FAQ Friday: Wouldn’t it have been safer for Persephone to just stay in the Underworld?

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*Spoiler warning for Persephone and Daughter of Earth and Sky

A reader wondered why, if Hades and Demeter knew Zeus was still around and after Persephone, did they allow her to return to the living realm in book two?

Remember, Boreas was restricted to a relatively short season, but Zeus could wait around for all eternity. Persephone wanted to hang on to the human life she’d built. She has friends, a job, a family, and a life. And while it’s one thing to step away from that for a few months (December-March) while Boreas was at full strength, it’s quite another to say goodbye forever.

Persephone’s will in this is paramount, because I didn’t want to write a horror story about a teenage girl being forced to spend her life in the land of the dead. It’s one of the first things I changed when I rewrote the myth.

As far as what Hades wants, while other writers have tackled the whole over protective significant other forcing their loved one to stay somewhere safe (and thus destroying their relationship in the process) SO well (Seriously read the linked book. It’s so good), that’s not the story I wanted to tell. Which is why, in book one, Hades explicitly stated that he wouldn’t keep Persephone in the Underworld against her will. That’s a promise he has to honor. He does try to convince her to stay a few times. He just can’t make her.

Demeter on the other hand, would absolutely force her daughter to stay in the Underworld for her safety. For a season. Asking her to say goodbye to her daughter for all time, especially after her daughter nearly died the last time she tried to make that happen, is a bit much. Plus, Demeter’s dealing with a lot of parent guilt in book two. Every move she’s ever made regarding Persephone was for Persephone’s own good, but it backfired. Her daughter hates her for her deception, the events of book one outright would have never happened if Persephone had had an ounce of preparation, the priestess she chose for her daughter has gone rogue, the father she chose for her daughter so she’d have enough power to survive is the very thing threatening her life. Every move she made failed. So while she never shows it (she’s a goddess after all, showing weakness isn’t easy for them), Demeter spends most of book two feeling paralyzed. She knows if she pushes Persephone to stay in the Underworld, she will lose her forever on more than one level. Plus, she can’t force Hades to abide by her will, and Persephone sure isn’t going to go alone with it, so it’s a fight she couldn’t win if she wanted to. Demeter’s smart enough not to pick a losing battle.

Plus, she feels like she’s losing Persephone to Hades already. Her goal for the first third of book two is to keep her daughter out of the Underworld as much as possible. It’s only once the danger becomes explicit that she takes a major step back. She knows if she tries to force Persephone into the Underworld, that Persephone is just mad enough to dig her heels in to spite her. So she doesn’t. And she assumes that is where Persephone is spending most of her time.

At the end of the book, Persephone had every intention of waiting out the danger in the Underworld. But she couldn’t remember her charmed promises compelling her to leave the safety of the Underworld and return to Zeus. The important thing to remember about charm, is that done right, the implanted thoughts  it feels like the charmed person’s idea. So when Persephone irrationally decides to go find Orpheus and fix things, that’s her mind desperately trying to rationalize an obviously bad idea.

 

FAQ Friday: The Gods Can’t Lie

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*Spoiler warning for events in Persephone and Daughter of the Earth and Sky and Iron Queen*

Thanatos looked down at the marble floors, scuffing his black shoes back and forth. “Have you told . . . anyone that you charmed me?”

I frowned, thinking back. I’d told my mother and Melissa about the fight with Boreas, but between witnessing and then committing a murder, charming Thanatos wasn’t all that memorable. I studied Thanatos. It was memorable for him. His face was flushed, his hands were gripped tightly together, and he wouldn’t meet my eyes.

He’s embarrassed. I remembered him saying I outranked him, and as far as bloodlines went, I did, but knowing that and having his will overpowered by a goddess who hadn’t even come into her powers couldn’t feel very good.

“I haven’t told anyone.”

“Is there any way . . . I hate asking you this, but could you promise not to tell anyone anything about me? It’s just that I’d never live it down if anyone ever found out I’d been charmed.”

I smiled at him. “I promise. I can’t promise Hades won’t figure it out, but he won’t have any help from me.”

A grin broke out across his face. “Thank you.”

~@~

Q: Since Persephone inadvertently bound herself to Thanatos, it suggests things said in ignorance must also be true. So… are we then to assume that she never once got a question on a test wrong?

A: This is a question in two parts, so I’m going to divide my answer.

Persephone didn’t bind herself to Thanatos in ignorance in terms of the actual promise sworn, just the repercussions. If you look at the wording above, she swore exactly what she meant to. She promised not to tell anyone anything about Thanatos, and then she took it one step further and promised not to help Hades figure out that he’d been charmed. She knows all the meanings behind the words, the implication of the it, all of it. What she doesn’t know is everything Thanatos has ever said or done, but that knowledge has no bearing on what she actually promised. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t know Thanatos was working with Zeus because her promise had nothing to do with that knowledge. She promised not to tell anyone anything about Thanatos at all. No expiration date, no limits.

The problem with Persephone’s promise was that it was that pesky word anything. She physically cannot tell anyone a single thing about Thanatos, ever. That’s all-encompassing. If Thanatos had never betrayed her, if they went on to be best friends, and three years down the road, Hades asked “Hey, are you seeing Thanatos later today?” She physically could not say yes.

The second issue with the promise is that she promised not to do anything to help Hades figure out that he was charmed. Here’s where ignorance could play a part as long as she’s careful. For example, if she really stopped and thought about it, her hatred of Reapers could tip Hades off that something is up with his head reaper. She doesn’t think about it, so she objects at the Reaper guard. If she had continued to never think about it, if she’d never linked Thanatos and the Reapers in her mind, she could have gone to Hades and told him that the Reapers were hurting her. But she connected the two as a way that Hades could figure out Thanatos was working for Zeus which means she could have charmed him in that clearing and because of that she physically cannot go to Hades. Here’s the thing. She was wrong. Hades finds out about the Reapers and he still doesn’t connect the dots, if the truth telling thing was only about facts not impressions, she should have been able to open her mouth and say it. It’s her interpretation of her knowledge that stops her from being able to speak.

 

So as far as lying in ignorance, yes, the gods can absolutely do that. The no lying thing only works if they know they are lying. Persephone could never have possibly said Zeus is dead if she hadn’t been led to believe that was true. This is why in book three, Zeus is attempting to break her sanity in order to gain fealty from her. She swore not to do Hades harm, but her keeping that promise is really depending on her understanding an action could harm him.

I’m sure that’s about as clear as mud, so let me try to simply. If you asked a two year old god “What is two + two” and they answered three, they are not, to their knowledge lying. They may firmly believe that answer is true. If you ask a three year old what is two + two, they may not be able to physically answer because they don’t know the right answer, but they know enough to know they don’t know  the right answer.

The purpose of the no-lying thing is that words have power and when a god tells an untruth they have the ability to change the nature of the thing they are lying about. That kind of change requires intention. Remember, child gods like Persephone are rare, and those with enough power to actually impact anything enough to change it are non-existent because of the precautions gods took to make sure they would not bind themselves into a situation like Persephone’s. It’s because of the way she was raised human, surrounded by all the idioms and exaggerations, that she made such a foolish promise without thinking about it.

 

FAQ Friday: Medusa

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Q: Where can I get the short story, Medusa?

A: A shortened version of the story, Medusa, was included in the second (current) edition of Persephone. If you have the first edition e-book, I’d check to see if you can update in the kindle settings under your account. Outside of that, you have a few options.

  1. Sign up for my newsletter to be the first to learn when Persephone goes on sale.
  2. Wait. An extended version of Medusa will be included in the Snakes and Stones Anthology. The Snakes and Stones Anthology will feature eight different retellings of the Medusa myth, including mine. It will be released this summer.
  3. Wait even longer. There’s also been some murmurings of doing an anthology of short stories with Belle Books, but that’s quite some time down the road

FAQ Friday: Persephone’s age and spoilers

Spoiler warning if you haven’t read Persephone.

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The question asked by a reader was “I get why Persephone didn’t think to ask, but how come Hades didn’t immediately realize Zeus was still alive by the fact that he had a sixteen year old daughter?

That’s a really good question. Gods get a lot of perks that humans don’t when it comes to reproduction. For instance, children are a consensual choice between two divine partners. So, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that god magic allowed Demeter to postpone her pregnancy until she felt she’d charmed enough priestesses to maintain worship to keep herself and her child alive. At least that’s my theory.

 

 

FAQ: Can Persephone be read as a standalone novel?

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Can Persephone be read as a standalone novel?

I get it. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is get tangled in a long series. Persephone is the first of a series of trilogies set in the Daughters of Zeus universe. There are multiple stopping and starting points within the series provided you don’t mind skipping the last page. There will be unanswered questions, but for the most part, of all the books, Persephone contains the most self-contained plot.

FAQ Friday: How old is Hades, physically?

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How old is Hades, physically?

Simple answer? Let’s call him twenty-five.

Less simple answer? While Persephone said she thinks he’s in his mid-twenties, the answer to that question is going to depend on which part of Hades you’re talking about. The gods are basically frozen in their prime. That moment before cells start degrading and everything is just getting better and better and better. For different parts of your body or brain, that turning point happens at different parts of your life. For instance, your prime years of math learning or foreign language learning are over way before your prime height. But for simplicities sake, human men stop maturing in their mid-twenties, exactly which year/month/day of their mid twenties is going to vary person by person, but mid-twenties is a pretty safe estimate.

FAQ Friday: Instalove

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One thing I’ve noticed getting debated in reviews is the question of whether or not Persephone and Hades count as instalove.

Instalove is a trend in YA lit that reaches back to the 80’s (and beyond). Girl sees guy, girl falls helplessly in love with guy despite guy kind of being a dick, girl spends entire book pining for guy and then, *gasp* discovers he’s completely obsessed with her too, and has been since the moment they met. That’s why he’s such a dick, because what girl doesn’t know is that guy is a vampire/in witness protection/a werewolf/some other thing that would be dangerous for the human girl.

Sometimes you see the trope reversed, and sometimes you see the trope work on both sides. They both see each other and fall for each other and the book just throws obstacles at them to stop them from being together. Or they hook up and go on their merry way together.

My book doesn’t have instalove. But at the same time, it kind of does.

Persephone hates Hades when she first meets him. She wants nothing to do with him or the Underworld. She just wants to go home. She has all these assumptions about who Hades is and over the course of the next four months, slowly begins to realize that he’s not a disney caricature. She over-corrects. Assumes that he’s nothing but this great, caring guy, and is quickly corrected. There’s darkness to Hades, there’s light, there’s everything inbetween. She doesn’t really consider whether or not she has feelings for Hades until she learns he has feelings for her. Sure, she likes looking at him. But he never registered as a possibility until she found out he was and then she got interested.

That’s, in my experience, how people work. Finding out someone likes you makes you consider whether or not you like them. I’ve seen it over and over again with myself and my friends. They know this guy, don’t really think anything of him, then find out he has a crush on them and suddenly start evaluating whether or not he’s datable.

Persephone has maybe a minute of blind devotion at the start of book two before she’s jolted back to reality when she has to come up with something true to tell Hades to convince him to go back to the Underworld. That truth is all these doubt bubbling up inside of her about how their relationship could possibly work. Even at the end of book two, she tells her mother that she loves Hades for now, but she knows they might not last forever. It’s not until book three, nearly two years after they meet, that Hades and Persephone become an unquestionable fact. And even at the end of book three, there’s some indication the ground ahead is rocky at best.

Persephone’s perspective tends to make my readers go “yay! It wasn’t instalove!” So where does the debate come in?

Hades.

Hades states outright that the second he saw her he knew he’d fall in love with her. He doesn’t act on it. He doesn’t not act on it. He accepts it as a part of life and does his best to make sure she survives. It doesn’t exactly fit the trope, because we never see it from his perspective, so an irrational, sudden interest isn’t the driving force of the plot. But technically, yeah, it’s instalove.

So why did I include it?

I thought long and hard about it, trust me. It would have been super easy to leave out that one line and just let my readers think it was a build up months in the making on both side. But I couldn’t. Hades is a good guy, but he’s not entirely unselfish. He wouldn’t bind himself to Persephone for all time just to save her if she wasn’t someone he had feelings toward. He would have tried to find another way. What he did was somewhat selfishly motivated. He didn’t stop to think, he acted to save her, but he could have stopped to think. He could have just faced Boreas on his own (granted she could have been caught in the cross-fire). My point is, there were options. He had to be far enough gone to not even pause to consider them.

So I included the line, and almost included a prologue that shows Hades seeing her for the first time and the absolute conviction he feels.

Hades, as stated by the narrative, has a way of looking at people and seeing everything they are, everything they could be, weighing their every thought and motivation, and leaving them with the unmistakable feeling that they’ve been judged and found wanting. Persephone feels this happen when she wakes up in the Underworld, and it’s not just her using flowery language.

Hades is a god.

While he employs help, he absolutely has the ability to determine whether or not a soul should go to Tartarus, Elysium, or Asphodel.  I don’t think Hades could ever experience anything other than instalove because when he looks at someone, he can weigh their soul. And he’s been around long enough to cut through all the self-doubt and questioning. He knows what he likes, he knows what he loves. And when he saw everything Persephone was, and the potential for everything she could be stripped bare, he fell in love with her.

It is instalove in the sense that it’s instant. But it’s not the typical use of the trope. His love isn’t irrational, built with nothing to go on but a glance and a snap judgment because the plot demanded it. He had more information than a normal person would get, even after decades of marriage. Hades knew what he was falling for.

Of course, it would have been way better if I’d done more than hint at that in the narrative.

 

 

 

FAQ Friday: Dialect

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All the gods we meet in Persephone except the titular character are ancient beings who have been around ever since the dawn of time. So I’ve had some readers ask why they speak with a modern dialect.

There’s two reasons for that:

First, linguistically, it wouldn’t make sense for their speech patterns to get stuck in the past. Language is dynamic and ever changing. Not just on a global level, but on a personal one. If you hear a certain word every day for months on end, chances are it will assimilate into your vocabulary. That’s just how people work. The younger you are, the faster the assimilation because there are peak times for learning language in people’s lives, right?

Every piece of my gods stop aging/are created at their peak. That means their language assimilation is at the absolute best it’s going to be 100% of the time. They are going to adapt to the dialect surrounding them fast and consistently. They may occasionally throw an old-timey phrase in there, but because it’s not likely to be in their ready vocabulary, they’d have to be making a conscious effort. They absolutely can code switch, and do in my books depending on who they are speaking to. But even if they weren’t magical beings with fluid intelligence, even if they were completely typical humans who just so happened to be immortal, they may struggle with language barriers, but their dialect would evolve daily.

Secondly, the gods themselves are universal translators. People hear them in their native tongue. Now, hearing someone in your native tongue doesn’t do you much good if you’re hearing them in an archaic version of your native tongue. Ask anyone who has read the Canterbury Tales as it was originally written. That’s English, yet we still have a translated version of it for modern readers. Persephone is a sixteen year old girl who was raised human. So she’s going to hear the gods in her native tongue.

 

 

 

FAQ Friday: Why can’t the Gods lie?

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Well, the official book universe explanation is that words have power when spoken by the gods, so when they speak an untruth, they can unintentionally change the nature of something. That idea is heavily inspired by Diane Duanes’ Young Wizard series. But I included it in my universe because

1. the gods in my universe represent deities across cultures and mythologies. Hades isn’t *just* Hades, he’s the Hades equivalent in all mythologies. Some got more details right than others.So the rules of my universe needed to come from more than one culture. The not being capable of lying thing is borrowed from fairy lore.

2. There were a several instances in Greek mythology of gods being quite literally bound by their word (swearing by the Styx for instance, or the entire concept of Xenia, which the gods were bound to obey.) I needed to include aspects from those myths, but applying them randomly made no sense/would be, believe it or not, more complicated to maintain. The gods needed limits, firm rules, for the laws of my universe to feel real. Thanatos isn’t likely to get Persephone to unintentionally swear by the Styx, but to accidentally forget and lie? That’s a major limitation, and one that makes the magic systems of the gods feel more real.

Either way, it adds a whole new level to editing that I’m sure the folks over at Belle Books just love :D.

Is Persephone brave?

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Persephone is called brave twice in the entirety of the Persephone trilogy, and only once by Hades. But it made quite an impression on the goddess (as I’m sure being called brave by the Lord of the Underworld would.) She immediately denies it, thinks about it for two books, and denies it again.

“You’re strong and brave. More than you know. You stood and fought in Tartarus.”

I shook my head. “I’m not brave. I’m just stupid. When something scary or bad happens, my mind shuts off and I act. Believe me, later, when it has time to process, I’m terrified.”

Their difference of opinion here has to do with the definition of brave. To her, it means not being afraid, which some of my readers agree with. Since Persephone quakes in fear and cries after the fact, to them she’s not brave. That’s a matter of opinion, and is open to reader interpretation. Those readers are not why this is a frequently asked question.

To Hades, being brave means moving forward despite your fear. Which means you can’t possibly be brave in the absence of fear.Persephone  was scared of Pirithous and stabbed him with a pencil, when she stood up against Hades in the clearing, when she stood up to Hades in the Underworld, when she learned self-defense, when she opened her mind on purpose to Boreas’s dreamwalking after Melissa was taken. When she faced Pirithous in the Underworld, and finally when she faced Pirithous in the end. She was scared, and while internally she may have quaked, and while she cried, and shivered, and sometimes whined after the fact, she took her fear and pushed it aside moment by moment, often at the risk of her own life. These aren’t always reactive situations either. She makes plans to do something scary from a place of relative safety and implements them in moments of danger throughout the trilogy.

Many readers agree with Hades’s definition. That’s a matter of opinion and is open to reader interpretation. Those readers are not why this is a frequently asked question.

This is a frequently asked question because Persephone can’t lie, so when she says “I’m not brave,” it’s not false modesty, she absolutely does not believe bravery is one of her traits.

The whole not being able to lie thing gets complicated when the gods start talking in absolutes. She doesn’t say “I don’t think I’m brave.” She says she’s not. Period. And to her, that is true, but her truths don’t dictate other people’s opinions. So reader’s (and Hades’) opinions are still valid here, because she’s not talking about something steeped in fact. It’s not “Does 2 +2 = 4?” It’s “Does that equation look pretty?” A god can answer in an absolute to that question, because to them it either does or doesn’t. That is their truth.