Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Writing under siege by wildlife – Lari Don

I’ve spent most of the last few months, winter and spring, working on the last two books in my Spellchasers trilogy. And due to the inevitable noise and increasingly late bedtimes of the teenagers with whom I share my small terraced house, I’ve done most of that work in the garden shed.

But not on my own. Despite going out there for peace and quiet, I am never alone in my shed.
My small wooden box

The magical world I’ve created in the Spellchasers trilogy is about human beings shapeshifting into animals and birds (and even a few creepy crawlies, in the final book) so the constant presence of creatures in and around my writing space has been occasionally inspiring and sometimes a bit threatening.

My shed backs onto a tree-lined path, so there is almost constant birdsong, which is always lovely. But there are also occasional quarrelling and swooping crows. The baddie in the trilogy is called Corbie (Scots for crow) and he is often aided by his flock of curse-hatched crows. So the clamour and flurry of crows just a few feet away from me as I sit in a thin wooden box has sometimes felt quite threatening, especially when I am in the midst of helping my heroines and heroes defeat a flock of crows. Do they know what I’m writing, I wonder? Are they annoyed about it? Are they about to fly in here? Will they ambush me when I leave?

A helpful cat
Then there are the cats, and the dogs. Both animals feature in the trilogy, usually as a danger to my heroine Molly, who is a part-time hare and an occasional mouse. My own cats regularly try to distract me from writing by lying on manuscripts and draping tails over keyboards. And their wet and muddy pawprints (a cat walking into a shed from a rainy garden and jumping straight onto pg 121, leaves impressive pawprints) can be quite atmospheric in a scene about a girl being stalked by a predator... The cats next door often tap dance, noisily and surprisingly, on the shed roof. And dogs, barking in neighbouring gardens,or being walked on the path behind, can be equally surprising for both me and Molly, especially as her transformations are triggered by the sound of predators.

And then there are the insects, creepy crawlies and mini beasts. I don’t mind the slaters (Scots for woodlice) or the ants or the daddy longlegs or the little beetles with shiny wingcases (in fact, I found a minor role for those jewel-like beetles in the third book, the Witch’s Guide to Magical Combat.) I find the persistence of wasps trying to build their nests in my shed, from the scraped off wood OF my shed, rather admirable - though I do discourage them quite firmly. But I don’t like the spiders. In fact I’m terrified of spiders. I have to check the shed for spiders every single day before sitting down to write. And they still appear. Above my head or in the dark corners... And that constant fear of the suddenly lurking spiders informs every dangerous and tense scene in my adventures.

I’ve not been visited by a toad, wyrm, kelpie or sphinx, but the final book in the Spellchasers trilogy doesn’t go to printer until next month, so there's still time!

So, the wildlife in and around my writing space has definitely added to the writing experience, and influenced the content of my trilogy.

And now that I’m nearly done, I wonder what I will write next, and whether it will contain birdsong, barks and pawprints.

I’m fairly sure there won’t be any spiders. Not as characters, anyway. They may be present as a lingering sense of danger though, lurking in the corners of everything I write...

Do other authors feel that where they write influences what they write?

Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers. 

No comments: