While Consuela does create skins that allow her the ability to become one with fire and water and change forms into things like a flock of butterflies, I'd never considered that shape-shifting as much as camouflaging to blend into the surroundings, specifically those surroundings that, at a given moment, were present and convenient to save someone's life. Yes, Consuela rode the winds in a skin of air, but as Tender asks her in the story, is it that she's become air or is she wearing air? Is Consuela the air or has the air become her? It's a fine line, but I think of it as more the case of her borrowing what's around her to cloak herself in the environment rather than her actually becoming something else entirely. She doesn't get that distinction, she feels the power, the rush, but as the author sitting firmly in the comfy chair in my office, I can make these boring, analytical calls. (Not born of envy in the slightest. Nope nope nope.)
On the other hand, there's Joseph Crow. He can shape-shift and while it's not as loup-garou, I did borrow from a lot of actual Native American totems and one particular type of vision quest ritual in order to make his power feel real. Joseph Crow is a character born out of my love and study of the Plains Indian tribes of North America, another lingering memory from college, and my work with the Native American Art Gallery during the birth of the White Buffalo in nearby Wisconsin (a pretty wild time to be connected to the community, let me tell you!), add my lifelong love of mythology and cultural myths, and--oddly enough--a research project I was doing with a professor at Northwestern University examining self- and body-image. I'd been doing many interviews in niche populations and I'd met this one man who had scars on his chest and he explained that it was from an old ritual (one that I recognized from books) that he used to have out-of-body experiences; essentially, he got high through pain. It was a striking concept and the idea obviously stuck with me. I borrowed this as the trigger for Joseph Crow, extending it to include why he has so many body piercings, and linked it to his transformation into one of the totemic animals in the directional sphere (north, south, east, west, upper, lower, and within). Much like I had with Dia de los Muertos and Consuela, I borrowed heavily from the colors and iconic imagery associated with the Native American Plains' traditions so that I could anchor Joseph Crow in resonance and history, so that his power in the Flow was something that was, in some sense, real. Joseph Crow can transform into these animals as well as become a sort of amalgam of all of them: a terrifying specter of all the protective animals. So while I credit the origins of both characters with the traditions of calaveras or carvings that have existed previously, my aim was to create "modern myths" of a sort of guardian Lady of the Dead and an awesomely powerful totemic knight.
Those came from between my ears.
This guest post on the MundiMoms' LUMINOUS Blog Tour was brought to you by the letter: U.
Collect all the letters along the blog tour, unscramble the puzzle, and win a secret surprise as well as an extra entry in the LUMINOUS Grand Prize Giveaway, June 30th! Details at http://www.dawnmetcalf.com/.