Abducted by Indians or Transported to Live with Cave People – the Lure of the Fish-Out-of-Water Character
by Jeffe Kennedy
Marlene asked me, why does the idea of a character from our world crossing to another universe continue to fascinate (some call this portal fiction)? How much fun is it for an author to create and use such a complete fish-out-of-water character like Gwynn to show us her new world?
It’s funny – I never knew the term “portal fiction” until I saw my agent using it on Twitter. And always as a reason for rejection. “I don’t like portal fantasies,” she’d say. Finally I asked her, “Isn’t Rogue’s Pawn a portal fantasy?” She said, Yes, yes it is. We both laughed at that, because it was Rogue’s Pawn that prompted her offer me representation. She read it, loved it and wanted more. So now she says “I apparently don’t like portal fiction until it’s written.”
For me, I wanted to write a story like this ever since I read this book when I was ten, that I got a the library. It was called Saturday, the Twelfth of October and was about a girl transported in time to live with cave people. It was my first experience with the TSTL heroine. I spent the entire book unhappy with the girl’s intelligence, practicality and pretty much every dumb thing she did. I resolved then that I’d write a book like that someday, only my heroine would be much smarter. (I imagine it also helps that she’s an adult and well-educated, but I didn’t see the world that way then.)
Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by the “fish out of water” story. Diana Gabaldon handled it brilliantly, to my great joy – though I got bored with the series once Claire became so easy with both worlds. The story doesn’t have to be fantasy either. I went through a serious phase of reading “abduction by Indians” stories.
Why is this so interesting?
I think part of it is the notion of testing ourselves. How would I handle this kind of transportation to an alien world or culture? In many ways, it’s the ultimate test of ourselves as individuals. The protagonist is removed from everything familiar, all support systems – friends, families, pets, etc. – and is thrust into an alien and perhaps hostile culture. There are all sorts of challenges – the inherent danger of not knowing the rules, of not having help, of being discovered as an imposter, perhaps.
How fun is it?
WAY fun! I don’t pre-plot my stories (I can’t), so I ride around in Gwynn’s head and discover the world as she does. In many ways, her challenges are mine. How do we create light without fire? Better figure it out! So writing these stories allows me all the thrill of figuring out how I’d do a better job than that dumb girl in that long-ago read, without actually facing the dangers.
Isn’t that what escapism is all about?
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up, Platinum, is climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.