Bringing the mythology to life: On the set with harpies
by Constance Sharper
Vampires, werewolves, and harpies, oh my!
It doesn’t take much looking to find the effect of mythology in modern day fantasy. I’d point you to any of the best sellers ranking the YA charts to see this effect. This appeal of mythology isn’t a surprise—it’s an amazing way to bring the fantastic into your ordinary life.
I find the best part of mythology is being able to give it an artistic spin. There is no limit to how you can rewrite the legends, modernize the stories, take the same topic and make it absolutely original. Sparkling vampires anyone?
Dozens of original ideas on werewolves and vampires have exploded the YA market recently. Considering the dynamic texts already out there, I decided to go in a new direction with my debut novel. Airborne follows a classic mythological creature that’s new to the YA world. The creature is a harpie. If you’re picturing your old Greek history books then you are on the right track. Harpies in mythology are vicious bird creatures that have it out for anyone who gets in their way.
The most rewarding part of fantasy writing is bringing mythology to life. To do this, I looked at the legends and had to think: what would harpies be like today? They’d have to blend in with the 21st century, unnoticed, so that they could show up on your doorstep tomorrow! So I created them to be tall, thin, and virtually human. I absolutely kept the most awesome and fantastic part of harpies—their wings. The harpies’ nasty temperament was intriguing, and I also saw it lending itself to a fault of conceited pride.
So cue Mason, the cocky and occasionally dangerous, harpie slipping into the human world.
Mason has a mission, and it leads him right to the doorstep of our heroine, high-school-student, Avery Zane. Avery can cope with the existence of a mythological race. She can also tolerate the idea that she has accidently found herself in the middle of a vicious harpie conflict. But having to rely on an arrogant harpie boy who gets under her skin? Now that is something Avery isn’t sure she can handle.
Airborne is another stab at bringing fantasy to life. The best part of writing this particular book was joining the ranks of the legend based YA authors and exploring ways to recreate the old stories. After all, where bringing mythology to life is concerned, the opportunities are endless.
Excerpt from Airborne:
“The image waiting in the newly formed clearing made her slide to an abrupt stop. Laying limp over muddy snares of weeds and chipped branches was a man. Brown hair covered his glassy green eyes and scratches marred his porcelain smooth skin. Massive white wings, strewn to either side of him, rested crookedly under a fresh layer of falling snow.
“Mason!” Avery dove to her knees beside him, careful not to make contact while he looked so fragile. “Are you okay?”
His entire tan shirt was splotched red with blood. Eyes darting over him, she sought the origin of his most grievous injuries. The lack of light made it difficult, but gently tracing her hand over his limp wing, she found the source of the hot liquid near the wing base. He’d been sliced badly and the wound hadn’t even remotely healed. Crimson blood continued to steadily soak his white feathers. She swallowed before any bile threatened to rise in the back of her throat.
“What do I do?” She asked desperately.
Mason shifted to life and unexpectedly jerked forward. Lashing an arm out, he dragged her down to his hard chest. Long fingers clasping over her mouth, he forced her silent. Mason didn’t need to say anything. The distinctive flapping of wings sounded overhead. She shut her mouth, pressed her cheek to his chest, and stayed quiet. The flapping continued, forming circles in the sky above the clearing with some persistence.
Anxious, she wanted to move right then and there but knowing she couldn’t lift Mason, she was forced into a silent submission while waiting for the danger to pass. Her mind spun, only landing on the same repetitive question: how exactly did she end up here?”
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AIRBORNE BY CONSTANCE SHARPER
(March 31, 2011)
Avery knew she had a knack for attracting trouble, but even she is shocked when a six-foot-something harpie shows up on her doorstep. Coping with the existence of a mythological race? Okay. Unwittingly finding herself in the middle of a vicious harpie conflict? A little less okay. Having to rely on an arrogant harpie boy who gets under her skin? Now that is something Avery isn’t sure she can handle.
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