Interview: Christine Emmert author of The Nun’s Dragon and Lilith

Awhile back, I went out of my normal, if eclectic, comfort zone and read The Nun’s Dragon and novella Lilith by Christine Emmert.  They are both sort of out of my zone because I have never really read about dragons before, and I try to stay away from anything related to the Catholic church.  Lilith, I never really knew much about.  But one of my favorite authors, Stant Litore, asked me to read it and review it.  I’m glad I did.

Christine kindly responded to questions I sent her via email:

1. When did you first become interested in the legend of LILITH?
      Actually in the 60s there was a book called LILITH that was the fictional story of a women in the mental hospital who was a seductress to everyone – even those who were supposed to heal her.  It was written by JR Salamanca.  It was then my curiousity was awakened as to the mythological inspiration for the character.  I discovered one aspect then of the LILITH story, but as I read further I found Lilith has many faces and proceeds Eve as the first woman in the Creation legend.  Today she is a figure of multiple personalities — some good and some not.  I chose the more traditional idea that she wanted to eat the children from all the women who did not follow her example of saying “no” to a traditional role.
Marsha Norman, the playwright, told playwrights to write about what they fear most.  Every woman’s greatest fear is probably the loss of her child.  I found that element of Lilith the most frightening, and so I wrote about it.
2.  The wedding vow of “being shackled to a naked beating heart” is so extreme.  It is shocking.  What did you mean by that?
My heroine who is trying to write her thesis about the many faces of Lilith is a dark person.  Her husband seems to be
a man in love with her inspite of.  Her use of that wedding vow is representative of the drama of the heroine and her fierce commitment to what she loves. She isn’t easy on others or herself. She asks extreme commitment.
3.  How did you pair a nun and a dragon for THE NUN’S DRAGON?
My story started to be about just the nun .  I envisioned it as a murder mystery about the finding of her body when she ran away from the convent.  The convent being her place of safety. In the unfolding of the story I suddenly had a dragon turn up. The dragon’s friendship with her is one of the elements that makes her start to question her place in her world.  Once he was there I could not dislodge him or belittle him.  He became the central motivator in the story.  Like many a person I am fascinated by creatures from mythology.
4. The themes of feminity and sin feature prominently in both stories.  Was it intentional?
In a male dominated society it’s hard to separate the two.  Women are placed below men in many cultures, and their
inate desire to rise above such subservience is often interpreted as sin. I am a deep feminist.  I cannot view women without viewing their strengths and in many cases their talents that were left to rot while they were judged in very narrow roles.
Certainly in THE NUN’S DRAGON the Church of the time placed women as there to support men of the cloth.  By that time The Gospel of Mary Magdalene had been deeply buried as it showed a woman equal to the other disciples.
Sin is the blame we put on others for what we have wrought.  I want a sinless world like so many people.  It’s hard to overcome perceptions though that have existed for thousands of years.
5. What dragons of literature did you use to create Wyver?
A Wyvern is a medieval concept where the dragon has a specific look in all the visual renderings….the front claws are attached to wings, and the powerful back legs.  Some purists would not even consider a wyvern a dragon, but wyverns share the same dragon qualities of making people fear them, and their liberty to move through the skies.  I wanted to make this frightening image a character of sensitivity and beauty.
6.  What did you use to make the convent come alive?  The atmosphere is horrific.
Convents were often horrific places where young women were dumped off for whatever strange reason.  Often though beauty happened inspite of the motives.  If you research middle ages life you will find much of it was horrific.  When the people did not make the horror themselves, it was made with disease and natural cirucmstances of famine, flood, fire.
I have been in circumstances with other people that are close. Theatre often fosters an artificial closeness.  People react as they do everywhere, with love or hate or indifference. And alot of ego. Many of the nuns in my story were in awe of Sister Agnes Dei, but they could not save her.
7. The chronology of the story is not linear.  You go back and forth giving us little pieces.  Is this something you planned and if so why?
I often do this in writing.  Starting in the middle or close to the end and then going back and forth.  I find that is how we find out events in life.  Sometimes we think we know what is happening only to discover later things turn out differently from events we did not know at the time.  I think this method of story telling makes for a deeper story where the tale could have gone many different ways.
8.  The book is highly critical of the Catholic Church.  Was that your intent?
I am critical of a church that holds so much power and influence without the compassion Jesus preached.  Perhaps this new Pope will succeed in reminding people of tolerance and joy.  However I have several dear friends and even relatives who are committed Catholics.  And they are also deep Christians. I do not mean to suggest that they are flawed.  Good people exist in all religions.  The Church is changing, but in the medieval world it did countenance much brutality.  It excluded many people who did not want to embrace this way of life as sinners.  That was cruel and deserves to be criticized. Remember that one of the characters says there has to be a deeper love than Christian love itself or we are all lost.
9.  How did you approach the love story between the nun and the dragon without making it campy or downright bestial?
These were two beings who reached across the species to form a friendship that was inviolable.  They did not ask for this affection to come to them, but they understood it was more important than surface rules.  I think writing about real love which was not especially something that could be solved romantically over the long term is one of the most bittersweet kinds of writing.  They were both outcasts, but refused to cast out each other.  I find that admirable.
Christine is a writer, actress, director and educator who has lived a long life on this earth. She holds a Masters in Humanities from the University of Colorado where she lived for twenty-three years. Now her life is re-settled in the woodlands of Pennsylvania where she was born.
Presently she works in the Outreach Program for Hopewell Furnace National Park where her play FROM OUT THE FIERY FURNACE (a one-woman piece about women in the ironworking industry of the area in the 1800s) has been touring for the last four years.  She also has other dramatic pieces that are seen throughout the United States.  This summer she is appearing in her own work, FRAGILE FREEDOM, about the Suffragist movment at the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester.  Her blog “Writing Across the Genres” does just that and is found at  christineemmert.wordpress.com.  Christine loves the power of words.  Her newest project is THE TINY MONK taken from an idea she had on her visit to Thailand this last February.

 

 

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Interview: Christine Emmert, author of The Nun’s Dragon and Lilith | The Zombie Bible

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