Friday, March 10, 2017

March Author Spotlight: Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper is the author of The Dark is Rising series, a combination of time travel, alternate worlds, historical creatures, and one of the deepest worlds I've ever seen. For me, Cooper's draw focuses around her ability to evoke a sense of time, place, and history as she draws in characters ancient by the time the stories take place.
Her most famous series consists of five books, Over Sea, Under Stone, followed by The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, and Silver on the Tree. The series' title book, Dark is Rising was made into a terrible movie made watchable only by Christopher Eccleston's performance as the Rider.

I'm ashamed to say that I've only read The Dark is Rising series and haven't yet had time to get to her other works, but hopefully that will change in the near future.
Like Sutcliffe, Cooper's prose is incredibly tight and readable as well as vivid. Her stories range from the camp of Arthur prior to his last battle, to the hills of Wales, to forests on other worlds and each has its own unique sense of time and place.
One of my pet peeves is reading a story that leaves  locals half finished and feels like it speeds through things, leaving days half finished or shortened. Cooper's stories don't do that.
Herne leads the Wild Hunt

The "Old Ones", Cooper's heroes are able to walk through time in their battle with the Dark (personified in the Rider, though he is by no means their only enemy), and it is perhaps the most perfect use of time travel I have ever seen. It is used sparingly, yet still fits seamlessly into the narrative as the Old Ones essentially use it as a fourth dimension in their fight.
As wonderful as Cooper is with it all, I still think my favorite part is how she pulls in ancient characters like Herne (pictured), the Greenwitch, the Grey King, Arthur, and others. Like Tolkien's works, Cooper's stories make me want to go learn more about these legends (Herne is now one of my favorites of all time).

Additionally, there are a couple of other interesting things about Cooper's work that struck me as I was working on the Tolkien series. First, Cooper's evil, while it is unquestionably evil, doesn't wear it's evil on its sleeve. The Rider makes appearances as a friendly jeweler or business man, a theme of evil hiding it's nature under a fair cloak that Cooper continues through the series. It is also worth paying attention to how humans both assist and resist the Dark through their every day actions even as they remain ignorant of the struggle taking place. There are not a lot of obvious, epic clashes, as most of the conflicts are played out in quiet struggles that serve to emphasize the way that every character can influence the outcome.

Cooper is one of my favorite writers, check her stuff out (ignore the movie, please) and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Let me know some of your favorite writers in the comments, maybe I'll do a spotlight on them in the coming months.

One last note, I'm currently getting ready to try something new: A story told here, on this blog, just for you. And since it's for you, I'd like you to let me know what kind of story you'd like to see. It will be a fun exercise for me, a chance to show you a little of the process that goes into how I write, and hopefully I can give you a story you'll enjoy at the same time. Just go to this survey, and let me know what kind of protagonist you'd like to read about, and then don't forget to follow my page on facebook so you can see all the updates I post on the project as I prepare to put the first installment on this blog.

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