It’s my pleasure to welcome K. Hollan Van Zandt to my blog today. I read her book WRITTEN IN THE ASHES last month and I’ve been dying to share my review. It will be posted tomorrow so be sure to come back! In the meantime, Kaia answered a few questions for me. There is also a giveaway at the end of this post 🙂
1. What inspired you to write this book?
As a child, my history books were graced with pages of important men. The women, it seemed, seldom contributed. I grew up with the false impression that there were very few important women in history. In fact, I could only name about ten women my history books noted. Names like Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Joan of Arc. And these important names stood beside the thousands of men who made history. The patriarchy had firmly established in my mind that women just don’t matter. (As had the way in which my father treated my mother, but that’s another story.)
So finding out about Hypatia, who was running the Great Library of Alexandria at a young age, was empowering. She was not of noble birth. She was a great mind, a teacher, and a philosopher.
So why hadn’t my history books mentioned her?
I’d wanted to write a novel for years. So I set out to remedy the issue, and started on Written in the Ashes…
2. Do you think the world would be different if the Great Library hadn’t burned?
There is no question the world would be entirely different. We have a habit, a false habit, of thinking of our ancestors as primitive, and that there was a slow growth toward modern, civilized society. And this is completely false.
In 300B.C. Aristarchus, who was in residence at the Great Library, established a heliocentric model of the solar system. And around that same time Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth. This was centuries before the Dark Ages would plummet us into thoughts of a flat world! Everything we learned was lost in ignorance. Think of it. Could you yourself reconstruct the technology of the iPhone if it was lost?
The Great Library was the first place we began to make medical discoveries, like of the pulse and the circulatory system, because in Egypt what with their history of mummification, it wasn’t considered against the gods to explore a corpse in hopes of learning about the human body.
The Great Library spanned nearly 700 years. It was not just a library; it was a research center, really, the world’s first university. I think it wouldn’t be incorrect to surmise that our industrial revolution would have come about a thousand years sooner had the Great Library remained standing.
3. If you could have dinner with one character in your book, who would it be and why?
(Laughs.) Gideon, providing dinner would be served in bed…
4. What books have most influenced your life?
Actually, it wouldn’t be books, but writers. Joseph Campbell (Hero with a Thousand Faces), Alan Watts (Zen Bones), and Carl G. Jung (the collected works) are my ongoing study. Certainly Tom Robbins, Leonard Shlain (The Goddess vs. The Alphabet is seminal), Timothy Leary, Marion Woodman, and probably Jeanette Winterson. I’m interested in the synthesis of poetry and expanded consiousness.
5. What book are you currently reading?
I read about 3 books at the same time: one novel, one metaphysical, and one for artistic luxury. And so right now I’m reading Mistress of Rome, which is a novel of clever plot but I’m a bit disappointed in the writing itself. Also, The Science of Getting Rich (a fascinating expose on controlling your mind), and a compendium of poems by Irish poet David Whyte. His poetry challenges my creativity in the best possible sense. You will never outdo him, just like no one will ever outdo Neruda or Rilke, but one can try.
6. If there was one lesson you wanted your readers to gain from reading Written In the Ashes, what is it?
Lesson sounds so formal, I cringe. I somehow picture a nun about to smack my fingers with a ruler. I’m a philosopher, and I like to have a little fun. I suppose I hope readers come away having explored the many kinds of love we get to experience here in these human bodies. Love of wisdom, the love we have for our own children, filial love, forbidden love, enduring love, and love for no reason. I wanted to explore what kind of love might endure burning, for there is no love that does not meet the test of fire.
Thanks so much for answering my questions, Kaia. I especially like your response to #3 and wholeheartedly concur!!
Many thanks to Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for including me in the blog tour and allowing me to offer a copy of the book to my readers. To win a copy of WRITTEN IN THE ASHES, comment below with your email address. For an extra entry, tell me which character from a book you’d like to have over for dinner. Further extra entries will be given for sharing this giveaway, just post what you did. Contest ends on September 30th and it open Internationally!