4.12.11 | By: Megan Langham

Welsh Discoveries

So I was going to write a post about the wrap-up of NaNoWriMo and what it taught me about my pressing need for closure and my emotional involvement with my own stories, but before I could begin it I was tagged by Jenny (and afterwards Keaghan). This tag involves answering questions about a work-in-progress so that one's friends/readers/mildly interested acquaintances might have their curiosity satisfied. It looked to be an exceptionally well-done tag, and I was eager to fill it out—only I couldn't decide which novel to use. This blog has been drenched with Days of Entwining ever since October, and while I have several other side projects in the works, I've come to the conclusion that, for now, the world of Volunteer Mission is my home world. Days of Entwining has been a wonderful experience, and I do plan to finish it in time, but it's Evan's story that must take precedence. (And no, he isn't standing over me with a knife to my throat forcing me to say that. Really. He isn't.)

There you are, then. My most urgent goals are to finish Volunteer Mission (I'm so close—so close) and while I'm editing it, plan out either the sequel or the prequel or both. I'm not quite sure which I'll write first; the deciding inspiration will come to me when it's needed, I suppose!

volunteer mission (evan's story)

1. Who are the main characters?

Evan is the Mainest, followed closely by Selwin. Rhys, Glynnis, and Margery all have their own POV scenes, and I'd say they fall at about that level of relative importance; each of them will have prominent places in the sequel. Lord Iorweth and Rhoyna, while not exactly major characters, each have a more than major effect on the story; Lord Iorweth in particular pervades each chapter with his mysterious presence. Without him there would be no plot and little pain.

2. How did you get the idea for this story? 

I made a blog post on this quite a while back. It wasn't just one idea but rather a whole pack of them, converging on me all at once and practically forcing the story from my pencil. And then when I thought I'd finished it up all nice and tidily I found there was more—enough for a book—and then when I gave in to that realisation I found I'd sold my soul to it. Yes, this is a horror story of sorts. Or a love story, if you like: there's a fine line between the two.

3. What genre is this story? 

Historical fiction. There is a hint of the fantastical throughout it, though: faint, but still visible.

4. Describe your book in three thoughts: 

Old sins cast long shadows. Death dogs love’s footsteps. Whether or not you’re spilling blood, Evan, you’ll always be at war.

5. The bit that describes an obscure piece of real life best:

Oddly drawn by the candle’s eerie flicker, Evan moved closer. Inside the tent there was nothing but silence, and silence of such a dark and heavy quality that it seemed to take on a personality of its own: as if the tent were not deserted, as if the walls were guarded by ghosts… 

6. The funniest line said by a side-character thus far: 

“I would come with you,” said Generys, “but I’m afraid to leave the children too long alone with Llygad. He gets so absorbed in his whittling here that he’d take no notice if one of them tumbled into the fireplace, screaming all the way.”

7. Your favourite piece of description:

They were standing on the outskirts of the village, underneath a grove of birch trees that lifted proud and flaming heads against the pale early-morning sky. The breeze caressed Selwin’s hair with pensive gentleness; the dew on the ground sparkled and reflected the green tips of a thousand grass-stems.

8. Your biggest fear in the writing of this story: 

My biggest fear is that it will never be finished. No, not really; I know I'll finish it. I suppose my real dread is that the emotion I'm trying to convey will come across as melodramatic and obscure the message. I don't want to get in the way of my own story.

9. Last full sentence you wrote: 

He had been hurt so often by Evan’s callous bitterness that he had wanted to give up—indeed, several times he had given up, but after each time he had come pitifully back, drawn by Evan’s obvious need.

10. Favourite character thus far: 

The obvious answer to this is Selwin, and among all my characters he's the dearest to me, but the more I think about this the more I realise that I can't choose one favourite character from this story. I even love the prattish ones. (Well, not love, but you know.) Glynnis and Rhys are special to me because they are so good: the quiet, gentle sort of people who work in the background and keep their own sorrow hidden. Margery and Rhoyna are unlikely tragic characters, in their own ways, and of all that rag-tag bunch they are probably the easiest to understand. Then there's Lord Iorweth, whose presence is the most powerful; Huw, who trails him like a pale shadow; Philip, who's always ready with a witty word and a steady hand at the right moment; Elena, who is mysterious and capable; a good many other characters whose details I'll spare you; and of course Evan. It is his story after all. And I love him in spite of the fact that he's got a knife to my throat.

11. What books have been written or have you read that are similar in style and flavour to your novel?

Edith Pargeter's The Brothers of Gwynedd quartet is set during the same time period and her writing style is similar to mine, though she tends much more towards the descriptive and poetical. Mary Stewart's writing, particularly in her Arthurian trilogy, shares a certain quality with my own: our characters are drawn a bit alike, and we convey emotion in a similar way. As it happens, I hadn't read either of these authors until Volunteer Mission was nearly finished; but there is one other book that I believe has influenced me in this area, and that is C. S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. The plots aren't the same, and neither is the style, not really... but there's something that seems to have bled over from Lewis' story to mine, somehow. I don't know that I can explain it clearly.

12. If it was destined to become a book on tape, who would you wish to read it?

Tom Hiddleston, because his voice is enchanting and his sense of drama is perfect. (This question hadn't crossed my mind before, but now that I've considered it I'm going to hear every sentence I write in Hiddles' voice. Bother That.)

“It was a death song,” said Rhys, thoughtfully. 
“And this, that touched you, it is a bloody song of battle.
 But still it is good poetry, and more than good poetry. 
It is piercing pain and purest pleasure, as all true poetry ought to be. 
I think that in the midst of battle there is nothing but blood and terror and wishing to be sick—
at least for me, there is nothing more—
but afterwards the poets can take that agony and frame it in words 
and make from it something beautiful and great and glorious. 
That, I believe, will last forever.”

(P. S. I'm not tagging anybody with this post because everybody I was considering tagging has already been tagged. That's what happens when you're late to the party, I suppose! I've heartily enjoyed reading everyone else's posts, though. You're all so talented.)

3 missives:

Keaghan said...

Lovely job, Megan! Why is it that we love all of our characters, regardless of how ill-behaved they are? It sometimes feels as if we've sewn bits of our own hearts into theirs, and, no matter how much we wish we could hate them, we can't.

Your bit about "you'll always be at war" sent such a clear idea, a vivid theme.

And your style of imagery and poetic word choice is beautiful!

I cannot wait to hear more about Volunteer Mission!


Rachel Heffington said...

I was loving this post, Megan, and then I read the ending bit about battle and that sealed it for me. Well done, girlie! :) I love it!

Megan Langham said...

Keaghan - It's so strange, that half-fond, half-resentful author/character relationship... I love it, though it confuses me. And thanks for your sweet words. I was a little afraid that by now all my readers might be utterly sick of hearing about Volunteer Mission; it's good to know that not everybody is. ;)

Rachel - Thank you! I'm glad you liked that bit. It was an afterthought, but I think it managed to express much of what I feel about this story--though of course I'd never call myself a poet.

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