Guest Blogger: Andrew Richardson
The two questions I get asked most about ‘The Wood’ are; ‘How did I get the idea?’, and ‘How does the story tie in with Celtic myths?’ I’m grateful to Carole for inviting me over here, which gives me a chance to answer both questions at the same time! And thank you, Carole, for the sparkling review. I really think you grasped what I wanted the story to do.
The general idea of having a party of adventurers trying to avoid nasties isn’t new. It’s been done everywhere, from ‘Alien’, to ‘The Descent’ (a personal favourite) to Dungeons and Dragons games that everybody except me seemed to play when I was a teenager. I wanted to write something where the characters were fighting their way along narrow passages, in the same way as in these films and games. But I wanted to come up with an original scenario, too.
I used to be an archaeologist and the Celts have always fascinated me, so it was natural that I’d look here for inspiration. I suppose it’s also why a lot of my characters are archaeologists or historians.
I’ve always throught the Celtic myths and legends provide huge and largely untapped potential for writers. The different stories interpret beasts and places differently, so that the writer has a unique opportunity to choose whichever facts fit the story he wants to tell! In fact, it’s possible to plot a story outline and then find Celtic ‘facts’ to base it around later! The Celtic Otherworld, for example, can be anything from identical to our own world, to a land of evil and dead spirits. Naturally, I used the unpleasant sort in ‘The Wood’!
A lot of writers use the ‘headline’ Celtic myths for their background. King Arthur is probably the perfect example, but there are also less well known stories of fairies, gods, monsters, love and war that can provide the basis of almost any type of story. A lot are set in real locations that can still be visited – my previous novel, ‘Andraste’s Blade’, was for the most part set in places I know well.
I also think the Celtic myths are more gentle and subtle than stories from some other cultures. The Viking and Germanic myths, for example, seem to be based on war and the power of might. Yes, war and power play a part in the Celtic equivalents, but the stories also serve to explain some of the features in the British and Irish Countryside through clever stories with intriguing twists which I’ve found great inspiration.
Anyway, back to ‘The Wood’. The Celts treated the head as almost sacred, believing it housed the soul. Archaeology and myth both seem to confirm that heads were used in ceremonies – warriors used to collect enemy heads as trophies. A line of skulls acting as some sort of fence doesn’t come straight from the history books, but is certainly plausible. And, of course, a line of heads on sticks is a great horror image!
So, what would the line of heads protect my travellers from? Well, evil was the obvious choice! I’ve always been fascinated by pine woods. They are dark and unmoving, and bare and stark where they lack undergrowth. Pine forests have an atmosphere of ancient stillness, as if the trees don’t want visitors trespassing in their domain. It was this feeling of the wood being a single, living evil entity, rather than individual trees and animals, that I particularly wanted to get across in ‘The Wood’.
With the skulls and the malevolent pine trees, my forest seemed to me to have ‘horror’ stamped across it before I even started typing. I just hope my readers agree!
The Wood is available from Amazon.com, and as an e-book from Eternal Press
Find out more about Andrew Richardson at his website