A Great Convergence

Original rood painting/relief at St Mary's, Breamore

I love this stage of a book so much, when isolated ideas start to attract each other like magnets, and the space between them gets churned up with the movement and exposes new and unexpected ideas. Tuesday was almost a perfect day for me. It started with peanut butter on toast and hot tea for breakfast (okay, that’s what I have every day, but still…), then we drove out to West Kennet long barrow and went inside a neolithic tomb, then we went to Avebury and wandered around standing stones, then just as we pulled up back at our cottage it started snowing (zomg!). This was all followed by an afternoon reading, celebrating my son losing his front tooth, and finally a long writing session where a whole bunch of ideas came together beautifully and I surprised myself by completely changing the direction of my narrative with one small detail and oh oh oh I can’t tell you any more than that save to say I’m pretty bloody excited.

Phew.

The 10th-century Exeter Book, open to the first lines of the poem Widsith

Being here in England has been incredibly inspiring. I have been chasing Anglo-Saxon sites all over the south of England, because that’s roughly the time period my story is drawing ideas from. After the British Museum and Sutton Hoo, I went to the recreated Anglo-Saxon village at West Stow and sat in a little wooden hut with an open hearth pit and no chimney and realised just how smoky life was. On the way down to Rye to meet friends, we detoured to Maldon and sneaked down a muddy side road on somebody’s farm to see the site where the famous battle took place in 991. To see the causeway at low tide, and imagine the vikings just over there on Northey Island while Byrthnot and his army waited, blew my mind. Then I heard about a pre-conquest church at Breamore, just south of Salisbury, so we stopped there on the way up to Wiltshire. It was incredible, with original long-and-short brickwork, splayed windows, an original relief of Christ on his rood, and an Old English inscription above the door. Today, we stopped off in Exeter to view the Exeter Book at the cathedral library (“The Wanderer”, my favourite Old English poem, is in it; along with many other very famous works). We found our way into the bowels of the building and some lovely volunteers got out the keys, with all due gravitas, and unlocked what looked like some kind of nuclear-holocaust-resistant cabinet. Under glass, there it was, open to the front page of “Widsith”.

Can you see how hard I'm working? By the picture window in our cottage in Wiltshire.

And all of it, all of it, seeping into my imagination and making things grow madly like they grow in jungles. Vines. Monkeys. The lot. (Note: the monkeys are metaphorical; there are no monkeys in my book).

Thyrsland isn’t England. I know that now. I am writing fantasy, not historical fiction. I’m not researching for facts, I’m researching for inspiration. Many people have drawn inspiration from medieval things for their fantasy, so my ethics of medieval inspiration is as follows: I promise to use Anglo-Saxon ideas carefully, coherently, and lovingly; while always remembering that a story does not exist to keep finnicky purists from writing letters of complaint. A story exists because a writer got passionate-and-crazy-mad for some wild shit and just couldn’t stop herself from writing about it.

8 responses to “A Great Convergence

  1. You sound like a kid at a real dream world.   
    You look like a young teen with permissive parents who let you have wine. 
    You are letting me have a vacation through your eyes. Thanks. 

    You you you. Now let’s talk about me: 
    Me’d like to see monkeys.  

  2. Gorgeous! Thanks so much for sharing. Glad everything’s coming together. Can’t wait to read about the monkeys😉 Have a wonderful Christmas.

  3. “passionate-and-crazy-mad for some wild shit and just couldn’t stop herself from writing about it”

    You rock Kim. Seriously. I love how you get that emotion of yours down on the page with such clarity and transparency.

    And you do soooo look like a teenager perched by the window with your vino…

    Feels like something big brewing in you! Can’t wait to read it ALL.

  4. Kim
    I’m jealous – you’re in my old stomping ground! While you’re there, if you have time, you must go to Uffington White Horse and Waylands Smithy – you’ll love it!

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