The World Tree rises up out of the seething clouds like a green mountain, lifting its children up to the light. All creation nestles in its gigantic branches: all take shelter beneath its canopy. There is no world besides this one -- or so the priests in Argos city would have everyone believe. What then if the green God should wither away, or withdraw Her blessings from her children?
Tymon is an orphaned boy growing up at Argos seminary, in the lush heart of the Central Canopy. The Argosian priests have declared science to be a heretical pursuit, and banned travel beyond the confines of the Tree. But Tymon yearns to discover new horizons. He longs to break free of the seminary. When he discovers an interloper in the city baths -- a foreigner, a female, one of the stigmatised Nurian pilgrims brought to the town every year as slaves -- his life changes forever.
Here is our interview with the lovely Mary Victoria:
A&R: Can you please explain your world and the premise of your novel!
‘Tymon’s Flight’ is set in a gigantic tree about the size of a small continent. When trying to visualize such a thing, think of a mountain range like the Himalayas. Replace the earth and rock parts with wood; imagine the snowy regions as branches and leaves. Limbs can be miles long. The trunk is a cliff-face, furrowed and complicated and full of ravines.
This is the only world the inhabitants know. They can’t see the base of the Tree as it is blanketed by impenetrable cloud. They’ve never found another Tree rising through the cloud-cover. They’ve enshrined all their fear and ignorance in a religion and now don’t believe it’s even right to travel beyond the confines of their world. The society Tymon, my lead character comes from, is run by priests. They venerate the World Tree and forbid exploration. Needless to say this isn’t the sort of environment a curious fifteen-year old would be happy in, especially if he’s a charity case taken on by the priests and expected to pay back his debt through a period of indenture.
So Tymon is a misfit in a conservative society. Of course, he’s far luckier than some.
A&R: Are the names of your characters are important? And what do they mean?
Oh yes, names are very important. They conjure up all sorts of associations. The names of the Argosians living in the western half of the Tree have classical Greek overtones (Timon of Athens, Jason and the Argonauts, etc) or else reflect the society’s preoccupation with plants and agriculture (Ferny, Rede, Fallow…) The people in the east also have a few of those Greek names (Solis, Pallas) but in general their language reflects Iranian, Arabic and Indian influences. The word ‘Nur’ means light in Persian. ‘Samiha’ (Samiheh) was my great-grandmother’s name.
Don’t be tempted to extrapolate too much from this, however! The Argosian culture is based on an amalgam of various traditional societies in Europe, India and the Middle East. The Nurians are the pale-skinned barbarians they love to hate. I like to mix things up.
A&R:While writing, do you eat, drink or so anything special to get the writing mojo flowing? Like sports people wearing lucky socks etc..
One word: coffee. Said like this, with a big wide grin: ‘Coff-feeee.’
A&R:Has the dog ever eaten your manuscript?
Actually I once had a cat who chewed on everything I wrote. It was a long time ago and the cat has now gone where cats go, but I think she was trying to tell me something. I wrote poetry, you see. Bad poetry. That cat was an excellent critic.
A&R:What do you think books are for?
Books are for taking me unawares and making me fall in love with a stranger. They are tickets to a whole new country, the author’s mind. A good storyteller will tempt you away like the Pied Piper. I treasure that opportunity to forget myself.
A&R:Which character was the hardest to write? Which one was the easiest?
In this book the most accessible character to me was Tymon, because I knew him fairly well. He has a lot of myself in him – sorry to be so cliché! But that didn’t necessarily make him easier to write. It just meant there was a lot of material to draw on.
It’s funny raiding your own life, background and cultural experience for story material. You feel a tad guilty. The end product is completely unrecognizable, thank goodness.
The most difficult character to write was certainly Samiha. She has a combination of high moral aspirations and great courage, which makes her a little scary – she can be quite uncompromising. It’s tough to write a truly heroic person. Though she does have a wonderfully human side and makes mistakes.
A&R:As a child, when colouring, did you colour within the lines or outside the lines?
Very carefully within the lines at first, before I figured out that I hated colouring. It was far more fun to draw my own stuff. Then I discovered pen and ink in my teens and went all goth, and colour was a no-no anyway.
A&R:Can you describe your desk or office/writing area. Also, does you write at a certain time of day?
I write when I can, which is during the hours my daughter goes to kindy. Or in the evening. There’s no set rhythm, only me throwing myself at the computer whenever the opportunity presents itself.
My desk at the moment is covered in copies of the first book, notes and outlines for the third book, invites to the upcoming launch, and empty coffee cups. It could do with a dusting. I doubt it will get one soon.