Island Life, Word Birds & Process
Dear reader – I know, poor, neglected blog. My writing process being the point of this thing (& I am writing, I promise) you’d think…
Book 4 is emerging & now being written in third person present which is interesting. Those of you who’ve followed me from the olden days will remember me referencing a story I called my RiverBook. It’s been set aside several times & almost drowned to be honest. I’m firmly of the belief that some stories aren’t meant to be written & ought to be allowed to pass peacefully. (TreeBook anyone? I think not…) RiverBook refuses to let go however – largely because the central protagonist is old[ish] & curmudgeonly. She keeps nagging. I’m acquiescing then & embracing Grace…
The other thing – & why I really came here this morning – concerns a conversation I had last week with my writing group sister, Janey. We were discussing the nature of magic & how, in authentic magical realism, the author asks only that her reader suspend disbelief. I wondered if it was sometimes a lot to ask & perhaps, I write for a fairly niche audience.
Alongside my sisters, mothers & daughters, I write so-called ‘witchy’ characters: wise women with one foot in the ‘normal’ world, the other on the threshold between the veil. Ordinary women who happen to have that wee something that sets them apart. An affinity with the natural world & a heritage connecting them to the Old Ways.
Janey made an astute & very smart observation. We live in a land steeped in magic, in myths & legends. Unlike almost anywhere else in the world, as a nation we Brits (Welsh, Irish, Scottish & English) have magic embedded in our history, our bloodlines & our collective psyche. We find it easy to believe in ghosts & spirits & the supernatural. We love a haunted house, a ghost story, a dragon & a faerie; we relish fantasy & myths brought to life in ways we can relate to. The huge success of the BBC drama series Merlin (2008-2012) is a terrific example.
Other, older ones, Janey pointed out, are numerous: from Mystery and Imagination (1966-1970) & Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers (1980s) to The Secret of Crickley Hall (2012) to the recent re-imagining of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. Documentaries & dramas – we love them equally. And if we don’t, it’s more often than not because we’re too scared to watch them!
Yes – skeptics abound – but I’m less concerned than I was a week ago. I shall continue writing my ‘wise women’ characters, place them in their odd cottages, twisty houses & magical gardens. Set them baking good spells into bread, stitching protective ones into curtains; healing with herbs & kindness. I shall write them wrapped in mystery & concealing clothes, allow them to conjure what enchantments they will.
The characters I conjure come from my own ancestral memory bank. Lili in Ghostbird & Mared, the grandmother in Snow Sisters. My own ‘disbelief’ is non-existent, frankly – I’ve been wandering between the veil since forever. Nothing to frighten the horses, but I know stuff & every now & then, it’s as real as breathing. And my characters know it too.