Please excuse my excitement. (And the interruption to Fairytale Reflections, which will be back next week.)
The fact is I’m jumping up and down, because my home-made booktrailer for my fourth book, ‘Dark Angels’ (US title ‘The Shadow Hunt’) went up on Youtube yesterday. To celebrate, I’m launching a COMPETITION to win three signed copies of ‘Dark Angels’. All you have to do to enter, is view the trailer and leave a comment about it either on Youtube or here on the blog. Look out also for a parallel competition on twitter. Both will run until next Friday, August 12th, when there’ll be a draw for the winners.
The book is set on and around the sinister, atmospheric Shropshire hill which in real life is called ‘Stiperstones’(and is pictured at the top of my blog). In my book I renamed it ‘Devil’s Edge.’ The real hill has a formation of rocks on the crest known as The Devil’s Chair: the legend goes that the Devil comes to sit in it when the mist descends on the hill (so you’d better beware); and if anyone else sits in it, an immediate thunderstorm will break out. I took the liberty of changing this slightly:
Wolf took another glance at the ridge. Up on the very top, he had heard there was a road. A road leading nowhere, a road no one used. For if anyone was so bold as to walk along it, especially at night, he’d hear the clamour of hounds and the blowing of horns, the cracking of whips and the rumbling of a cart. And out of the dark would burst the Devil’s own dog pack, dashing beside a black wagon drawn by goats with fiery eyes, crammed full of screaming souls bound for the pits of hell.
So off I went to Shropshire with a notebook and camera. We stayed, in case anyone is interested, in the quaint little market town of Bishop’s Castle, and we tramped over Stiperstones in rain, in mist, and in sweeping wind. We visited a wolf sanctuary set in a narrow little valley – it began to snow as we descended the steep track, and I’ll never forget the snow falling precipitously past the dark serried ranks of fir trees, and the wolves howling in the winter landscape. We climbed the grassy mound which is all that’s left of the 11th century Montgomery stronghold of Hen Domen – the motte and bailey castle replaced by the stone fortress at Montgomery. Neither were right for the filming: in the end we chose the oldest parts of nearby Stokesay Castle.
And on a later trip, courtesy of a Shropshire mining and caving club, we crawled into the tight dark passages of an abandoned Roman copper mine, which became the entrance to elfland in my book. It was very narrow and low: we went in on hands and knees: at one point you had to lie down. I’m not good in narrow spaces, so this shows what I will do in the interests of research. I wanted the underground sequences in my book to be truly authentic: I wanted the reader to feel as pinched and constrained as I was. The cave is called Ogof Llanymynech and may go as far back as the Bronze Age. A hoard of Roman coins was found there in 1965. (I love the sense of deep time in the British landscape.)
So the landscape of my story is a patchwork of real locations pieced together, recognisable as the Welsh Marches, but renamed and reshaped so that I had the freedom of fiction as well as – I hope – a sense of real history and place.
Writing the script for the trailer was almost like composing a poem: distilling the essence of a 65,000 word book into 100 words. In fact the whole process was very like making poetry, trying to combine evocative words, imagery and sound. Anyway, here you can see all the elements I wove together in the book. The stark skyline of ‘Devil’s Edge’, the rough moorland, the lonely castle, the claustrophobic darkness of the mine. Listen carefully and you may even hear wolves.
My thanks to Richard Hughes of the band We Are Goose, who composed and performed the haunting music, and edited and assembled the film.