Cue out of focus and wavery lines signifying going back in time…. way, way, way back to an era when gigantic sloths and Raquel Welch stalked the earth….
Yes…way back through the misty, murky roils to pre-history, where a group of Homo Sapiens huddled by a crackling fire in the centre of a cave. Someone passed around tasty snacks of charred gnu knuckle and hollowed out cranium bowls full of walnuts for those who still had some teeth. They waited for the main feature of the evening’s entertainment, having exhausted the pleasures of walnut shell flicking at the old and weak. Any minute, a wizened old shaman would appear from the dark shadows at the back, rattling a pair of blood-spattered badger skull maracas to maximise dramatic impact.
Wearing an absurdly large Jamiroquai stylee hat of buffalo fur complete with horns, her body festooned in antler and bone accessories and face plastered with far too much natural pigment makeup, she took up her place and began to weave a chilling tale to the enraptured audience. Well, captured audience, no one could vote with their feet and leave, what with the haunted dark and prowling sabre tooth tigers outside the cave. And possibly Raquel Welch.
The shaman was me in a past life incarnation. I’d tell of the valiant hero Grugg who saved his tribe from the terrifying forest demons. With a wicked twist at the end. And a gay subplot about his unrequited love for a handsome warrior from a neighbouring, hostile tribe. Even in a past life, I am nothing less than consistent.
I mention all this because of a recent conversation I had with my father. Once my greatest supporter, at 81, he is a recently retired Fleet Street journalist, multi award-winning and once a well known face on telly. He has also published three books, all non-fiction. The other day we had a conversation that made it clear how wide the gap had widened between us.
‘Nobody could have worked harder,’ he said with the chilling calm I recognised as leading somewhere uncomfortable and confrontational, ‘your books are excellent, your writing superb. But you haven’t made any money. Not even a pittance. So time to knock it on the head and move on…try something else…. hamster keeping?’
How did I defend my life to a man who would never write a word without knowing exactly how much he would get paid? To him, it seemed an act of sheer lunacy to launch off into a project of say 100,000 words with no reassurance anyone would publish it. Ever. Nor would a man of such down to earth practicality and old fashioned pragmatism understand airy fairy concepts like ‘writing is my life. It is what defines me as a person. Writing is the insanity that keeps me sane. Writing is an exorcism for my soul…’ That sort of thing.
Well, sorry Dad. Other people can keep hamsters, cute as they are. Hopefully implement my idea of hamster powered, eco friendly power stations. Those determined, highly focused little blighters keep running all night in their wheels. So much wasted energy. Imagine a million hamster-watt power source. Half running by night, the rest tricked into thinking day was night for the late shift. As long as they had plenty of sunflower seeds and their wheels were kept well oiled, and they didn’t join the militant arm of UGG (Union of Gerbils and Guinea pigs) how could it fail?
Under the flickering light of hamster power, I will continue to write because I love telling stories. Always have and always will. I have no interest in striving for literary plaudits, I have no desire to challenge the intellect or educate my readers. My novels will not haunt people forever with their stark imagery and tragic story lines. I am a straight-forward entertainer first and last. There is nothing else in life I want to do.
As my poor son learnt from an early age. Bedtime stories were problematical. Bored with conventional books, he made the mistake of asking me to make up stories for him. As ever I was drawn to the dark side. At one point, I think he was about six, he looked up at me with big blue eyes and pleaded, ‘ Mum…please. Could I just have a story about a fluffy bunny hopping about in a field? No wolves. No eagles. No monsters.’
Oops. I’ve traumatised my own child with unknown future dire consequences.
A few years later, thank goodness he thinks it is cool to have a pagan witch author for a mum. Recently, he even wrote a ghost story for creative writing homework that was both original and chilling. Perhaps the apple hadn’t fallen so far from the tree after all. I haven’t mentioned that to my dad. Let him still think the lad wants to be a music teacher.
So even if financial rewards and industry awards continue to elude me, even if I never get that big money contract or the heady, delirious delight of a film deal, I will write on. I am blessed with a growing, enthusiastic readership, people seem to like the stories I weave from brief, fleeting flashes of inspiration from my wayward Muse. One who likes to disappear and party far too often, especially when I need to work on a sequel. When I pop my clogs, please no cremation. I want to be buried with wind up battery light, a notepad and pen…just in case a good idea comes along. It might even involve hamsters.
I’ll shut up and get my coat…
Raven Dane is an Irish/Welsh writer currently living in the Chilterns, UK with her family and menagerie of equally eccentric pets. Author of the well received dark fantasy series, Legacy of the Dark Kind, she has also published the BFS award nominated funny fantasy, The Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire with Endaxi Press and several contributions to short story anthologies and a collection of pagan poetry.
Endaxi will publish her latest novel, first of a steampunk series, Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron, this September. She has recently finished an alternative history/supernatural novel and is working on a contemporary urban ghost story and Blood Legend, the next in the Legacy series. .