Life Defined

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The World of Gwen Perkins

Greetings, All!

It is a lovely day indeed, and I am pleased to make it lovelier by introducing to you a fellow author and dear friend of mine: Gwen Perkins - author of The Universal Mirror. She has also provided us with a special treat today, for we will be graced with original character profiles from The Universal Mirror by William Fabian Saravia. (Note: Click on any of the images below in order to be redirected to the appropriate site).

Welcome, Gwen! I'm glad to have you here today. First, before we delve into our series of questions, tell us a little bit about yourself.

You know, I never know what to say about myself. 

I'm a mother of three lovely children, two girls, Amaranth and Nynaeve, and a boy, Oisin.  (And anyone who can name the origin of all three names will earn my admiration.)  We live in the Pacific Northwest in the City of Destiny.  Our house is ever full of stray animals and children.

So far as that whole "day job" thing goes, I'm a curator at a museum.  This isn't quite as it's portrayed in the movies.  Some days, I feel like a private detective and others like a magician.  Either way, I spend much of my time thinking about the past and talking to children or creating things for the public to enjoy.  I'm very fortunate in where I work—I'm constantly inspired by the world around me.

Wow! It sounds like quite an exciting job. I've always been fascinated by museums and the histories they contain. 

Now, if you will, tell us a little bit about The Universal Mirror.

The Universal Mirror is the first book in the fantasy series, Artifacts of Empire.  The next book, The Jealousy Glass, has just been completed and is forthcoming.  To tell you a little bit more about The Universal Mirror:

On the island of Cercia, God is dead, killed by his followers and replaced with the study of magic. But the people are suspicious of magicians, believing them the cause of ill fortune. If the magicians aren't kept in check, they might wrestle God from his grave and take the universe for their own keeping. So the universities train magicians in the use of magic, as well as in the restrictions — or Heresies — that bind it. Magicians must not leave their homeland; they must not cast spells on the living—whether to harm or to heal.

Quentin, a young nobleman, and his friend Asahel are both magicians. But they come from very different backgrounds. Quentin belongs to an old bloodline, though his grandfather has whittled away the last of his family's fortune. Asahel, on the other hand, always smells of the sea, his face smudged with dirt. He was decidedly out-of-place at the universities that trained magicians, since most of them came from the upper classes. Everyone but Quentin had tormented Asahel; their curiosity was what bound them together. They both longed to explore magic, rather than cage it.

Now, Quentin longs to heal the woman that he loves, Catharine. Catharine was pitted and scarred from the Plagues which came to Cercia just before she reached womanhood. She wants no part of Quentin because of her self-hatred, disliking it if he so much as looks at her. The husband and wife rarely talk, and what little time they spend together is fraught with tension. But Quentin adores Catharine. If he is to save her from herself, he must be able to use his magic to heal.

You mentioned it was fantasy. How did you choose your specific genre?
Oh, I think it chose me.  Before I wrote Mirror, when I wasn't writing essays or articles, I was actually writing horror and science fiction.  You can see a little of my horror background in Mirror, I think, but overall, fantasy was the genre that felt right.  I couldn't have told this story in the same way had it been set hundreds of years into the future or on our own planet.

While in the process of creating, would you call yourself a “plotter” or a “pantser”?

Quite definitely, I'm a plotter and that's because left to my own devices, I'll cheerfully wander off.  I write a plot to keep myself on task with the story. 
That said, there's one area that I never plot and that's romance.  All romance in my novels develops organically and in at least one case I can think of, completely unexpectedly.  (Though you won't find out more about that until the release of The Jealousy Glass and subsequent stories in the Artifacts series.)

Aha - I can't wait to learn more! Can you tell us when your fascination with writing begin?
That's a bit like asking when I started breathing.  Truthfully, I don't remember ever not making up stories of one sort or another.  I've lived my entire life surrounded by books.

You're a woman after my own heart. Now, what do you find the most difficult to write about?

I always worry a little bit when I'm writing romance which is one of the reasons that I don't plot it.  I don't want it to feel forced or strained and I think that it's a delicate balance to strike.  I have the greatest respect for those authors who can make me believe that their characters are in love and who know how to balance emotion with a strong plot and vivid action.

Does your writing reflect past experiences? Explain.

Yes, but I admit that they're not always my own.  I spend a lot of my days in the past.  As a museum curator, my work life is frequently centered around researching people who are long dead and gone.  I find a lot of ideas that way—when you read years of letters and diaries, you often start to feel like you know a person even when you're separated by centuries and cultures.
Other experiences make it into the stories as well but I tend to alter them.  I'm sure, like any author, I unintentionally pick up a moment here and there but overall, while I base my fantasy worlds in reality, I still do like them to be a bit fantastical.  My real life is not nearly as exotic as that of my characters'.  (Well, except perhaps for Asahel.  We both do a lot of paperwork.)

Writing is a great way to connect with people - even from different cultures, as you pointed out. It amazes me how emotions can be captured through one's words and preserved through time. Our experiences help us grow.

Can you tell us how your philosophies of life tie into your work?

The tales I tell often have some small component of things that I believe or a moral to them, even if it's so slight as to not be obvious.  I'd say that The Universal Mirror is really about learning that you have to learn to love yourself before you can truly love other people.  The Jealousy Glass, on the other hand, is about tolerance and accepting others in spite of differences of faith and sexuality.  It's also about how sometimes, being part of a minority group can make you perceive yourself differently—and often unfairly.

 I think this is something that every reader can relate to, and I commend you for incorporating such themes in your work.
What would you say is one of your writing “quirks”?

I think best longhand.  I tend to write pages and pages by hand when I'm thinking something true.  For instance, I'm working on a new (somewhat secret) project and just sent 25 handwritten, scanned pages to my co-creator.  And that wasn't even close to where the plot notes are going to go.  If he's reading this, I hope that he's forgiven me.

Don't worry: I'm sure all is forgiven. :)
While you were writing, did you put a little bit of yourself into one of your characters?

I'm in all of them, even the ones that I despise.  None of them are perfect and neither am I, by any means.

Book Specific:

Describe the relationship between Quentin and Asahel. 

This is a complicated relationship because, like any friendship, it changes.  Quentin and Asahel developed their friendship when they were at university together—Asahel was close to Quentin because Quent fought his battles when no one else would.  I think that he genuinely wants to believe the best of people, particularly Quentin, because of their past history and this becomes a real challenge in the second book of the series.
Quentin, on the other hand, really sees Asahel as his conscience.  How this will impact the two friends really won't come into full play for another book but it's Quentin's fear of Asahel's bad opinion that really provokes him into the actions that he takes in The Jealousy Glass that set that story into motion.  

 Quentin - by Wilson Fabian Saravia

                                                Asahel - by Wilson Fabian Saravia

Let us into Catharine’s psyche. What motivates her? I find her character quite intriguing.

Catharine relies on her sense of self and her belief in her own strength to keep herself from falling into despair.  She flaunts her scars and her ugly appearance to the world because she feels that if she hurts herself first—and worst—no one else can even come close to inflicting that level of pain.  She feels that this is what makes her strong, her hardness and the armor that she presents to the world. What she doesn't realize is that, in all actuality, her bitterness makes her weak.

 Catharine - by Wilson Fabian Saravia

Describe Felix as an archetype. What mold does he fit into? Why?

This one's a hard one.  More than anything else, I'd say that Felix is the outsider.  He's also more self-aware than some of the other characters.  In part, this is because he spends a fair amount of time in contemplation—unlike Quentin, for instance, he places his world in context through his knowledge of literature.  I've often thought that Felix, had he not been given the upbringing that he had, would have been by nature a very shy child who spent almost no time out of his books.  As it is, he deflects personal questions and really his own thoughts by using quotations and short remarks to try and keep others from finding out who he really is.
In The Jealousy Glass, where Felix is a point-of-view character, you find out more about why he considers himself an outsider and also learn more about how badly he yearns to fit into society, even if it's not the same one that Quentin and Catharine roam through.  

                                                 Felix - by Wilson Fabian Saravia

Which character do you relate to the most? Which do you most dislike? Why? 

This varies depending on the book and on my mood.  In The Universal Mirror, it was definitely Asahel that I could relate to the most.  Like Asahel, I'm shy, awkward, and generally tripping over my own feet!  I know what it's like to not quite fit in, particularly in school.  I also love that he's not a perfect character.  He's overweight, he's got no fighting skills, and he's lower-class.  He's not the archetypical fantasy hero and to be honest, Asahel never will be.  He's my way of saying that we're all heroes in our time, no matter how ordinary we believe ourselves to be.  In exceptional times, even the simplest people are capable of the greatest things.
So far as the character I most dislike?  To be honest, a fair amount of the time it would be Quentin.  This isn't because he's a bad character—in fact, most of the time, Quentin genuinely means well.  It's simply that I have so little in common with him and his background, not to mention the way that he perceives the world.   I love him but I don't always like him, if that makes sense.

Can you share with us a little bit from The Jealousy Glass? I realize it will be unedited at this stage, but we all enjoy teasers.

Felix hit the ocean feet-first, flailing as the waves sucked him in.  Dark water swallowed him.  He clamped his mouth shut, struggling as wet clothing caught on a floating board.  His leg thrashed out, kicking him high enough for his head to break surface.  He gasped as cold air stung his cheeks, breathing hard.
A second wave crashed into him, burying his head again.  Seawater flooded his mouth before he clamped it shut, tasting salt.  His cheeks puffed, the rest of him clenching in panic as he stared back down into the depths, unable to see past his own limbs.
He felt something snag his jacket and he fought it, struggling with the force tangling the fabric and yanking at him.  Don't let me die, Felix thought just before a harder yank freed him of the ocean again.


Paper or plastic?
 Paper all the way.  I am from logging country.

Ink or lead?
Ink unless dealing with radioactive materials.

Are you more ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’?
I'm definitely an artistic thinker even if I can't draw a straight line.  Numbers terrify me.

What is your favorite childhood story?
Either the Snow Queen or the Goose Girl.  I loved fairytales as a child—what am I saying?  I still do.

Favorite scent?
Black lavender tea with milk in.  Or sandalwood.

Favorite decade?
Any one in which I am presently living though I admit that as far as historic time periods go, I'm quite fond of Tacoma circa 1900-1910 at the moment.

Thank you again for joining us today, Gwen. It's been a pleasure indeed~

Learn more about Gwen and her work here.


  1. Thank you so much for having me, Rachel!

  2. You are so very welcome, Gwen! It was great having you~



  3. Great interview! And I can't wait for the sequel to Universal Mirror!!

  4. Very nice interview. Sounds like an interesting series


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