Dominic Bohbot and Michel Bohbot

Zintara and the Stones of Alu Cemah

By Dominic Bohbot and Michel Bohbot


The books shown on the left are by Dominic Bohot and Michel Bohbot. Click on the cover to order.

This interview was conducted by Ray Palen on August 21, 2019.

Dominic Bohbot and Michel Bohbot have graciously agreed to be interviewed by me, and I hope you all like reading this interview as much as I enjoyed interviewing Dominic and Michel. Without any further ado, let's get on to the questions!

Ray Palen: This is a work of Fantasy, yet incorporates human characters into the story. Was there any specific land, country or real historical figure that inspired Zintara and her world?

Dom: We imagined Zintaraís world as roughly analogous to Renaissance Europe, but only in the loosest sense. Spain during the moslem ocupation was a model for blended culture. We mixed that with the more modern sensibilities of the Enlightenment. The art reflects Islamic art motifs we saw as children, as well as what we saw in fairy tales of faraway lands.

Ray Palen: Michel's illustrations throughout the novel are very vibrant and quite striking. His bio indicates, among his many artistic feats, illustrating many German horror books. Are any of those titles and/or authors best-sellers in Europe?

Michel: These were covers primarily for what I would call pulps. Quite popular, but I donít think they would qualify as high literature. As I donít read German, I canít really say.

Ray Palen: Zintara, the title character, is raised to prominence through family tragedy. Since she is so young, do you see her role more as leader, warrior or both? With second novel in the works, what do you want us to understand about her destiny?

Michel: We see her as a person with a growing sense of self, trying to do the right thing even when the choices are hard. We will see those choices become harder and harder in the second book. And her destiny is ultimately driven by the choices she makes.

Ray Palen: How would you describe the Stones of Alu Cemah? Are they as comparable to this tale as say Tolkien's 'Ring', Harry Potter's 'Horcrux' or Frank Herbert's 'Spice'; or are they a part of something larger for Zintara to pursue?

Dom: The Stones are not comparable to either Tolkienís One Ring, nor to Harry Potterís Horcrux, because those items are essentially evil, and the Stones are not. Spice would be a closer comparison, because both Spice and the Stones are neutral, and can be used for good or ill, depending on the purposes of the user. Although the Stones of Alu Cemah have a continuing and sometimes important role to play in the sequels, they are not necessarily the focal point of the series.

Ray Palen: Duke Galhuri attempts to demonize Zintara in front of the Kingdom. What was your intention with his character --- soothsayer or deceiver? Where do his true motives and allegiances lie?

Michel: Duke Galhuriís allegiance is mostly to himself and his own ambitions, and he will manipulate whomever he needs to achieve his goals. But because he is not a cartoon of evil we show that at the last, family means more to him.

Ray Palen: How does the burgeoning romance between Zintara and Prince Ardelann drive the narrative? What role does romance play in the novel and is it necessary as an element often used in the Fantasy genre? Strickly speaking,

Michel: Romance is not necessary in fantasy or any other genre (except Romance) unless it is a main plot element. In our case, Zintaraís romance with Prince Ardelann gives her a ray of hope to escape her ďoutcastĒ status, and emotionally ties her more firmly to the outcome of the conflict with Korban. And of course, it is a reference to being open to people different than yourself in society.

Ray Palen: Where do you see the Fantasy genre going within the modern world of literature? What statement is your Zintara series making in order to stand out in this prolific genre?

Dom: Fantasy has spread its tendrils deep into the modern world of literature, and I believe it is here to stay. There are so many variations on the genre now besides the more traditional fantasy milieus of Tolkien, Lewis, Sanderson, Rothfuss, and others. Perhaps the most Ďliteraryí side of the fantasy genre is magic realism, but donít be fooled; at itís heart it is still fantasy.

Zintaraís search for self-knowledge and identity as she grows, and her struggle against alienation and the difficulties she faces as a stranger (you could say as an immigrant!) make her story quite relevant for our present circumstances. In terms of place, Zintara is firmly ensconced in the Ďtraditionalí fantasy category, but what we believe sets it apart is that as a fully illustrated novel, the art and the story complement each other. Unlike a graphic novel, the story side is more fully fleshed out, so that the art and the story truly enhance each other.

Ray Palen: What are you both reading now? Which novels do you always recommend to readers?

Dom: I am eagerly awaiting the next installments of Patrick Rothfussí Kingkiller Chronicles, and Brandon Sandersonís Stormlight Archives series. Iíve recently finished (and greatly enjoyed) N.K. Jemisinís Broken Earth trilogy. In terms of what books I always recommend, thatís a long list that would include (but is not limited to) the following:

- Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
- Hyperion by Dan Simmons
- The Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson (Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars)
- The Uplift series by David Brin
- The Otherland series by Tad Williams
- the Revelation Space series by Alistair Reynolds
- the Coldfire trilogy by CS Friedman

And in non-fiction, anything and everything by Barbara Tuchman, Alison Weir, and Robert Caro.

Ray Palen: Why are dragons so frequently found in Fantasy novels and what symbolic role do they play in this story?

Michel: Mythic creatures of power like dragons have always been facinating in a variety of human cultures. They can be seen as representing both a shorcut to knowledge that humans may lack, often combined with threat. Knowledge, after all, can be both valuable and dangerous. In this story, they provide a link to the past. Dragons will figure more prominently in Book 2 of the Zintara series.

Ray Palen: In the dedication you thanked your parents but specifically indicated that your father, Charles, first instilled in you a love of speculative fiction. What were some of the titles that he introduced you to and how did they specifically inspire your writing?

Michel: Our dad was a believer in science and the move away from superstition which represented the old world where he grew up. He encouraged us to read Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Frank Herbert, Phillip K. Dick, and others. Those authors were both facinating for the possible solutions to some of our problems and for their ability to create new worlds as a playground for their ideas.

Dom: In addition, his bookshelf is where I found the Lord of the Rings trilogy!

Ray Palen: One thing I particularly liked about ZINTARA AND THE STONES OF ALU CEMAH is that there is not always a clear representation of good and evil. Can a Fantasy novel exist without black and white definitions of good and evil or is it able to live in the less clear grey territory of moral representations?

Dom & Michel: Fantasy has always been a parable of our world. As much as politicians would like us to see the world as black and white, itís always been in shades of grey. Good fantasy should engage the reader with new and wonderful worlds and it must Ė as all good literature should Ė hold a mirror up to humanity to reflect the ambiguity and challenges of human existence.

Ray Palen: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. I wish you much success with Zintara and the Stones of Alu Cemah!

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