names would have been jarringly
anachronistic. For example, France was obviously not called "France"
6000 years ago. It didn't get that name until well after the fall of
the Roman Empire when a German barbarian tribe called the Franks
wiped out the competition. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #62 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sat 29 Oct 16 11:32
    

By the way, Orefi--the place where Sabalah gives birth to Marrah—is
actually Delphi. After examining  mythology, ancient history, and
archaeological evidence, I became convinced that the famous Delphic
Oracle dated back to the Goddess-worshiping cultures of Old Europe.
For example, long before the Greeks and Romans showed up, Delphi was
considered to be the Navel of the Earth Goddess, plus the site has
Snake Goddess worship written all over it.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #63 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sat 29 Oct 16 11:38
    

And <keta>, your tales from the Bioneers conference are wonderful
and very apt. I particularly love the story of Forgetting and
Remembering.

Jane's observations on literature and empathy are also right on the
mark. I taught literature for many years as a Professor at CSUS. I
always felt and often told my students that the study of literature
was what Flaubert called a "Sentimental Education"--not sentimental
in the Hallmark Card sense, but an education of the sentiments and
emotions. Writing fiction and reading it are exercises in empathy
and empathy, in turn, can create compassion. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #64 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sat 29 Oct 16 12:06
    

Way back in post #37, Phil asked about the poems, songs, and folk
tales that appear in the novels of the Earthsong Series,
specifically in "The Village of Bones." I have a story to tell you
about them. 

In “The Village of  Bones” and most of the other novels in the
series, I make it clear that we have no written records from this
period. The lack of a written records is why this era is called
“Prehistoric.” 

 “Prehistoric” does not mean the people had no history, only that
they had no written history.  However, there are some indications
that they might have had a ceremonial script and that an
untranslated hieroglyphic script of ancient Crete called “Linear B,”
might be based on an older form of writing dating back thousands of
years. But we can’t read Linear B. We can’t read a word of it.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #65 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sat 29 Oct 16 12:07
    

From this, it should be clear that I made up all the poems, stories,
prophecies, religious texts, ritual chants, folk tales, song maps,
and commandments. But here’s a wonderful thing about fiction: if you
do it right, it’s absolutely convincing. Not to mention that I made
it all even more convincing by providing footnotes like:
“Inscription on the Handle of a Hansi Dagger Written in the Sacred
Script of Old Europe—Possibly by a slave—Museum of Art and History
Varna Bulgaria, Date Unknown.” 

(Hey, I can make up footnotes as well as any other Professor.)
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #66 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sat 29 Oct 16 12:09
    

The upshot is that I frequently get emails from people asking where
they can find more of this great “Neolithic poetry.” That’s when I
have to break the bad news to them. The poems and stories are
fiction. In other words, I have made them up. They are disappointed,
but not nearly as disappointed and annoyed as the people who go to
the Museum of Art and History in Varna and don’t find that Hansi
dagger. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #67 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Sat 29 Oct 16 12:12
    

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that many people don’t know
what fiction is, which is probably why when I tell people that I’m a
novelist, they often ask: “Do you write fiction?” After several
times of being struck speechless by this question, I have come to
realize that I have a heavy responsibility. If people are going to
believe what I write is true, then I have a duty to make sure I
paint as accurate a picture as possible. This is one of the reasons
I did such extensive research into the Goddess-worshiping cultures
of Old Europe. I wanted to get all the details right.

Yet in the end, novels are fiction, so I still reserve the
novelist’s right to fill in the blanks, imagine things, and write
poems, stories, songs, and chants.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #68 of 93: Pamela McCorduck (pamela) Sat 29 Oct 16 13:28
    
Ye gods, ye goddesses, I'm laughing at myself--I was completely
taken in by "Inscription..." Shows how utterly real your books feel
to me, Mary.

The empathy and compassion Sabalah feels, a set of sentiments that
in her are so sensitive that they're nearly supernatural, aren't
always to her benefit. But on balance, they are very much to her
benefit and advantage. I'm glad this story shows the occasional
difficulties that sensitivity sometimes delivers.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #69 of 93: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Mon 31 Oct 16 17:13
    
Oh we poor gullible readers!  I too presumed a real inscribed dagger
rested in some museum...

I've been wondering if you'd say more about changes you've noticed
in your audience, fellow writers, or the culture over time.  You
mentioned being in a writing group in the 70's, having just read
Neumann's "The Great Mother" and at the dawn of second-age feminism.
And in the 80's and 90's Gimbutas's work was important news - which
you in a way helped publicize.  Now it's 2016, and, as <lara>
commented, we're busy rewiring our contemporary memories and minds
with screens and internet.

I'd imagine there are questions you'd get at readings 20 years ago
that maybe never come up now.  And your fellow writers are wrestling
with maybe entirely different inspirations and issues.  Following
this conversation, I'm struck by what a different world this latest
book in the series emerges into, and I wonder if you could say more
about how you experience that, if you do?
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #70 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 2 Nov 16 19:20
    

I’m delighted that both you and Pamela presumed that the inscribed
dagger really exists. My aim was to recreate the past in a way that
seemed completely believable down to the finest detail. What your
reactions show is not that you were gullible, but rather that your
minds and mine have met in a moment of imagination supported by
hundreds of small facts. In other words, the Goddess-worshiping
world of Europe 6,000 years ago has become real to you. What a
pleasure it is to hear that!
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #71 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 2 Nov 16 19:29
    

Over the years, I've noticed a lot of changes in my audience, fellow
writers, and the culture since I was in a writing group in the early
70s. Some are obvious. For example, when I started writing, women
writers had a very hard time getting published unless they wrote
"women's books"--romances and such. The editors were men, the
publishers were men, the reviewers were men.  These men were
intelligent and often well-meaning, but many of them just didn’t get
what women were writing about or why they should take women writers
and female characters seriously. 

Here are two examples of their incomprehension. When Margaret
Mitchell was trying to get Gone With the Wind published back in the
mid 1930’s, it was rejected 38 times before it found a publisher.
The story goes that one editor said to her: “Who wants to read about
a woman during the Civil War.” Had things changed by the late
1970’s? Not much. In 1978, an editor told my agent: “We aren’t
interested in publishing novels written by women any more. Women
have peaked.” 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #72 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 2 Nov 16 19:47
    

Yet hard as it was for a women writing about the Goddess-worshiping
cultures of Prehistoric Europe to convince the male-dominated
publishing world to publish her novels, I had it easy in some ways.
If a publisher did publish your work, you then got the benefits of
wide distribution, reviews by professional reviewers, nation-wide
and even world-wide publicity.  Publishers didn’t expect you to
already have a “platform.” They were actively looking for new talent
and were willing to take a risk on a debut novelist and publish a
second or even a third work by that novelist even if sales weren’t
spectacular.  They also paid you—not a lot at first, but a
reasonable advance that would help you survive while you wrote your
book.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #73 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 2 Nov 16 19:48
    

Very little of this tradition has survived.  In the 1970’s there
were dozens of major publishers. Now there are 5. Debut writers have
much harder time getting that first novel published and all writers
are expected to do their own publicity. 

But the biggest change I’ve seen has been the growing assumption
that all intellectual property, including books, should be free.
Thanks to piracy, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a
living by writing. The biggest distributor of e-books in the world
is amazon.com. The second biggest distributors are the pirates. 
Thanks to piracy, we may be going back to previous centuries when
only the rich had the time and monetary resources to write books. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #74 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 2 Nov 16 19:49
    

So as you noted, it is indeed a different world. How do I experience
this new world? As I said, I believe that I’ve been lucky. I made my
way into the male world of publishing,  won my literary reputation,
and got most of my thirteen novels published before conditions got
so difficult for writers. That said, I still have to do my own
publicity, particularly on Social Media, which takes a lot of time
away from my writing. I wish that weren’t true since writing is what
I really love and really want to do.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #75 of 93: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Thu 3 Nov 16 16:06
    
Hooboy, Mary, I'm nodding my head so vigorously in agreement with
what you've just said about the publishing industry that I
practically wrenched my neck. We could go on for weeks about that,
and perhaps the conversation will return to that; but for now I'd
like to ask something else.

As noted earlier, the heart of your Earthsong series is the
conflict, the tension, between an Earth-revering way of viewing and
inhabiting our world, and, well, a worldview that does not revere
the world or the myriad beings who populate it. That latter
worldview, as we see in the novels, makes possible and even
encourages a way of life predicated on domination, aggression,
violence, and subjugation of others. 

Now, as luck would have it, your latest novel has been published,
and we're discussing it, as the most contentious presidential
campaign in living memory is coming to an end. And to a great
extent, the two worldviews embodied by the two radically different
cultures in your series, one Earth-worshiping and the other Sky
God-worshiping, are manifest in the two major-party nominees. At
least, one nominee clearly represents the view that aggression,
subjugation, and violence toward others is not only acceptable but
even preferable; the other nominee may not be Earth-worshiping but
can be said to be profoundly more attuned to the value and role of
the feminine in human society.

It's not too much to say that this election represents a latter-day
contest between two radically opposed human tendencies, ones that we
see go back at least 6,000 years. Many people, including many in
other countries, see the stakes as being incredibly high--perhaps as
high as they were millennia ago, when the horse-riding marauders
rode down off the steppes and conquered the peace-loving matristic
cultures of neolithic Europe and caused the continent's history to
be written in blood and conquest rather than in peaceful rituals.

Given all that--given that after 6,000 years we are still struggling
to overcome our most violent, combative, subjugating impulses--and
given that you said earlier in this conversation, in answer to my
question, that yes, we ARE the humans who were prophesied (in your
novel) to one day want to "love the Earth," my question today is:
How do we find our way back to loving the Earth? 

It's one thing to read about it and mourn the loss of that way of
life, but re-creating it--not going back in history, but
re-orienting our modern way of life--is a tall order, especially
given the monied interests and vastly powerful commercial,
political, and cultural institutions that like the current state of
affairs just fine, thank you. Even with the rise of modern movements
like feminism, environmentalism, neopaganism, and so on, we still
have a long way to go when the day's news bring us pipelines being
planned through Native American lands and a presidential candidate
who is an unreconstructed misogynist. So again, how do we get there
from here?
  

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