Friday, 26 September 2014

Long, Long Ago...

Art by Jen Delyth

The past few months have been chaotic. Relocating back to Rwanda, setting up a company, writing reports and catching up with friends.

Finally I have a couple of weeks to myself and I am settled into a lovely house with a garden, vegetable plot, a nice view and my own, quiet, office. The perfect setting for my mind to return to writing.

I've tentatively started on my next novel, a story of long, long ago. I've written about the 1930s in Australia, the 1850s in Iran, and now I'm tackling the Iron Age in Ireland. Retelling an ancient legend in a modern way. 

It's a story I have always loved, and one which lends itself very well to a new approach, but it is also one that requires a great deal of research. The further back in time you go, the harder that research becomes, especially when exploring the Tuatha Dé Danann, whose stories intertwine but rarely follow a coherent timeline.

The fact that so little is written or know is, on the one hand, quite helpful. It leaves a large amount of space for poetic license and filling in the empty gaps with imaginative subplots. On the other hand, it means that what is written is often quite academic, and the danger of blundering into an impossibility become quite high, as mentioned in my post on Celtic candlelight.

Back when I was researching Angorichina, I really used to enjoy this part of the process: looking at old photo archives, reading medical journals and personal accounts. Rosy Hours, too, was fun to investigate. However, I'm not enjoying it quite so much this time. It's such a distant age that there is very little to look at beyond academic articles, museum artifacts and Time Team documentaries on YouTube. There are no photographs from the time, or personal accounts. The timeline is confusing, the characters ambiguous, and the language and its etymology hard to interpret. The romanticism that makes this an attractive age for a setting seems lost beneath weighty resources.

I will spend a few weeks going through as much as I can. To me, the best fiction isn't real, but it could be real. I like to stay as close to what is known as possible to give the story, and its characters, a world that is plausible; to allow them to live in such a way that seems natural to them. But beyond a certain point, it is the story, rather than history itself, that must take hold. We are, after all, storytellers, not historians. Our skill lies in breathing magic back into dry academia.

I shan't blog the process in the way I did with Rosy Hours, as it's likely to prove fairly similar, but I will post the occasional update and excerpt.

Let us lose ourselves in the Feast of Age and the aos sí.

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