It’s funny how writing happens. Most of the writers I know tend to feel they are written by their stories rather than that they write the stories straight, of themselves. Artists, dancers and musicians I know say the same thing … when you’ve done a really good performance it’s as though the music, or the dance, character or picture, played you rather than you played it. I find the same with stories – they write me.
Oh, I have to work, work like hell, maybe for months or years, before the mix in the cauldron is sufficiently potent to bubble and boil itself into life. When this happens the three drops of inspiration leap out onto my thumb and I suck them up … to quote the story of Taliesin and Ceridwen. Ceridwen got Gwion Bach to stir her cauldron for a year and a day – the magical thirteen moon-months plus the one extra day that carries all. I often have to spend longer than this finding the ingredients for a story’s cauldron. Even when I think I’ve done that bit, I then have to stir it for the year and a day (at least!) to cook it all up into a good stew. And there’s always ingredients I’ve forgot, or that I put in when I shouldn’t. You never get it right first, second or even fiftieth time. The book continues to grow and change even when I’ve nearly finished it … as I have now.
Writing is hard work, I said that already but it’s worth saying again. It isn’t about “wanting to be a writer”, or not for me anyway. I am a writer. It’s what I do, whether I get paid for it or not and mostly one doesn’t! But I can’t not do it, not and stay sane, want to live. It’s what I do, it’s my life. The stories come, badger me, tease me, push me, keep me awake, make me dream. They’re there all the time, whether I’m gardening, watching TV, on Facebook, washing up, cooking, driving, cuddling the cats. All the time. I have to give them voice or they suck my life away.
The latest result is The Moon’s Song. It’s a reworking of the old love story of Tristan and Isoldé set in the twenty-first century, not long after “nine-eleven” and the beginning of the “war on terror” but that’s not what the story is about. It’s about a woman’s search for a song that was lost when the singer died unexpectedly, her struggle to birth it and her love for two men, each different yet both deeply connected to each other.
Isoldé comes from the Belfast of the Troubles. She’s run away from the Falls Road to become a journalist in London. Then Nine-Eleven happens and London becomes far too like the Belfast she grew up in. She gets an offer to move down to the west country, to work with an old boyfriend and there, she meets the internationally famous organist Mark King. There is instant magnetism between them. She finds that not only is Mark the love of her life but he is the adopted brother of Tristan Talorc, the famous Celtic singer and songwriter she has admired all her life.
She goes to live with Mark at Caergollo, Tristan’s old house and now Mark’s since Tristan’s death. There they find that Tristan died too soon, before he finished his last song. And she learns that the faer folk want her to find the song so that the cycle can be completed.
On the nights of the full moon the lost land of Lyonesse, the Isles of the Dead, appears on the horizon like a low cloud-land. The moon lays down a sliver pathway between it and the everyday world. Isoldé must cross the moon-bridge, find Tristan and the song, bring them back to the world.
I’ve put a taster up here for you to enjoy :-). This writing has certainly been an eye-opener for me, the story’s taken me places I didn’t know it wanted to go when I began. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey … and learned a lot myself too. I hope you enjoy it as well. Let me know …
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NOTES – The Isle of the Dead is associated with pre-Christian Celtic mythology and occurs as a theme in a number of European countries. In Britain, it is thought to be either a translation of the Welsh word “Annwn” for the underworld or an extant geographical feature of Britain. Sometimes also called the “Fortunate Isles” and the Isles of the Blest”, the land is also known as Lyonesse in Cornwall, Lundy Island off the coast of Devon and Ys off the coast of Brittany. Wikipedia has lots on them under their various titles, includng Elysium or the Apple Isle – a name that conjures up Britain as one of the best places in the world for growing apples.
Caergollo is a corruption of the Cornish for “Golden House” – this was a name given to one of Kong Mark’s castles, most usually the lesser one above fowey known as Castle Dor about which Daphne du Maurier wrote an interesting novel. I’ve placed Caergollo near Mark’s main court, the huge castle and trading port of Tintagel, the house being one where my father lived between the wars in Rocky Valley, an old mill now fallen into disrepair.
The picture is of the Stack out on the Island at Tintagel, with a moon-shot added – by me. Copyright Elen Sentier 2009.
If you want to buy it, it should be out on Lulu in time for Midwinter.