Setting the Fevered Stage
Fever mythology in Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series
|Fan art from Karen Marie Moning’s Facebook page|
Then I read Moning’s description of how the series came to her. I was amazed that someone could be inspired by a dream to create such a richly complex series. She clarified that she didn’t dream the plot per se; she dreamed she was reading a book series so compelling she could not put it down. When she committed her heart, there and then, to writing a series like that, the entire plot landed in her brain in one fell swoop, pre-organized into five books. (I wrote a little about this in a previous post on author inspirations.)
As the effects of Dublin lingered in my mind, I perused the many author and fan discussions available on the interwebs, looking to prolong my submersion in the world Moning had created. Several of the Wenches had begun reading her Highlander series by then, and their discussions piqued my curiosity.
|Collage and research assistance by Wench Olga|
When I decided to try the Highlander books, I discovered a delightful surprise! Don’t let anyone tell you this is merely Moning’s “starter” series, the one where she “practiced” until she found her “voice” and thought up her “real” series. Instead, try a different angle. This is what she was writing when she had her dream. This is where she learned to let her imagination loose, to construct the foundation for a vast mythology, one which ultimately insinuated itself into her dreams to help her realize how to fully explore it. This is the series she grew beyond, in which she set the stage for the epic events in Fever’s Dublin. It isn’t Fever, but it definitely scratched my Fever itch and provided a lot of insight into the Fever world.
Click through to find out more about the Highlander series and its part in the story that became the Fever series. If you haven’t read the series yet, don’t worry, I’ll try to stick to generalities and avoid spoilers.
Out of the dreaming...
The seven Highlander novels are what I’d consider fairly traditional HEA romances, where two central characters meet, fall in love, and overcome obstacles to achieve their Happily Ever After. In general, I don’t read HEA romances and had no plans to read these. But when the Wenches reported that some of the characters mentioned in Fever were showing up, and they were smokin’ hot by the way, my craving for more of the Fever world overcame my reluctance to read a traditional HEA. I grabbed my e-reader and dived in.
|Not my usual thing, but here goes...|
These books were a huge adjustment for me, and not only the HEA format; I missed the complexity of Fever and the deeper themes, and the tone was completely different. This is probably due in part to the fact that these were the first books Moning published. And although she had already mastered the creation of vividly engaging characters and surprising, compelling story lines, she was merely a good writer and not yet the brilliant writer she would become (and to whom I was accustomed). She had not yet, as she puts it, “found her voice”. But I loved her characters, and her paranormal twists kept me guessing.
As I read the books, I kind of debunked her dream story in my mind and decided it was part of a Public Relations campaign. It was obvious that Moning put lots of “puzzle pieces” in place in the Highlander books that would show up in the Fever books. The story was simply outgrowing the standard HEA romance format. She needed to figure out how to move it forward. She needed a larger stage and a whole lot more characters. It wasn’t clear to me how a dream helped resolve that dilemma. And that’s how I still felt when I wrote my original post on inspiration.
Fast forward a year to the fall of 2012. Many of the Wenches were rereading the Fever books in preparation for Dani’s new book, Iced, and I wanted to join them. It had been a whole year since I last visited Dublin, so I was feeling virtuous and entitled to a reread. ;-) I decided to start with the Highlander series, and follow the creation and evolution of the Fever mythology from its inception without interruption.
During my reread, I discovered that an eighth Highlander book was published in the spring of 2012. It contains a republished novella that had become difficult to find and bonus materials, including a rejected book proposal, an alternate opening to another story, and deleted scenes. In this book, Moning explains a little more about the process that led her to write Fever. She confirmed my hunches, answered my questions, and made me a believer in the dream!
She had felt like the mythology she created in Highlander needed a different framework, but the genre that would provide the framework didn’t exist yet. As the Urban Fantasy genre began to evolve, she recognized that it would enable her to delve more deeply into darker themes, where she was itching to go, but taking on such a radically different approach to storytelling (not to mention deviating from the expectations of her fans and publisher) required courage. The novella was an entertaining experiment in seeking a new direction, but it wasn’t what she was looking for. It proved to her yet again that she wanted to tell a different kind of story. In the meantime, her publisher kept asking for more paranormal romances and she was fresh out of enthusiasm or ideas. And then the dream happened, and opened the floodgates, and years of repressed storylines could no longer be silenced. Her dream made her realize what her subconscious already knew: she had the makings of a masterpiece if she’d take that leap of faith to the new genre, the new first-person point of view, and the grander scale.
If at first you don’t succeed...
|Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart|
I made sure it had too much sex and primitive Highlanders and time travel and, if that wasn’t enough to abso-frigging-lutely guarantee rejection, I upped the ante and tossed in the Fae.
~Karen Marie Moning, Into the Dreaming
|Liam Neeson as Rob Roy|
She says she found her voice in book 4 as she introduced the Keltar clan, and that’s exactly how I felt when reading the books.
With my newfound freedom, I decided to continue with the time-travel/Fae combination and develop the mythology further with twin druids whose clan had served the Fae for millennia. It was while writing those novels that my voice became very clear to me, and I began to develop a mythology I found fascinating.
~Karen Marie Moning, Into the Dreaming
Book 4 is where she hooked me. I do enjoy the characters before that, particularly Circenn and Lisa in book 3, but there’s definitely a change in the energy and momentum of the series once the Keltars enter the story. And this beautifully validates her two top rules in the writing world:
1. All the best stories come from the heart.
2. If the writer is having fun, the reader probably will, too.
~Karen Marie Moning, Into the Dreaming
At Last (My Love Has Come Along)!!!
Her hard work resulted in an intriguing set of books that forge unexpected partnerships across vast distances of time and space in an ongoing battle to save the future of Mankind! And find true love! No pressure... An avid fan base soon discovered what Barnes and Noble calls Moning’s “signature blend of sensual fantasy, thrilling adventure, and breathtaking magic”. These books use many of the same elements as Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, which some of you might have noticed I’m quite fond of, but the resulting characters, stories, and style could not be more different. Moning has created her own unique vision.
- Beyond the Highland Mist
Hawk Douglas / Adrienne de Simon
1513 / 1997
- To Tame a Highland Warrior
Grimm McIllioch / Jillian St. Clair
- The Highlander’s Touch
Circenn Brodie / Lisa Stone
800s / 1314 / early 2000s
- Kiss of the Highlander
Drustan MacKeltar / Gwen Cassidy
1518 / 2001
- The Dark Highlander
Dageus MacKeltar / Chloe Zander
1521 / 2002
- The Immortal Highlander
Adam Black / Gabrielle OCallaghan
800s / 1520s / 2002-2007
- Spell of the Highlander
Cian MacKeltar / Jessi St. James
the last 1133 years
- Into the Dreaming
miscellaneous supporting content
Although I enjoyed the stories in each book, it’s the saga that is unfolding on the grander scale—which began centuries before Drustan and Dageus MacKeltar were even a gleam in their mother’s eye and continues into the Fever books and beyond—that most interests me right now. I’d like to examine each of these books more closely to discover exactly when each mythological building block and key character appeared, in hopes of better appreciating how deftly Moning wove them all together into her grand epic.
I’m creating a list of these Fever puzzle pieces to include in a blog post. The list is getting rather lengthy, so I’ll plan to write two posts over the next couple of Mondays. If you are already fans of the Highlander books, I hope you’ll join me for those. Or if you’re interested in understanding more background information for Fever and don’t mind major spoilers, because I know there will be some, I hope you’ll join me too. And if I’ve inspired you to give these books a try before proceeding, I hope you’ll come back and check out my future posts when you’re done.
Are you fans of Moning’s Highlander books? Do you have a favorite? Who’s your favorite character? If you haven’t read these books, are you thinking about giving them a try?