On May 31 Nanaimo author Greg V. Loewen releases The New Self-Reliance: A Novel of Endurance, the second book in his 10-part young adult coming-of-age fantasy series, the Kristin-Seraphim Saga.
The series follows Kristin, a teenage girl who rejects her family, school and religion to strike out on her own, only to encounter a dangerous world that’s been transformed by a mysterious force.
Loewen, who originally hails from Victoria, said the setting serves as a metaphor for the sometimes strange and unpredictable transition from childhood to adulthood.
“The world takes on this larger than life aspect because as children we don’t really get out in the world, we don’t know what the world is and we don’t have any responsibility in it,” he said. “So here’s a young woman who, all of a sudden, has a whole bunch of ultimate responsibilities that of course she’s never faced before and the story is about how she manages to take those on and confront them and overcome them.”
Before it got “totally out of control,” Loewen’s Kristin-Seraphim Saga began as a novella that he was working on while teaching sociology at a University of Saskatchewan college. At the time, three-time Governor General’s Award-winning author Guy Vanderhaeghe was the writer-in-residence, and Loewen asked him to read his manuscript and give him some tips.
“He said something like, ‘I don’t know how to say this delicately, but it’s better than I thought it would be,’” Loewen said. “That’s how he put it and I just thought, ‘Well, that’s still a huge compliment from somebody like him,’ so it just went from there.”
Loewen recently finished the 10th book in the series, and notes that many of the philosophical themes from his academic practice appear in the books.
He said the series aims to “invert the usual fantasy canon … where instead of fantasy referring to the means and the tools at the heroes’ disposal, fantasy refers to the metaphysics itself.”
“This saga is saying that the good and evil spectrum is a fantasy and the characters are challenged by trying to figure out that if that isn’t the way it works, then how does it work? And that reflects our modern situation in terms of modern thought,” Loewen said. “We don’t have that old morality anymore, at least officially. We’ve got kind of an amoral, cynical, political world where if you can get away with something, then that means it’s good.”
Loewen said the series doesn’t shy away from other serious topics, including sex and death, as Kristin is forced to navigate an unfamiliar and unforgiving reality.
“Around that age you’re thrust into the world and you don’t really have a clue as to how it works and what’s going on. You don’t know if you can trust anybody, your relationship to your family has changed, you’re now supposed to be close to an adult and people simply aren’t going to look after you the way they used to,” Loewen said. “So in this mythic, fantasy setting, all of that is made larger than life and hyperbolized and made kind of grotesque.”