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Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Janie Franz

Janie Franz, Author of The Bowdancer Saga

Like many authors, I have probably written all my life. I started out with small stories that I scribbled in a notebook. Several years ago, I found one of those that I wrote when I was about 12 or so, but I had written it in pencil and the pages had smeared so much I couldn’t read any of it. It was probably awful but I grieved when I had to toss it.

In recent years, I have been busy building a full-time freelance journalism career, even launching my own online music publication, Refrain Magazine. I also review an uncommon number of books every year. I was at a point last fall when I felt I had a steady stream of regular clients that I could make time to do some fiction writing.

Though I had written The Bowdancer, my first published book, several years ago and had made the rounds of trying to get it in print somewhere, I never could place it. It was a novella, larger than most print publications wanted, and it never seemed to find the right home. I remember getting two written rejections. One was from a man who thought it was too flowery. The other was from a woman who liked it but it just wasn’t a good fit for her publication. Conflicted, I put it in a drawer and forgot about it.

Then last fall as part of the Muse Online Writers Conference, I pitched it to Breathless Press and they picked it up. And asked for more.

I had a few notes on the second book, The Wayfarer’s Road, and I started in writing. Because I had a serious internet access problem right after The Bowdancer came out, I plunged into writing the second book, then the third, and I’m in the middle of the fourth.

The Bowdancer begins the saga. Jan-nell is the bowdancer, a healer and spiritual leader who also preserves the lore and history of her village through story-songs and dances. The giant bow she carries calls the children to lessons, which are often tales and stories about the important people of the village. The bow also is the instrument with which she dances and sings these story-songs. She also creates new story-songs for special events such as weddings and births. And the great bow calls everyone to celebrations. When a bandit enters her world, her whole way of life is challenged as well as her heart.

The rest of the books in the series deal with what Jan-nell encounters throughout the rest of her life. And it isn’t always what you would expect.

I have used The Bowdancer Saga as a way to explore gender, roles, cultures, the arts (music, dance, visual art, culinary skill), spirituality, and different concepts of family. There is also romance and adventure along the way.

While the series has been labeled a fantasy romance, I will admit that I am the last person I thought would ever be a romance writer. I don’t read it and I don’t review it. However, I do enjoy reading about relationships of all kinds. So, I prefer to think of myself as a writer of relationships that involve intimacy on many levels including the physical and spiritual.

I do think the whole Bowdancer Saga empowers women, even though we are sometimes caught by circumstances. It is in those situations that women seem to show a resilience that allows them to be more flexible perhaps than men. While I extol the virtues of women in the books, I do however appreciate men, though sometimes they may seem to be more flawed. And some are very strong allies for Jan-nell. But I did have one female character, who was supposed to only be a secondary character, step up to take a big role in the fourth book. Her personality was so strong I couldn’t leave her in the background. She became a very interesting character to work with.

You can read more about The Bowdancer Saga on my website:

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