Following the quest in ‘Daughter am I”

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DIAcoverToday, Pat Bertram returns to discuss the journey and quest motifs in her new novel Daughter Am I. (To see yesterday’s discussion about gangsters and research, click here.)

Malcolm: Your protagonist’s obsession with her grandparents turns into an unplanned road trip that keeps getting longer and longer as one thing leads to another. Her old-timers, “elders” as you call them, like being part of a lot of reminiscing that leads the party from town to town at the drop of a hat. As Mary learns more and more about herself in the process, her trip is not only a coming-of-age experience, but a quest.

Pat: A quest is the heart of the story, and it has several different aspects. There is the quest in the mythic sense of searching for the magic elixir, finding it, and returning home to share it with those left behind. There’s the quest to find her heritage and herself. There’s the quest for truth and ultimately for justice. And, of course, there is the simple overt quest to find the treasure.

Malcolm: Readers and film viewers often think of quests as larger than life stories like “The Matrix,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” While Joseph Campbell, the originator of the “hero path,” as we now understand it, based his quest theories on the heroes out of mythology, he also saw the workings of the quest in the lives of everyday people who often don’t see their activities as mythic or heroic. It’s all a matter of scale. Mary Stuart isn’t a crime fighting James Bond or Jack Bauer, but her journey around the country is very much a quest.

Pat: I based my story on Campbell’s hero path, which I’ve been calling the mythic journey. The story follows the path of being called or drawn to the quest, going on the quest, finding illumination, and becoming changed. The characters are archetypes, not just gangster archetypes, such as forger, enforcer, con man, wheel man, hit man, but the ancient archetypes such as mentor, ally, shapeshifter, shadow, trickster. The ancient archetypes are harder to discern, however. For example, the shapeshifter in the person of Tim Olson doesn’t actually change shape, but to Mary, he seems to change whenever she gets to know him a bit more. Happy, of course, is the shadow, which represents the energy of the dark side.

Malcolm: In many ways, the shadow also represents the parts of ourselves we fail to acknowledge, so we repress them and become unconscious of them rather than dealing with them. Thinking of it that way makes Happy a wonderful and paradoxical character. But he’s not your first character to whisper in the ear of a protagonist on a quest. Your two previous novels involved main characters on quests. A Spark of Heavenly Fire featured a quest to track down the source of a dangerous epidemic racing through Colorado. More Deaths Than One featured a character trying to re-claim his own past. This is all more than accidental, I’m assuming, thinking in terms of quests.

Pat: I’ve been on a quest my whole life—the quest for truth and wisdom in a world that has too little of either. A large part of that quest, of course, is the quest for personal identity, and this theme shows up in all of my books. The quest to track down the source of the epidemic in A Spark of Heavenly Fire, is only the outer quest. The inner quest for all the characters is the quest to find themselves within the context of the epidemic and quarantine. In More Deaths Than One, the inner quest and the outer quest are the same—the search for his lost identity. Oh, and to find out how is mother could have died twice. That alone would send someone on a quest!

Malcolm: For Mary–like most on the hero path–the learning and personal transformation come through both the journey and the journey’s end. Let’s assume somebody wants to buy a copy of Daughter Am I right this minute. Where can they find it other than driving out to your house?

Pat: Daughter Am I is available on Amazon and at Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Thank you, Malcolm, for this opportunity to talk about my books.

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17 responses

  1. I loved the idea of the different layers of quests within the books. It made me think about my own writing and what exactly it was my characters were on a quest for. Very enjoyable interview.

    • Tracy, one of the best books about writing I ever read was “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler. After I finished reading the book and taking copious notes, all I wanted was to write my own mythic journey. The idea for Daughter Am I came separately, but the idea to combine the two was an unexpected flash of inspiration.

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  4. I also like the different degrees of quests mingled together. Life is one big woven quest for each of us. The inner quest of your characters finding themselves, the immediate quest of what they are actively searching for, and the ultimate quest of becoming what they strive for and finding that big prize at the end of the road; these all come together to create the real quest – finding that which they didn’t even know they were looking for.

    Real life is about self discovery and following the many roads our quest leads us on. Weaving this so well into the story brings the story to life.

    • That quest for self-discovery is at least a minor element of every good novel — the character must grow otherwise, what’s the point? As you pointed out, it’s the same with us and our lives. If we don’t grow, what’s the point?

  5. Fascinating thoughts on characters and the nature of literary quests. I find it interesting you based the story on archetypes and the mythic journey; it’s very similar to themes in the fantasy I write.

    • A.F., So many of the themes are similar, mostly because those are the themes that underly any book worth reading. I wondered if I were going too far afield when I scheduled a couple guest spots on blogs of fantasy and horror writers, but only the outer story is different. The quest for identity, life, truth, are all the same.

  6. Every great book features a journey or quest not only for the hero, but for the antagonist as well. For my thriller novels I enhance this element as the journey lasts only three to six days. There are many quests in DAUGHTER AM I as we follow each and every one of the powerful and lasting characters as they go through their own journey . DAI is a wonderful quest, Pat. You have done an excellent job and I highly recommend the read to everyone.

    • Until Malcolm pointed it out, I wasn’t aware of all the different quests in Daughter Am I, but that is the beauty of the mythic journey. When done correctly, truths come out that one did not consciously construct.

  7. Fascinating reading. I love the idea of quests, and I love the idea of the quest for identity that Pat mentions. Sounds a wonderful book, and if Pat’s other books are anything to go by I know it must be a wonderful book.

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