There has to be a better way. That’s what I thought to myself for years when reading all manner of strange and sundry articles about assorted upheavals, unrest and turmoil around the globe. Isn’t there somewhere where people are naturally in harmony with their environment and with the creatures around them? The concepts of naturalness, balance and harmony are all interwoven into the complicated plot threads of fantasy, romance and adventure, so evident in the 600+ pages of The Winds of Asharra. The book is not just a story of an epic adventure or a otherworldly romance. It is a journey of self discovery not only for the characters but for the author as well (and hopefull for the readers). The creation of Asharran culture, so rich and complete including language, rituals and worldview, enabled me to create my place that indeed has “a better way.” This mystical world of the purple sky, under twin suns, is the backdrop for an exploration of what it means to change one’s way of looking at oneself and the universe. I spent many years studying a variety of diverse cultures ,religions and societies. Frequently, I would rejoice over the discovery of some little “nugget” of wisdom or example that people could really be in harmony with their world and be happy. However, the more tidbits I amassed, the more I felt ultimately unsatisfied, since the result was a crazy patchwork that didn’t quite fit together. Asharra changed all that. This strange and sensual alien world, seen through the eyes of two American teenagers suddenly transported there, was my backdrop. The term “Asharra” to the native Asharrans means “the home around us” and applies to their planet and every living thing on it. They believe you don’t even have to be born there to be Asharran, so long as you are natural and “true” (in their terms). Thus, when one native Asharran tells the two main characters (from Earth), “welcome home”, it is because Asharra is simply the home they have never seen yet. Superimposing an entertaining adventure and romance story upon accounts of semi-utopian philosophy and fantasy alien culture was the proverbial icing on the cake for me. The fact that the story contains fanciful elements like telepathic trees, musical dragons and evolved felines made the creation of The Winds of Asharra a pure joy to write. The combination of the ecologically friendly mystical Asharran philosophy and culture, with the unusual characters and setting is a fusion which pleases me greatly. To me, The Winds of Asharra stealthily addresses many present day concerns while managing to tell an unusual and complex story. For each bit of adventure, humor or sex appeal, there is an integrated “nugget” of my own which I unashamedly share. James Hilton told us in the 1930’s that there was a better way, in his classic work, Lost Horizon. It was something I read several decades ago and which subconsciously influenced me when setting out to chronicle the adventures of the strange creatures of Asharra (and their Earth-Asharran immigrants). For me, The Winds of Asharra is not only an exciting fantasy/romance novel. It represents a new possibility for the readers of today, just as the land of Shangri-la, to Hilton’s audience represented that same half remembered vision to his generation. I wrote not only to entertain but also to reassure the reader and inspire him or her to never give up hope for a better tomorrow. I ask each reader to stretch the line between myth and mundane when they read this book and perhaps, echoing the experiences of Victor and Zoe, the two teenagers from Earth, to discover that there is a better way. Things might actually get better if we look at the world differently. As the Asharrans say, the only way to fail is if you give up. By that definition, since I plan on continuing to write other stories about the world of Asharra, I have already succeeded.
R. Leigh is the author of the fantasy romance novel, THE WINDS OF ASHARRA. You can visit her website at www.thewindsofasharra.com.