Circe and Astrid

Astrid Lund’s cats—their strange abilities and improbable origin—are at the center of Swarm: Metamorphosis, but the book is primarily the story of two very different women whose lives become entangled with the animals’ journey—and with each other’s.

Circe with a cat. J. W. Waterhouse

When the book opens, Astrid Lund is struggling with a prolonged divorce, has been forced to sell her business, and has watched her mother die. She’s strong, stubborn, impulsive, and attacks her problems head-on—often without plan or caution. These character traits prepare Astrid for her dangerous pas de deux with Circe, the enchantress.

I have long thought of Circe as an embodiment of the trickster, embracing chaos, not through nihilism, but because she sees it as revealing the deeper truths of reality. As in Homer’s portrayal, my Circe, although immortal, is all too human in her emotions and imperfections. Her human weaknesses are what led to her blood-feud with Phaethon—and to Swarm’s origins.

One problem I faced in developing my plot was in bringing the contemporary Astrid and her cats together with this ancient goddess. Time travel is not something we traditionally attribute to Greek gods, and I did not want to clutter the story of these women’s entwined journeys with the tropes and complexities common to time travel yarns. After some thought, I realized my best approach was simply to acknowledge that Circe’s immortality would give her a unique and flexible relationship to time, one beyond the understanding of mortals.

“. . . time is a tangle, a hopeless tangle, a tangle of tangles.” Circe cut a slice of cheese, placed it on a fresh fig, and nibbled thoughtfully. “I can move through time, alter this or that outcome, but every action I take sends ripples through time and space—sometimes they even ripple into the past, as when you came to Troy—endless cycles of shifting, interconnected probabilities. The complexity is more than even Zeus can untangle. As an immortal, I see it all—and I see it all at once.”

“But you move through time,” Astrid challenged.

“Immortality would be unbearable if one were forever trapped in the present,” Circe said, raising her glass and drinking deeply . . .

Conversation between Circe and Astrid

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