I first encountered Walter William Melnyk through his collaboration with Emma Restall Orr in The Apple and The Thorn. Hearing he has a new book out – The Marsh Tales, I was keen to read (they are great, proper review at www.druidnetwork.org)
Bryn: First up then. This is your second book (that I know of) set around the marshes that once surrounded modern Glastonbury. From the way you write, it seems to be very much in your blood, so I wondered what your personal experience of it has been? Given it’s a landscape that isn’t strictly speaking there anymore.
Bill: I first visited Glastonbury in July of 2003 when I led a ritual for Christians and Druids at Stonehenge. I had recently become a Companion of the Chalice Well, so my wife and I stayed in the new lodge and spent much time in the gardens in the quiet of the evening. I was impressed by the bold power of the Tor, but was even more moved by the quiet power of the springs, and felt an immediate kinship with the surrounding Somerset levels. As I began to visit the ancient marshes through the eyes and memory of Eosaidh during the writing of The Apple and the Thorn I began to feel a sense of “coming home,” although I had never lived there before. In this life. The dark mystery of the old marshes sank deep into my heart and touched something that certainly was already there. I have to believe that some old part of me once knew the marshes as home. Perhaps there is a memory of ancient worlds in all of us.
Bryn: And what drew you to Eiosaidh? Is it that he is stood between the Christian world and the Druid one, or are there other things in his story that speak to you?
Bill: Eosaidh and I are not the same person, but there is a great deal of autobiography in his character. He is very much a product of his own traditions, yet he has seen enough of the wide world over many years to know that truth is broader, deeper, more profound, and much more elusive than any one person, or any one people, can imagine. But, more importantly, he knows that human relationship is more deeply important than matters of dogma or ideology. This is certainly true in his relationship with his crucified nephew, as well as with the woman who lies beneath the persona of the Lady of Affalon. In my best moments I hope I am a little like Eosaidh.
Bryn: Was The Apple and the Thorn your first foray into fiction writing, or have you done other books before?
Bill: The Apple and the Thorn was my first novel. I’d published some poetry previously (and “The Promise of all Living” is a book of poems currently available on Amazon.) It was originally intended to be a non-fiction exploration of the connection between early Celtic Christianity and pre-Christian Celtic spirituality. But I thought no one would read that, so I decided to tell a story instead, and invited Emma to join me in the project.
Bryn: Are you working on anything at the moment?
Bill: Now that “Marsh Tales and Other Wonders” is in print, I am beginning work on adapting “The Apple and the Thorn” into a screen play. It’s my first venture into that genre, but I think the tale would work well on screen. I have four outlines for novels, but haven’t yet decided which one to go with. Right now I’m spending a lot of time walking in the woods with Rudy, our Schnoodle.
Bryn: That’s a very exciting prospect. I can also imagine it working well on radio, there are such strong voices there. Who do you like to read?
Bill: Thanks for the kind words. Of course I love reading my collaborator, Emma Restall Orr. JRR Tolkien and Marion Zimmer Bradley have been great inspirations for me. Also Diana Gabaldon (The Outlander series), and Terry Pratchett.
Bryn: Where can people find you online?
Bill: www.TheAppleandtheThorn.com Also on Facebook under William Melnyk and Walter William Melnyk.