Cover Art by Ellen Morris
R. A. Oakes has been deeply influenced by “warrior women,” women who possess the wisdom and strength to survive life’s challenges. His novels, of which Black Crystal is the first in a series, are a tribute to such women. He is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and makes his home in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
"Some years ago, a female friend with a black belt in martial arts, Ronna Rothenberger, asked me if I'd ever considered writing warrior-women books. Ronna was a great fan of Xena Warrior Princess, and she knew how I feel about female leadership, that is she knew I believe women make better leaders than men. After I began writing Black Crystal, I was surprised to find that another good friend of mine, Dawn Rogers, had ended up as the basis for the main female protagonist. In real life, I had repeatedly witnessed Dawn make difficult personal decisions, ones that would require her to take actions involving considerable risk, whether it meant having to quit a job, find a new place to live or end a relationship. And she never chose the path of least resistance. So once I began writing Black Crystal, it became obvious to me that such a true-life warrior woman had to become my lead character. As for myself, I discovered that I shouldn't try to write the story and instead should simply allow the story to happen. A creative energy seems to take over during the writing process breathing life into the novel and making it come alive." -R.A. Oakes
Who is Chen? Tell us about her. I've heard she's based on a real person and if that's true, who is she?
First and foremost, Chen is a dark knight fighting for the right of women to be free.
And so when dusk approaches, and everything begins to become cloaked in shadow, and things that go bump in the night creep out to do their mischief, Chen sighs but not out of fear or apprehension. She sighs out of a sense of resignation that this is the world she knows best and feels most at home in. Chen wishes that it wasn’t always this way for her. She wishes that she, too, could feel the sun on her face and its warmth in her heart. She longs for an end to the struggle and toil that make up so much of life and which seem to stretch out before her and other women like an endless journey where too often they feel like they are on their own.
At times, Chen wishes she could turn over her nearly overwhelming troubles to someone else. However, looking around, she realizes that no one is going to take better care of the ones she loves than herself. Hoping for a white knight to rescue her isn’t part of Chen’s dream for she is too grounded in reality. And Chen also knows, from experience, that playing nice isn’t an option for it’s an overly simplistic view of life and just doesn’t work.
So as darkness falls and night envelopes the land, Chen mounts her black stallion, gathers her warrior women about her, and rides out to do battle against the forces of evil, an evil that too often beats in the hearts of insecure men as they seek to repress women and keep them down because such men either don’t know how to function in an equal partnership with women or don’t want to, or both. Instead, such men often expect to have women serve as their babysitters, something Chen has never particularly been interested in doing when it comes to grown men.
And so, the battle is on, and the game of life begins with all its potentially devastating consequences, and Chen and her warrior women ride out to meet it with heavy hearts and a firm grip on the hilts of their swords. For though children and men can be careless, women don’t have that luxury because it’s women who must shoulder the burden of making a way in the world for their families and, hopefully, to arrive at the end of what sometimes seems to be a long, dark night into a safe harbor where they and their children can live free.
The Chen character is based on Dawn Rogers, who is both R. A. Oakes’ friend and publisher, and to whom the author listens very, very carefully. For it is Dawn’s thoughts, feelings and opinions and her warrior-woman spirit that infuses R. A. Oakes’ first novel, Black Crystal, from beginning to end, and whose spirit will continue to do so throughout the Black Scarlet Saga, the name she and the author give to a book series dedicated to a simple truth, which is that women make better leaders than men, something any woman over the centuries who’s ever tried to raise a family and manage a household could tell you. It’s women who actually rule the world, and Black Crystal and the Black Scarlet Saga embrace this reality and shout it from the rooftops.
Chen was born to live free, as are all women, and every woman has the heart of a warrior beating in her breast. -R. A. Oakes
There hasn’t been a time where art hasn’t been present in my life. It is my reputation and basis for everything I do, both in and out of my academics. During my last years of high school, I was part of the art program at the Shenandoah Valley Governor's School in Fishersville, Virginia. In this program, I learned a great deal about my artistic outlook and talents. My experiences at this school confirmed my thoughts of following through with my interest in art and design; I knew I wanted to go beyond high school with my art and continue with this lifestyle.
To further develop my skills in digital art, I have been concentrating in graphic design and becoming more interested in this area. I still find time for traditional art and design which is something I hope to always be able to do. As a current sophomore art major and communication studies minor at Bridgewater College, I am thankful for all the opportunities I have been given and look forward to expanding my abilities in art.
Cover Design Artist - Ellen Morris