Here’s the latest in my series of Q and A sessions today, with a question from Lanna, a reader of my book from the USA. Many thanks to Lanna for the question and if you have anything to ask me about my book, writing generally, or indeed anything else then please ask in the comments below or let me know on Facebook or Twitter.
How did your imagination take such flight into that strange world? My trip through your book opened my thinking about how there are so many strange things we don’t understand. I felt it caused me to be lost in many things I often question, and wonder how the mind can often take us to places we don’t understand, but still have a grain of truth, and often question, what do we really know about the unknown?
Lanna from Washington Iowa
Thanks Lanna. The world of Song of the Sea God is strange isn’t it? Mind you, the world we live in can be pretty strange too. When I think about the book and the journey it takes us on I sometimes wonder myself how I got there. When I read a passage from the book it’s almost like it was written by someone else.
I think the answer lies in the fact that a book doesn’t come all at once, fully formed, it develops over time so that the ideas in it – and the plot, the characters and so on, build up over a period.
For example – in Song of the Sea God, I got myself to the point where I knew I had a character who wanted to be, or believed he was, a god. But, once your reach that point then you have to start asking yourself – how does he go about his job of ‘converting’ the local people? How would someone do that? So you look for ways he could persuade people.
And, of course, he wants to be a god – not just a here today, gone tomorrow, cult leader – so he has to do things which will leave a legacy – be talked about and mythologised after he has gone. So I needed him to leave his mark in some big ways – like building his temple on the shore for example.
Research plays a big part in something like this. I did a lot of reading around what various religions believe – ancient ones as much as those which are around today. I looked at the beliefs and traditions of the Celts for example, who were in Britain before the Romans came. And I leaned heavily on a book called the Golden Bough which is a vast collection of religious beliefs gathered from around the world.
Even my temple on the shore had it’s roots in research – I looked at ‘outsider art’ and the incredible fantasy structures and buildings some men have built – I based John Love’s temple on those.
But also, from very early on, I had the idea that I didn’t want the book to be straightforward in that it told everyone what to think about John Love. I didn’t want the reader to say – he’s just a magician fooling people – I wanted there to be some doubt. Was he really doing something spiritual and other-worldly or was it just smoke and mirrors?
And I wanted the world of the book to have one foot in reality, and the other in a kind of unreal world. So I made it quite real, but slightly strange.
Look at Bes, the narrator for example. I tried to make every aspect of Bes just about believable and physically possible. And yet, there’s still something unreal and other-worldly about Bes I think. I got the name from the Egyptian god Bes who was also dwarf and whose job it was to guard the home and keep snakes away from the fire – I thought that was very appropriate for the book.
So there we have it. I hope I managed to answer your question satisfactorily and thank you again for asking it!
If anyone else has a question about the book, or about my blog or writing in general then please ask away in the comments section and I will do my best to answer in a future blog post.
Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.