I’m Janet Morris, born in 1946, married to Christopher Crosby Morris for whom I have played bass on a major labor record that went Top 20 in some important markets and got international airplay; bred horses and won world championships with them; been a research director and senior fellow at Washington think tanks; served as a strategic planning and technology consultant to national laboratories, academia and industry; created the original Congressional mandate and architecture for the (now international) Nonlethal Weapons program; written novels (historical, main stream, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction), written nonfiction papers, op/eds and ghost-written in the areas of international security, technology development, futurism and national security, as well as short fiction pieces. I have been the editor of several books and series, and now am editor and publisher at Perseid Press.
Tamara: What do you HAVE to have when you are writing?
Pen and paper or a typewriter or a computer. Peace and quiet is nice, but not necessary.
Beverly: When did you start to write?
I wrote poetry and short fiction and serials in grade school and high-school. I co-wrote music and lyrics beginning in the 1960s. I wrote my first novel in 1975 and sold the first novel I ever wrote “High Couch of Silistra,” a fantasy centered on a strong female protagonist who comes to grips with the genetic nature of sexuality (and continues for three sequels) to Bantam Books in the 1970s. From that time, I made my living as a novelist until the 1990s. I hold more than 60 copyrights.
Tamara: What do you think are the qualities that make up a “hero”?
I feel very strongly about heroism, and just contributed to a book, “Writing Fantasy Heroes” edited by Jason Waltz for Rogue Blades Entertainment. I have written my longest running series, the Sacred Band of Stepsons, about heroes and heroines and am still writing that series, which began for me with a few short stories written for the fantasy series “Thieves’ World” and grew into seven Sacred Band of Stepsons novels and two anthologies of Sacred Band Tales. I think a hero is someone who struggles in service to an ideal. Whether male or female, my heroes share that viewpoint and are classically founded in the concept of heroism as we have known it from earliest times. My books that best exemplify this are “The Sacred Band,” by Janet Morris and Chris Morris (Perseid Press), and “I, the Sun,” Janet Morris, Perseid Press, but my first heroine, Estri from the Silistra series, and all that followed, are individuals who are greater than those around them and express heroic values.
Beverly: Can you describe your favorite character? And which of your books is he/she in? How do you come up with your characters?
My favorite character is Tempus from the Sacred Band of Stepsons series. He is an immortalized commander of cavalry, and in the course of his adventures he founds a Sacred Band made up of lovers. Together with his warriors, he battles sorcery and time itself. A close second to Tempus are some of his Sacred Banders: Nikodemos, who has a way with women and is stalked by a fearsome witch; Jihan, Froth Daughter and a power in her own right, and their cohort. A close second to my heroes of the Sacred Band is Suppiluliumas, Great King of the Hittite Empire, a real historical hero about whom I write a rigorous biographical novel, “I, the Sun,” which has just been re-released this week by Perseid Press in trade paper. Of my heroines, Estri from the Silistra series is my favorite, followed by Shebat from my Dream Dancer/Kerrion Consortium series.
Tamara: What are the hardest scenes for you to write? Suspense? Sex? Dialogue? And why?
The hardest scenes for me to write are the ones that make me weep. I truly enter the world of my characters, and when they suffer, so do I. Sex scenes are fun; suspense is my forte; dialogue for me is a matter of listening to what the characters say to me. But confronting death and dissolution is very difficult. So, to address this issue, I have edited since the 1980s the “Heroes in Hell” series of books and anthologies, in which I and a host of invited authors deal with the afterlife and what it means to people from every culture and every time in Earth’s history.
Beverly: What writer, if any, influenced how you write?
Homer is my favorite writer; Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Milton come close behind. I especially like writing mythic heroes and mythic tales, so Homer is where I turn when I need to clear my head. I like many earlier writers, anonymous, who wrote the tales that make us human, all the way back to the epic of Gilgamesh. In writing “I, the Sun,” I used the first person annals of my king, Suppiluliumas, and interleaved his own words with mine, so I suppose he is one of my favorite writers. Modern writers seldom move me in the way ancient ones do. I love Marguerite Yourcenar best of the moderns.
Tamara: Who would you choose as your “book boyfriend”? From what book? Author?
Definitely Diomedes from the Iliad. I yet disagree that he is the “second-best” of the Achaeans. I actually wrote a story called “Best of the Achaeans,” about a modern woman obsessed with loving him.
Beverly: What is the kinkiest thing you’ve ever done? Or would like to? What? We are all about the love!
Never you mind, young ladies and gentlemen. I was in college at NYU Downtown during the Sixties, so I spent many formative years in Greenwich Village. And that is all I have to say on that.
Beverly: LOL! I’ve heard stories about Greenwich Village!
Tamara: What are your favorite types of heroines? Do you like the damsel in distress who needs saving or the kick-ass variety? Why?
I have long struggled with the (probably) genetic need of a woman during love or sex to subordinate herself to a man. No matter how strong my female characters may be, or in what culture or what century, they wrestle with the issue of how much power acts as an aphrodisiac, and how an ethical person wields power or submits to greater power. My Silistra series, which has pan-sexual characters who are strongly passionate, addresses every issue relevant to understanding these issues, but that series of books is not politically correct in the contemporary sense. I am convinced, of course, that I am correct and these hard-wired genetic prompts cannot be ignored successfully. When High Couch of Silistra was first published, it was very controversial. The feminists didn’t care for it and the macho males were likewise troubled: that’s what a book should do. In a book, we get behind the rhetoric into what people really think, and feel and do. Very different. We will reissue Silistra one of these days, but it’s available used since it had 4 million copies in print as the fourth volume, The Carnelian Throne, was coming out. Silitra takes submission/dominance and bondage as metaphors for the power of humanity over its universe, so it’s not what you’d expect. My Dream Dancer series is nothing like Silistra, but follows a young heroine into a futuristic world that changes her, as she changes everyone she meets and she rises to power.
Beverly: What was your worst date ever?
When I was thirteen, I had a date that involved being accosted by the boy’s jilted lover, who had a knife.
Tamara: That definitely qualifies! If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want to have with you? (you have food, water, shelter, all the necessities, so nothing mundane)
A computer; musical instruments; internet; two horses and my husband.
Beverly: What is your “guilty pleasure”?
Tamara: What dream or goals have you yet to realize?
I have realized none of my goals, except proliferating nonlethal weapons. I am in the process of writing new books, new music; I am trying small publishing. The descendents of my horses will carry on, I hope, a tradition of improving excellence. I am always looking forward, facing new challenges. I would still like to develop a computerized democracy, such as we had in the Dream Dancer/Kerrion Consortium series, but may not get it done in my lifetime. Making the world a better place in my terms means I am always trying harder.
Beverly: What was your most embarrassing moment? It can’t be worse than mine….
Falling off the same horse twice in one barrel racing competition at a country fair when I was thirteen.
Beverly: Thirteen seems like it was definitely a memorable year for you!
Tamara: If you were a color what would you be and why?
Black, since it contains nothing and everything.
Beverly: Who has influenced how you perceive love? Why?
I think my genes and my luck taught me about love: My husband is the love of my life; we’ve been together since we were nineteen. But love has many faces: love of one person, love of excellence, love of art, literature; love of animals; love of the natural world. I love because I live. And everyone I meet teaches me something about love – their ability (or inability) to receive it or to give it.
Tamara and Beverly: Okay. We are SSLY so I have to ask. Who loves you?
My husband, my animals, those who read our books and listen to our music and have horses that we’ve bred.
Now for some quick fun questions:
Boxers or briefs? Really? Briefs or nothing at all.
Coffee or Tea? Coffee. Ristretto.
Tall, dark and handsome or Blond and buff? Tall, dark and fit.
Hairy chest or smooth? Hairy, of course.
Chocolate or Vanilla? Any flavor: love is about the individual.
Kinky or Sweet? Some of each.
Fast or slow? You jest: each moment is forever.
Public or private? Private.
Top or bottom? Or standing or whatever.
“I, the Sun is a masterpiece of Historical fiction. It tells a great story while accurately creating the world of the Hittites and their best known emperor.” — Jerry Pournelle
Looking for a real hero? Bored with fuzzy elves and sparkly vampires? Try I, the Sun, the biographical novel of the greatest emperor of the Hitties, Suppiluliumas I. Now if that long name scares you, remember you can say ‘Tutankhamen’ so why would our hero’s name scare you? As a matter of fact, Tutankhamun lived and died during our story….
From the annals of the ancient Hittite king, Suppiluliumas, from the Amarna letters of Egypt and the court records of a wealth of “lost” civilizations, comes this saga of kingship and greatness, love and death, politics and treachery in the second millennium, B.C.
Beyond a few cursory references to the Hittites in the Bible, for thousands of years nothing has been known of this first mighty Indo-European culture. Now, based on translations of the ancient texts themselves, comes the story of Suppiluliumas, Great King, Favorite of the Storm God, King of Hatti, who by his own count fathered forty-four kings and conquered as many nations, who brought even mighty Egypt to her knees. Tutankhamun’s widow sent him an urgent letter begging for a son of his to make her husband. The earliest Hebrews knew him as their Protector. The entire Mediterranean world revered and feared him.
But though he conquered armies, countries, and even foreign gods, he could not conquer his love for the one woman fate denied him, the Great Queen Khinti.
With the exception of a single slave girl, every prince and general, mercenary and scribe, princess and potentate in these pages actually lived, loved and died nearly fourteen hundred years before Christ. Now they live again in I the Sun.
Janet Morris brings you a real conquering hero in I, the Sun, who had more than forty sons and took his armies to Egypt’s doors. Spend some time in ancient Hattusas with us, and you’ll not regret it.
1386 B. C.
There is a man who stands always on my horizon: large, cloaked and formidable. I have seen only his back. Over the years, that back has preceded me, on occasion dropping clues for me to read when I come to where he has passed. I have never been able to catch him, though I am coming closer. He has been in my dreams before every moment of crisis, for every tumble onto truth that has ever befallen me, striding away, his shoulders like a second horizon. I know that when I overtake him, I will have what it is that has eluded me over the years. Then, I will learn a thing. Then, I may truly say that I have done it. Now, I am still following. Last night I was able to see that he wore sandals, and their soles were worn. But he is getting dark.
When I first saw him, he was bright and shining. The Great King Arnuwandas, my father, had just died. I sat atop the rock sanctuary while the moon rose, looking down on the mausoleum stone-house, its grounds alight with mourners’ torches, as they had been for thirteen days. I moved only to hunt or elude the Meshedi – the Great King’s bodytroops – whom my mother periodically sent to search for me. Otherwise, I sat below the black eagle’s nest and we watched the ashes of Arnuwandas receive the adulation he had never been accorded in life. They loved him for dying. Their relief was a palpable thing, and that grieved them, so their grief was real enough.
The black eagle screeched and flapped, and I snuck, hunched up, to my hideaway. I was due for my manhood ceremony, and this year, at fourteen, was barely able to fit into the crevice I had found five years past.
“Tasmisarri!” Gruff voices called my name with mounting fury. “Tasmisarri!” Then: “We know you are up there, brat.” There was no mistaking my uncle Kantuzilis’ commanding squeak.
My throat tightened. I was big for my age, but not ready to tangle with any of my relatives, Kantuzilis in particular. I half stood.
And that was when I first saw him, the man, and he was shining. Up the slope, to my left, in a long blue cloak, he ascended. In the unabashedness of youth, I thought him the most striking figure I had ever seen. I leaned forward, Kantuzilis forgotten. The man, walking somehow in the moonlight, wore a braid swinging to his waist, as once did the old empire’s Tabarnas, their Great Kings. I heard men muttering. Stones clicked and dark shapes cut across the shelf below me to intercept him. The full, moon went behind a cloud; the eagle bated, then rustled round his nest in the sudden dark.
A time later, I heard Kantuzilis’ steps and others, descending to the mausoleum below. The moon had winked out all trace of the blue-cloaked man with the long braid.
I lay back and stretched out on the rock shelf, eyes closed, thinking of the blue-cloaked lord. There was something so desirable about his carriage that he seemed to me ultimately kingly, so much so that if I could just be as he was, then none would ever doubt my right to the throne or my rightness upon it. But I could not recollect any detail of him, except the long, jet braid dividing his great shoulders. Such shoulders came from sweat and toil, from driving the day into dusk and wielding an ax and a sword in battle. Such shoulders cannot be had by adolescent boys, even large ones. So I dismissed the figure, and with a shake of my head tossed my unbound hair. The shining one, I decided was a warrior, a lord come to pay homage. Since the Meshedi were gone, I set off toward the interment ceremony, curious, to seek him out. For the first time in anybody’s memory Tasmi would willingly attend a state occasion.
My mother broke into ashen tears, and grabbed my hands, thanking me. I was a head taller than she, even then.
I hushed her, and growled around at the flying wedge of relatives who had come to pay tardy homage to the Sun Arnuwandas. There on my mother’s right was my uncle Kantuzilis, commanding general of the armies, prince, misshapen in body and mind. His skin was pale like the inside of a loaf, his hair like dog-soiled snow, his eyes like bleeding wounds. He bared his yellow teeth and I gave him a stony grim look I had learned from a bronze mirror. He looked away. Whether it worked or he was amused, I could not tell.
Asmunikal, Great Queen, my mother, laid her raven head against my chest and wrapped me round and wailed. I had thought by now she would have been wailed into a whisper. But she was in all sense of the word Tawananna, wife of the king, and she found strength to weep in my arms.
Asmunikal grieved mightily, though Arnuwandas’ death must have been to her a blessing. For five years my father had lain helpless, dead as stone from the waist down. The blow that had maimed him thus had been struck in his own palace, by the invading Gasgaeans while the city of Hattusas flamed around us. Since then, my uncles had ruled. Now, one among them would become Tabarna, The Sun, King of the Hatti Lands – what was left of them.
Next to my mother, eating a sweet cake, was a man I did not know, a young lord, a chariot man from his dress.
Counting heads absently, I searched for the azure-cloaked man. Such dye comes from the Lower Country. I saw no hint of it among the skin-cloaked crowd-within-a-crowd that was my family. What I saw, in my mind’s eye, was that other night, the night I had first found the eagle’s nest and the crevice in the stone with the city burning bloody below and my eyes tearing from the smoke and the rage of the helpless.
Five years later, I saw the end of helplessness approaching. I unclenched my fists, and turned to reply to the Hero Kantuzilis’ greeting.
“Tasmisarri,” he silked again, using that excuse to step closer. The malicious smile matched his nature. He accented the third and fourth syllables of my name. Always he called me thusly – never Tasmi, like everyone else. “Sarri” means “King” in Hurrian, and my mother’s choice in my naming had taught me early how to bleed and how to fight. If Kantuzilis had his way, I would be king of a stone-house, like my father.
As he stepped to my side in a rustle of foxfur, I saw the young lord – who stood among the family and yet was unknown to me –speak over his shoulder, to a darkness that I then saw was Muwatalli, Kantuzilis’ counterpart on the battlefield of palace politics.
I disengaged my mother’s arms, aware of her sobbing only as it stopped. She smiled bravely, sought one of my brothers.
Kantuzilis did not speak again, but waited with his vulture’s eyes on me until I acknowledged him. Which I did not immediately do. The short hairs on my neck rose as I took a closer look at the way the crowd had shifted. Around me were four of my grown uncles; three chiefs of 1,000; six lesser generals – all Great Ones, all related to me; all adherents of him who had ruled in deed while my father ruled his bed: the tuhkanti, my father’s successor, Tuthaliyas III. This ring of men around me lacked, to become a war council, only that one’s presence. But the new Sun of Hatti was nowhere about.
Kantuzilis growled deep in his throat and shifted his weight.
The music took up, an Old Woman’s trill wheezing a new dirge. I saw my mother, her face pale, her brows knit, leaning against my brother Zida beyond the stranger’s back.
The men, all fourteen, sauntered inward, elaborately casual. It seemed as if no sound could reach us, within their circle. Kantuzilis’ breath whistled in his chest.
Watching the stranger, who was himself staring around, his hand under his cloak, sharp-faced, casting tense shadows in the torchlight, I wondered where his interests lay.
I made a show of noticing that the lords circled round me in formation, and when I had my back to Kantuzilis, I said, “What are you waiting for, Hero?”
His hand came down hard on my shoulder and he spun me around.
I just looked at him.
He slapped my face openhanded. “You are not too big for a strapping, nor are you going to be deprived one, boy!”
I bared my teeth at him, and spat blood. Three men left the circle: Himuili; the stranger; another lord, Takkuri.
“When I have my majority, uncle –” The circle tightened, moving slowly toward me, pushing us away from the light.
“Silence!” snarled the Hero who had burned Sallapa to the ground for the good of the Hatti Lands. “You were up there, Tasmisarri. Admit it.” He pointed toward the eagle’s nest.
I shrugged. Perhaps I could talk my way out of this yet. I had taken worse from Kantuzilis than a slap. But my fists ached.
“Your mother –”
“Leave her out of this.”
He was taking off his belt. It was wide, hardened leather, bronze studded, the kind chariot drivers wear to support their backs.
“You would not dare,” I said through a red haze, and stopped moving back before the circle’s darkward progress.
The Pale One had the belt doubled in his hand. I was a hair taller than he, and not twisted of limb; but his strength was greater than mine – alone. And boys do not strike men in the Hatti Lands. Then why the convocation of lords? “Did you bring them to hold me for you?” I asked him.
He slapped the doubled leather in his palm. “That is a possibility.”
If I attacked him, they could make whatever they wanted of it: no one would disbelieve the Great Ones.
I must have spun wildly; I remember their faces blurring together. I retreated as far from my uncle as I could, until a hand pushed roughly against my back. I wore no cloak – a vanity, a boy’s desire to hurry the hair of manhood. I had a light dirk at my hip, all a boy is allowed. Reaching down, I unbuckled my belt and let the dirk drop.
Kantuzilis took a measured step. Leather cracked sharply in the dim
It was myself I fought there. Not before the lords would he shame me! And yet, I dared not strike him.
No help would be forthcoming from behind – not from Tuttu, expressionless, huge as a hill; nor from my uncle Muwatalli the Elder, whose restraining hand was again laid against my spine.
“Tasmisarri,” said my uncle Kantuzilis, taking a step that brought us chest to chest, “you are going to learn respect for the Great Ones and the Laws of the Land, and you are going to obey them, henceforth! No one is going to have to chase you, anymore.” Muwatalli still had his hand on me. “Take your kilt off boy, and kneel down’
I shoved back hard and tried to bolt through the opening the off-balance Muwatalli had left. They were all warriors. I got two steps.
Someone knocked my legs out from under me and I went down. All thought of what boys do and do not do left me. I bit hard into an arm seeking my throat. A kick connected with my kidneys. I swung wildly with feet and fists, my face pushed into the dirt, but the men on me were princes, not street brawlers, and I became witness to the effectiveness of Meshedi training. They held me spread-eagled and one stripped me. Then, amid much jocularity and taunting jibes, Kantuzilis strapped my back and buttocks until I gnawed the ground.
When at last the restraining hands were gone and the snap of the strap ceased, I lay very still.
Muwatalli picked my head up by the hair, shook it, and when he loosened, his hold I let my head fall back.
“His father’s son, by that,” said Kantuzilis, close to my ear. His sandaled foot turned me, a wad of spit fell on my face, and the men, amid conjectures as to whether the whipping would in truth improve me, drifted away.
It was Zida, my brother, who came around to see if I was dead.
End of excerpt from I, the Sun, copyright 1983; 2013 by Janet Morris.
Buy links for I, the Sun:
Soon to be available on Barnes & Noble in a big new trade paper edition.
Here are a taste of some of Janet’s other available titles!
Janet Ellen Morris is an American author of fiction and nonfiction, best known for her fantasy and science fiction and her authorship of a non-lethal weapons concept for the U.S. military.
Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 20 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morrisor others. Her first novel, written as Janet E. Morris, was High Couch of Silistra, the first in a quartet of novels with a very strong female protagonist.
She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes.
She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris.
Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Her 1983 book “I, the Sun”, a detailed biographical novel about the Hittite King Suppiluliuma I was praised for its historical accuracy; O.M. Gurney, Hittite scholar and author of “The Hittites,” commented that “the author is familiar with every aspect of Hittite culture.”
Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on non-lethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.