‘A Carpet of Purple Flowers’ is your wonderfully imaginative debut novel; have you written other fiction prior to this publication?
Only as a child, and then my stories would never be finished.
Up until around a year and a half ago, I lost myself in art projects, but found myself researching folklore more and more. Then one day, I decided to put all of the information gathered over the years into a story, and here we are. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, especially as I’ve never attempted writing of this magnitude in my life. Even formatting a manuscript had me in a spin! However, I fell in love with the fairy tale and its characters so much I had no choice but to listen to my muse and write. I became hooked. It still amazes me today that we can create an elaborate world simply from a collection of ideas. I must add, I have a new admiration for authors, having been through the process. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
Have you always been attracted to the fantasy genre?
Yes, it’s where magic exists, and we all love a bit of the magical don’t we? A little escapism from reality is a splendid thing. A brief respite from normal life.
Apart from fantasy, I also enjoy crime and psychological thrillers. Usually gangster related. I love Martina Cole’s characters, rough, gritty and raw. I think this explains why Brandon was created. A South London lad, a petty criminal, who becomes lost in drink and drugs. He brings a sense of reality to the magical elements. Each character has been created for a reason, even Fez, the Fennec fox. Though it might not appear obvious at this point in the story. None are wholly good, and none wholly bad. Each feel as if they’re doing what is right for them, selfish perhaps, but karma has a way of setting the balance right. *Winks*
I love that you have beings that are from two sects of a different world. What inspires you to create fantasy?
Childhood daydreams that refused to leave my heart. :o) We never had a television or a phone, so I would sit in my room and create fantastical worlds. I have a fascination for folklore and cross- referencing mythical information. Yup, crazy I know, but it lights up something within, and my imagination fires up! If I’m not writing, I’m researching.
In the book, I include elements of fantasy, but in a way that seems believable. So perhaps, it’s more magical realism than fantasy. I write as I see the story play out in my mind, blending genres, creating a story that refuses to slot into a specific box. This is why Urbane Publications felt like the right choice for me as a writer. A publisher that sees beyond genre labelling.
I’ve always thought of magic as a ‘feeling’. A spark that lifts the spirit, and to me, it is the strongest magic of all. I guess that’s why I’m a romantic, a romantic realist, if there can be such a thing. I believe in love, in all its forms, but remain very much aware that it can be an electrifying ride of both positives and negatives. This is where I write from.
As for fantasy inspiration, the beings in the book are inspired by many supernatural elements, but mainly the Tuatha Dé Danann, translated as people(s)/tribe(s) of the goddess Danu, who are thought to represent the main deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland. Also, the folklore of the Aos Si, a supernatural race in Irish and Scottish mythology, which I blend with other cultures myths and philosophies. I believe that many stories from all over the world stem from one original source, and this is where I draw my inspiration, from those similarities.
Bea is caught in a love triangle and a war. I felt sympathy for the two Otherworldly beings in her life: Karian and Chance. I realise you've touched on this above, but did you intend to create an ambiguous feel, or did you see it as a straight-forward good versus evil approach?
Oh, I most definitely wanted to create an ambiguous feel. You could read the book as a ‘normal’ love story, but there are layers if you care to look deeper. It is not an evil vs. good in any way, more a light vs. dark. Yin and Yang. We all have positive and negative personality traits, it’s what makes us interesting individuals with depth. Love is a perfect example of yin and yang. Where rational thinking goes out-of-the-window in matters of the heart. I suppose it depends greatly on the level of love/relationship.
Mistakes make us who we are, and I write my characters embracing these imbalances/flaws. I want them to grow, learn from each other through emotional hurt and joy, as we all do. People’s values/lifestyles differ on such a tremendous scale, and I wanted to portray this via my characters. Much in the same way that readers will relate to different aspects of the story, dependant on their perspective. Such as, Bea’s relationship with two men. How can she really be in love with two people? Why can’t she just choose between them? Hmm, but what if you have another person’s soul inside you? Can she truly be criticized for not being able to make rational choices, especially when everything around her is irrational? How would you stop ‘feeling’ the other soul? It would drive you crazy. Add to that, both men that she loves are not human and are on opposing sides of an old war, not of their creating, poor young Bea has a lot to contend with.
How can you be gentle, yet strong? How do you remain true to yourself when different people require different things from you? Bea has to find answers to some of these questions and more. Through the choices she makes, major changes are on the horizon.
I’ve also tried to create a story that subtly connects love in a more spiritual way, via Calageata (the elemental realm) visualization, fingertips, and Otherworldly meetings, of which none are accidental. It is all a part of a divine plan and in book two, the characters realise how deeply karma (Vororbla) has played a role in their lives, and the truth of how these characters relate is finally revealed. The question is… Do they have the power to change destiny, and would they want to?
I have mentioned my favourite moment in my review. Your idea of a fabricated reality disintegrating is steeped in gothic imagery. Have you been influenced by gothic literature?
Hmm, good question. Yes, I love gothic visuals/themes. Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop is a favourite. Dorian Gray. Bram Stoker's Dracula. Poe. Older fairy tales could also be classified as having a rather gothic feel, which I enjoy. Blending dark, melancholic tones with light. I guess that’s why I wrote that particular scene in this manner. I wanted to create a strong, dark transition, a peeling away of unquestioned reality. How a lie feels outside of itself.
A favourite quote used in the book by the famous English travel writer, H.V. Morton, who visited Menteith Lake in the 1930s wrote:
"Far in the middle of the lake was a low greyness that rose and fell in queer shadows, as though the once holy isle of Inchmahome was built up out of lake water like a mirage.”
Although he is not a gothic writer, this section describing the lake really grabbed me. Contrast is important in writing and I wanted to capture that essence.
Your novel has a sense of completeness to it but there is clearly scope for more. I was delighted to see you are working on a sequel. When is it due out?
Thank you, Shirley. Yes, ‘A Carpet of Purple Flowers’ is a part of a much bigger story. One which spans over different eras. A karmic cycle that, until resolved, will continue to cause mayhem in people’s lives.
This epic tale will be explained over three books, a trilogy, but Bea’s part is told within the first two, which I’m in the process of writing - ‘Awake in Purple Dreams’. Fingers crossed, it will hopefully be released this autumn 2016.
Rest assured, unresolved questions will be answered in book two. ‘A Carpet of Purple Flowers’ is really an introduction to a different world and its people. ‘Awake in Purple Dreams’ is the middle, and ‘The Purple Book of Menteith’, the end of that particular tale.
I also intend to write a fourth novel, a stand-alone, pre-history of this other world - ‘The Butterfly Bridge’. This was actually the original story that introduced itself, long before ‘A Carpet of Purple Flowers’.
You can read a little more here
I am in the process of writing ‘Claíomh Solais’ (Shining Sword), possibly a novella, to accompany ‘Awake in Purple Dreams’, which happened quite by accident the other day. A character just decided they wanted their story heard and I listened. :o)
A big thank you, Shirley, for your kindness in giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts here. It’s been a wonderful, reflective experience.
Thank you, Trace! It has been fascinating insight into your novel, the cross-referencing mythical background to it, and the folklore inspirations that helped to create it.
Interview with Tracey-anne McCartney
It is my pleasure to welcome the talented Urbaneite, Tracey-anne McCartney over to my website. Her debut novel, 'A Carpet of Purple Flowers', is a sumptuous read.