BY BETH TASHERY SHANNON
Pub date: October, 2012
Synopsis of TANGLEVINE:
Demoted war hero Jihan arrives in the Bluegrass to extend the Domed City’s power and salvage his family’s reputation. When a fellow official disappears, he commandeers a horseback caravan as backup and rides to the remote village of Tanglevine to investigate. Windland, the caravan leader, guides him through bewildering woods to a blighted village where only the locals’ respect for Windland shields them from resentment. The savage killing of a young woman and her child provokes Jihan to vow justice, but deceived by the villagers, targeted by a hostile witch and seduced, then betrayed, by an elusive dancer, he begins to suspect that Windland has an agenda of his own. Gradually Jihan realizes that instead of a hunter pursuing a murderer, he is the prey of a hunter far more ancient than he. If he cannot believe in the impossible, the woman he loves will be destroyed.
Q: Kentucky regional fiction is usually contemporary or historical. Why did you choose to set a speculative fiction novel in Kentucky?
BTS: I love to tease the mind, my own and other people's, to tickle it into unclenching and letting in the unforeseen. All fiction is a kind of imaginative fantasy. Tanglevine came to me when I moved back to the creek where I'd grown up after living for a decade in California. The first image came in a dream: Jihan and Windland riding toward a wooded hill with a brooding sky behind it, looming darker than the trees. But the dream only hinted at what was happening, or what the darkness was. Most of the story worked itself out as I walked by the creek. When I got stuck, I asked the water, or the trees, or the rocks by the spring, and the next bit always came. It was as if the landscape told me the story. At the very least I'd call it a partnership. Tanglevine couldn't have been set anywhere else.
Q: At the story's end the conflicts seem resolved, yet there are hints that the resolution is only temporary. Can we trust that all is really settled?
BTS: Yes, and no. Jihan has learned things he can't deny and is too smart to ignore. But the ambition and family duty that drives him haven't disappeared. And Windland's loyalties are as divided as ever. Tanglevine is a complete story, but I'm writing a sequel. I plan a four-story cycle: Tanglevine, The Heron, Frogtown Race Meet, and Windland's War.
Q: Tell us about a discovery you made as you wrote Tanglevine. What most surprised you?
BTS: It seems strange to me now, but I had no idea who Fern was or how much of the story was hers. Yet I found that though I didn't see her in that first dream, she was always there. I think gradually discovering her was as much a mystery for me as it was for Jihan. You'd think that for a woman writer the most intriguing woman character would always be at the story's center, but finding Fern was like finding and reclaiming some lost part of my soul.
Q: Are the conflicts between the Domenes and Bluegrass people just an imaginative framework for your tale, or do they reflect issues facing Kentuckians today?
BTS: Not just Kentuckians. Kentucky does have a unique history as a legendary promised land for pioneers and as a battleground, but I hope Tanglevine will resonate anywhere there's conflict between people who respect the land and aim at a sustainable balance, and people want to use it for their own profit until it's used up. But in a way, Tanglevine is very specifically about an issue facing the Bluegrass. For central Kentuckians, there's an odd disconnect. We pride ourselves on the beauty and unique culture of the Bluegrass, yet without the attention that surrounds mining or river damming, the farmland, the Bluegrass itself, is steadily being destroyed due to urban growth with no kind of foresight or sustainable plan. All my life I have endured the destruction of loved places. Of course, it's also contributing to our slowly losing our horse industry, a major factor of Kentucky's economy.
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