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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Guest Post: Why Not Portugal? by J. Kathleen Cheney

With this series of books, there's one question I've been asked over and over—Why Portugal? And every time I'm asked that, my first thought is "Why not Portugal?"

The first version of what later became The Golden City was a short story, "Of Ambergris, Blood, and Brandy", only about 15,000 words long. The initial draft was set in Venice. I wasn't far into that draft before I realized I wanted to change the setting. I didn't want Venice for this, but I needed oceanfront property to support my water folk. I looked at a map of Europe and said to myself…Hey, Portugal has a lot of coastline.

That was it. That's how I ended up in Portugal. Because I was, at that time, writing a short story, I didn't worry overmuch about the setting. A short story doesn't require that much research. 500,000 words later, I'm not regretting that choice, but I now know why people ask me, "Why Portugal?"

It's almost like Portugal is a foreign country with a different language and a history that we English-speaking peoples don't study much in grade school. It's that narrow country next to Spain. They play soccer there (although they call it football). They use the metric system. They had an explorer or two that we must have covered in fifth grade. Or was that Spain? Where did Columbus come from?

That was about the sum of my knowledge of Portugal.

So I had to research. I was starting from square one. I tried to find history books, culture books, fairy tale books, cook books, period novels, and travel videos, and learned quickly that many of the resources I needed had never been translated. Some of Portugal's best known authors have no works available in English. Given that my setting was Porto in 1900, I wanted to read the works of Júlio Dinis, Camilo Castelo Branco, and Ana Plácido, all of whom wrote near that time and were authors my characters might have read. None are available in English.

But I managed to find some histories. I found translations of the work of Luís Camões, José Maria de Eça de Queirós, and Fernando Pessoa. I started to learn some Portuguese. Not enough to read novels or poetry, but enough that I could read Wikipedia entries. Vagaries of the language continued to block me (ask me some time about department stores), but I had a lot of willing help from people who spoke it far better than I did. I watched movies in Portuguese to hear the cadence of the language. I even went to Portugal for a couple of amazing weeks, trying to get the little setting details right.

I still made a lot of mistakes. A couple of them were egregious. I left the original four character names in Italian. I was so busy researching other things that I never even noticed that. (For three of the four main characters in that first version, it wasn't too noticeable since the Portuguese spelling isn't all that different, but the fourth is clearly not a Portuguese spelling. Oops!) Other things I ended up changing to a more English mode to make the story more accessible for American readers. In Portugal, for example, you don't necessarily take your father's surname. I had most of my characters do that, though, to save confusion. A Portuguese reader would also find Oriana being addressed as Miss Paredes strange; women in Portugal are addressed by their given names, as in Miss Oriana. But again, I thought American readers would be more comfortable with the English style of address.

Looking back, I bit off far more than I could chew, the day I blithely settled on Portugal. There are things I might change if I had it all to do again. But I'm still glad I did it, and I'm looking forward to the next time I get to visit the country. I've definitely enjoyed writing on the road less traveled.

Official Author Website
Order The Shores Of Spain HERE

GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen's Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella "Iron Shoes" was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, "The Golden City" was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). The sequel, "The Seat of Magic" came out in 2014, and the final book in the series, "The Shores of Spain" will come out July 2015.

ABOUT THE SHORES OF SPAINEven as the branches of peace are being offered, there are some who still believe those who are not human should be used as chattel. And they are willing to go to great lengths to retain their power.

Newlywed siren Oriana Paredes has been appointed Ambassador to her home islands now that communication between Northern Portugual and the magical races has been restored. But convincing her people that the new Portuguese Prince’s intentions are honorable after years of persecution is difficult. And her husband, Duilio, faces his own obstacles among the sirens where males are a rare and valuable commodity with few rights.

In addition to their diplomatic mission, the two hope to uncover the truth behind Oriana's mother's death. Evidence suggests that Spain—a country that has been known to enslave magical beings—may have infiltrated the siren authority.

Unable to leave their post, Oriana and Duilio must call on Inspector Joaquim Tavares to root out the truth. But even his seer’s gift cannot prepare him for what he will discover.

For all those interested, up for grabs are copies of the first two books in her series, THE GOLDEN CITY and THE SEAT OF MAGIC, so enter the giveaway (USA ONLY) below and best of luck to everyone.

Rafflecopter giveaway .


Anonymous said...

You have stunning book covers. Did you have any input at all?


J. Cheney said...

Hi Sandy,

On the first one, no. On the next two, they did ask for my opinion. I have to admit that I mostly told them to go with what they thought best. I don't really have an 'eye' for art, I'm afraid. But I am terribly pleased with how they came out. (I almost cried in the coffee shop when I opened the email with the first one!)


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