Strauss, Victoria

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Strauss, Victoria

PERSONAL:

Born in Exeter, NH; daughter of a university professor and a novelist; married; husband's name Rob. Education: Vassar College, graduated. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, reading, hiking, movies, exercise and nutrition.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Amherst, MA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. Former financial manager of a nonprofit organization. Creator, Writer Beware (Web site).

MEMBER:

Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Novelists Inc., Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

WRITINGS:

FANTASY NOVELS

The Lady of Rhuddesmere, F. Warne (New York, NY), 1982.

Worldstone, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1985.

Guardian of the Hills, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1995.

The Arm of the Stone, Eos (New York, NY), 1998.

The Garden of the Stone (sequel to The Arm of the Stone), Eos (New York, NY), 1999.

The Burning Land, Eos (New York, NY), 2004.

The Awakened City (sequel to The Burning Land), Eos (New York, NY), 2006.

Book reviewer, Fantasy magazine and SF Web site; contributor of articles on writing to Writer's Digest and other periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS:

Fantasy writer Victoria Strauss's novels often draw on her extensive background and experience in the disciplines of the social sciences. "By the time I got to college, I knew I wanted to be a novelist. Since writing was what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life, I felt I should do something completely different for four years," the author told Claire E. White in Writers Write: The Internet Writing Journal. "The study of religion seemed to combine all the disciplines I was interested in—history, psychology, philosophy, even anthropology. So I decided to major in religion instead." "I'm interested not just in what people believe, but in why they believe what they do and how they act on their belief," she continued in an interview with Lazette Gifford in Vision: A Resource for Writers. "I'm also fascinated by the relativity of belief—different people can in all sincerity interpret a religious doctrine or a piece of scripture in completely opposing ways—and by the commonalities between religious traditions, all of which, I think, seek to address the same basic concerns about existence."

These interests emerge in many of Strauss's works. Guardian of the Hills, for instance, is set in Depression-era Arkansas and traces the developing relationship between a sixteen-year-old part-Native American girl and her mysterious, mystic past. Pamela is caught between two worlds: her school friends cannot bring themselves to accept her as white, but on the other hand, her Quapaw relatives cannot accept her as fully Indian. To complicate matters, Pamela learns from her Native American grandmother's sister—a traditional healer and spiritual leader—that she bears the burden of connecting the two worlds: the spiritual world of the Quapaw and the material world of her white grandfather. Haunted by strange dreams of an ancient evil, Pamela must find a way to dissuade her grandfather from pursuing his excavation of the Quapaw's sacred hills. All the story's elements, stated Anne O'Malley in her Booklist critique, "weave together beautifully to make this adventure fantasy a winner." "The intricately devised tale," wrote Horn Book reviewer Sarah Guille, "falls into place like the pieces of the ancient mosaic."

The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone also deal with quasi-religious themes; both books treat the conflict between technology and magic in a manner similar to the conflict between different theologies. "From the beginning," she told White, "my thought was to make the magic-technology opposition ambiguous. Is it a real opposition? Or is it a mistaken assumption that has grown into an ideology? Various people in the books take various positions on this issue, but in the end I leave it up to the reader to decide."

Religious themes feature much more prominently in The Burning Land and its sequel, The Awakened City. In the first volume, the priest-magician Gyalo sets out on a journey which, if successful, will challenge the basic tenets of his faith. He encounters a female seer, Axane, whose own faith is shaken by Gyalo's very existence: her people, members of a breakaway sect of Gyalo's faith, believe that they are the last humans alive. "With both sides believing the other is blasphemous and heretical," declared a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "disaster looms." The Awakened City traces the conflict between Gyalo and a self-professed prophet named Ravar, who kidnaps Axane and launches a plan that may destroy the entire world. "Through the two protagonists' opposing viewpoints," a Publishers Weekly critic concluded, "the author dramatically explores issues of religious oppression and transformation."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 1995, Anne O'Malley, review of Guardian of the Hills, p. 403; January 1, 2004, Roland Green, review of The Burning Land, p. 840; March 15, 2006, Roland Green, review of The Awakened City, p. 36.

Horn Book, November-December, 1995, Sarah Guille, review of Guardian of the Hills, p. 748.

Library Journal, January, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of The Burning Land, p. 168.

Publishers Weekly, January 5, 2004, review of The Burning Land, p. 45; February 13, 2006, review of The Awakened City, p. 67.

ONLINE

SFF.net,http://www.sff.net/ (December 5, 2006), brief biography of Victoria Strauss.

Victoria Strauss Home Page,http://www.victoriastrauss.com (December 15, 2006).

Vision: A Resource for Writers,http://www.fmwriters.com/visionback/ (December 5, 2006), Lazette Gifford, "Duology: An Interview with Victoria Strauss."

Writers Write: The Internet Writing Journal,http://www.writerswrite.com/ (December 5, 2006), Claire E. White, "A Conversation with Victoria Strauss."

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