Jordanna Max Brodsky chats THE IMMORTALS, Artemis, and gives away a book!

Fantasy Literature is pleased to welcome Jordanna Max Brodsky, whose recently-published novel, The Immortals, brings the ancient Greek gods to modern-day Manhattan in a supremely entertaining way. She was kind enough to chat with Jana about the inspirations and challenges she faced in bringing disparate elements together into a cohesive whole, and we’ve got a copy of The Immortals to give away to one lucky commenter!

Jana Nyman: Many books which feature Greek gods and mythology are kid-friendly or YA-oriented, even though the original stories can contain some very adult themes and events. What inspired you to write for a more mature audience?

JMBrodskyJordanna Max Brodsky: I’m glad you asked! Most people hear the premise and assume The Immortals is a young adult novel, I think because so many of us were interested in mythology as children. But I believe that what drew us to myths as kids still appeals to us as adults: the world building. Monsters, weapons, settings, costumes, language, poetry, and of course superheroes — myths have it all. But I wrote The Immortals for a mature audience because the gods in those myths are more than just superheroes.

The Olympian gods have been around for over three thousand years, which means that a goddess like Artemis may look young, but she has an adult’s experiences and an adult’s soul. The myths about her and the other immortals served as the foundation of an incredibly successful religion — the ancients didn’t see them as tales to amuse children, and we don’t have to either.

Also, as someone with a background in history and literature, I wanted to explore some pretty complicated questions: How does mythology interact with history? How does it change our perceptions of ourselves and our society? How have our concepts of femininity changed over time? I found it easier to address those issues head on without diluting them for a younger audience.

And to be honest, I had also grown exasperated with vampire stories where hundred-year-olds fell in love with high schoolers — I mean, wouldn’t an immortal find a teenager unbearably immature? My heroine is an adult. The man who becomes her crime-solving partner is an adult. I certainly think many younger readers will enjoy the book, but I wrote it for those of us seeking a little more meat than the average YA novel can provide.

I know exactly where you’re coming from, and I can’t thank you enough for that!

The murder mystery aspect of the novel is really well-done, and I tip my hat to you for keeping me guessing until the Big Reveal — I thought I had it all figured out, but I was totally wrong! Did you have any particular challenges in merging fantasy, mythology, history, and mystery components into a working whole?

I would call merging those elements the biggest challenge, in fact. History, fantasy, and myth all reside comfortably in my wheelhouse, but I’ve never been a big consumer of mystery novels. Yet, from the very beginning, I felt that as the Goddess of the Hunt, a modern-day Artemis would have to track down the bad guys. Unless I wanted her chasing after them by the power of smell alone (can you imagine?) she would have to follow a series of clues. I did a bit of a crash course in mystery writing, not to mention an embarrassingly vast number of rewrites, before that aspect of the book finally came together.

Were there any aspects of Greek mythology or American history that you wanted to include, but didn’t, because of time or space constraints?

Yes! So many! I’m grateful OLYMPUS BOUND is a series, because I’ll share some of the awesome Artemis myths in later books. I won’t spoil them for you by telling you which ones! And of course there are plenty of gods and goddesses who didn’t make it into The Immortals. I didn’t want it to feel like an overcrowded family reunion. But don’t worry, they’ll show up for sure in the sequels.

Draft RiotsThere used to be many more historical flashbacks in the book, giving us a glimpse of Artemis at various times in New York City history. For instance, during the Civil War, she protected African-American women and children from Irish mobs during the infamous Draft Riots. In the 1920s, she patrolled Coney Island as one of the NYPD’s first policewomen, cracking down on men targeting the newly liberated flappers. I imagine that in every era she had befriended a different mortal woman — someone who, like the goddess herself, didn’t fit into the mainstream mold of womanhood. I cut most of the flashbacks because they distracted from the main action of the mystery, but they still inform Selene’s character.

Even without the flashbacks you mentioned, it’s obvious that you put a lot of thought into Selene DiSilva’s complexities and background — she’s not quite mortal, but not the powerful divine being she used to be, and you portrayed her struggle so well. Was it difficult for you to find that balance for her character?

Selene’s character went through many revisions. Originally, I’d envisioned her beginning the book with supernatural powers. Then I remembered that my favorite part of superhero stories is watching the protagonist discover her powers in the first place (or seeing what happens when she loses them). There’s nothing worse than a completely invincible heroine — there’s just no suspense. My gods are all fading toward mortality because it makes them much easier to empathize with. They’re also going just a little bit mad because that seems like the only reasonable response to carrying around three millennia of emotional baggage.

Artemis pouring a libationThe harder balance to strike was just how relentless to make Selene. As the goddess Artemis, she’s famous for merciless punishment of those who dishonor her. She’s very quick to send her arrows through anyone who looks at her wrong. I wanted to keep that core essence — it’s what makes her such a badass. But I also know that readers expect kindness in their heroes — make her too cruel and no one likes her.

In the end, the conflict just made her a more interesting character. Yes, she has this tendency toward heartlessness, but she slowly recognizes that much of her personality is a holdover from her time as a goddess. Now that she’s losing her immortality, she’s finally free to redefine herself. Part of her journey is recognizing that she has just as much capability for love as she does for vengeance. But don’t worry, she still kicks plenty of butt.

She does, indeed, and in a thoroughly satisfying way.

I’d like to ask if you have a favorite drink — either relating to your creative process (as a relaxation aid while writing, for example) or something involved with your work. Are there any beverages which remind you of The Immortals, or which you drank to celebrate its publication?

I wish I could say that I’d experimented with kykeon, the mysterious potion that serves an integral purpose in the Mystery Cult at the heart of the book. The drink really existed in ancient times, and it likely included fermented barley water that contained a natural hallucinogen. Who knows what I might have written if I’d started brewing up my own version? Something completely incomprehensible — or something divinely inspired? We’ll never know.

The very pedestrian truth is that, like Theo, I kept myself going every day with a cup of very hot, very sweet tea.

As a tea-drinker myself, I see nothing wrong with that! Thank you so much for stopping by, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the OLYMPUS BOUND series!

Readers, comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Immortals. This giveaway is open to commenters with a U.S. or Canada-based mailing address.


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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but recently settled in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Bradbury, James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L’Engle, and Philip Pullman.

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11 comments

  1. I think a good mystery is very hard to write well, and I’m so glad to read that Jordana really worked at doing it right! As a reader, I really appreciate that, and as a writer currently working on a novella with mundane people who interact with a couple of ancient deities, I know I will love THE IMMORTALS for that aspect alone.

  2. Von Berry /

    I, too, am glad that Ms. Brodsky decided to target a more mature audience with her book. I look forward to reading it.

  3. I’m probably part of the group that assumed that the novel was YA-ish. I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that it was otherwise.

    And I enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction works on mythology, so I’m looking forward to reading The Immortals.

    Thanks for the interview.

  4. Portelance /

    I’ve always been interested in mythology taking place in a modern setting. This will for sure be added to my to be read pile.

  5. Bethany C. /

    I’m a big nerd for mythology, sounds good!

  6. Josh Redlich /

    This sounds awesome! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

  7. dr susan /

    I read The Immortals and look forward to the next book in the series. I enjoyed the pairing of Selene and Theo, as well as the “cameos” by some of the other gods.

  8. Vicki S. /

    Love all mythology and am crazy for Joseph Campbell.

  9. Caitlin /

    I’d kinda assumed The Immortals was YA too. Good to be corrected.

  10. Portelance, if you live in the USA or Canada (or have a mailing address there), you win a copy of THE IMMORTALS!
    Please contact me (Marion) with your US address and I’ll have the book sent right away. Happy reading!

  11. Marie Takada /

    I am definitely waiting with bated breath for the release of “Olympus Bound.” I knew after I read “The Immortals” that I found a new author to follow! I can’t wait until next February for her new release. Marie Takada

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