Religion and society don’t always match up very well, even after centuries of interaction and parallel development. Looking at our modern world, the mismatch is sometimes striking. For example, in both the West and East, you often find a large segment of society is more progressive and liberal than the more religious communities and their leadership. Religious communities can be far more adamantly anti-gay, anti-contraception, anti-female than the more secular segments of society, possibly because religions often have a vested interest in maintaining the staus quo. If they allow change, then it hints that their original God-inspired basis had errors, i.e. God was wrong.
I decided to make the religious institution more inclusive, and more progressive, especially when it came to gender equality, from the beginning. In other words, it is the culture that should change to catch up (I like being contrary!) It was an easy reversal to make, because I think that Va-Faith with their basis very strongly rooted in the natural world rather than in a single patriarchal type god had a better chance of being an equal-opportunity employer.
Where did the idea for the character of Saker, clergy spy, come from? It's not a very common combination.
I don’t know why it’s not more common! Clergy in centuries past were often heavily involved in politics. I can only imagine that Cardinal Richelieu of France, for example, who was also the French king’s principle minister and immersed in French politics and wars, must have had a widespread network of spies. In all probability, many might have been clergy.
Historically, many religions — in the interests of keeping the homogeneity of the beliefs in their flock — spied unmercifully on their own, killing, maiming, torturing and burning those who were in any way rebellious or nonconformist. The State religion of various cutures in our history has also often been defended by their own armies. When you go to war, having spies is part of the deal.
The religion of Va and oak and water shrines is an interesting mix of monotheism and nature-worship. How did that come together for you?
Going from a nature-based faith to a monotheistic one is a common progression, I just tweaked it a bit. Instead of just having bits of old beliefs (kneeling before statues, winter solstice celebrations, etc) incorporated into the new faith, I kept the dominance of the nature-base. Va (God) became a unifying force, bringing the water-based and the tree-based elements together as they had once been anyway, but the idea of Va never really captured the hearts and minds of the rural folk. Administratively, Va worship works because the Va-faith leadership has always stressed tolerance. However, as always, there are those who would change everything if they could…
After reading The Lascar's Dagger, I am very excited to get my hands on books two and three. Do you have release dates and titles for those yet?
Book 2 is slated for January 2015. Book 3 is not written yet, but should be published a year later.
I take it we'll be seeing more of the Spice Islands in subsequent books. Can you tell us a bit more about them?
The Spice Islands and the Chenderawasi Archipelago of my story are based on the Spice Islands in our own world. They were called that by Europeans, not Asians, and are to be found in eastern Indonesia, perhaps better known to us today as the Moluccas (or Maluku in Indonesian). They were the place to go to obtain nutmeg, mace and cloves and other spices. Subsequently they suffered because of the value of those spices, even to having their populations decimated or forced into economic slavery to feed the greed of European traders.
The Chenderawasi Islands of my trilogy are visually a tropical paradise, but they are in the same precarious position as the Moluccas were in the 18th century. The difference is that the people have magic…
Four of the main characters of The Lascar’s Dagger visit Chenderawasi in Book 2. And there are pirates and a huge reveal about the nature of Chenderawasi magic...
Thanks, Glenda, for taking the time to answer my questions!
You can find out more about Glenda on her website or her blog (which often has lovely nature photographs), or by following her on Twitter.