As you probably already know, writers get up to all sorts of mischief. We are born troublemakers. You have only to think about the authors self-promoting on Twitter, Facebook, and the book chats to see what I mean. It’s how we avoid working on our books when things aren’t going well or we’re temporarily fed up! I suspect restlessness must be afoot once more because I’ve been tagged in a blogging game by two of my writer friends, Lucinda Elliot and Mari Biella. The game entails answering questions about a novel in progress. With people coming at me from all sides, I need to get a move on, so here goes!
What is the working title of your book?
I’m currently working on five novels but will focus on The Salt Wizard for the game. Why do I have five books underway at the same time? Well, I didn’t plan it that way. In my early years as a writer, every time I became badly stuck, I started another book! As it happened, this mad scheme eventually matured into a conscious technique. Having a number of novels going at the same time gives me something interesting to beaver away at, no matter what. Now I swap back and forth among the novels as mood and opportunity allow. Lately, I have become serious about finishing something and getting it out there, so I’m concentrating on The Salt Wizard.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
By trial and error, I found that I can’t resist working personal psychological and philosophical themes into my novels. In fact, “message” shipwrecked my early efforts when the desire to say something got in the way of writing what were originally straightforward commercial stories. Each of my books deals with the set of ideas I was exploring when I began the novel. Among other things, The Salt Wizard is an attempt to share some of the ideas from Mithraism I have found especially useful. Since the classic quest story offers the best vehicle for what I wanted to say, the protagonist (a young king) embarks on a desperate magical journey to save his kingdom and his life.
What genre does your book fall under?
I call the novel a “philosophical fantasy.” Booksellers would call it an adventure fantasy for all ages. I wrote the story to be (I hope!) interesting to anyone who loves a good fantasy. That is, I have tried to include characters and story elements for both the young and the old.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
If The Salt Wizard became a film, I’d want my favourite actors to play the characters. Strictly speaking, some of my picks are a bit old for the parts, but what the heck; we’re talking fantasy here. Sean Bean is the ideal young (25) king, Baldric. Gwyneth Paltrow would be perfect as the lovely Rowena, my hero’s tragically spellbound love interest. I like Sam Shepherd as Sprowle, the fiftyish unscrupulous wizard of the piece, with John Hawkes as his devious son, Leal. Kathy Bates, would do nicely as the middle-aged wholesome castle cook, Eartha. I see Nikki Blonsky as the plump apprentice wizard, Araminta, who must deal with the far more experienced Sprowle. The talents of Sean Connery would be a wonderful fit for Araminta’s mysterious mentor, Old Garwood, who keeps vanishing and is rumoured to be immortal. Baldric’s wise yet tough advisor, Radbert, simply cries out for a subtle interpretation by Sam Neill.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When an enchanted army suddenly materializes in his kingdom, a philosophical young king, still uncertain on his throne, must confront his worst fears and figure out what the connection is between a vanished race of elves and the troubled past of his own family.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Since I never work on a book in one continuous run, I don’t really know. I started the book’s outline in September of 2001 and worked on it steadily for six months. After February 2002, I chipped away at it for the remainder of the year. It lay dormant during 2003. I launched a big attack on the anniversary of D-Day 2004 (I like using symbolic dates) and had an extremely detailed outline by the end of January 2005. This evolved into a draft version of the novel over the next four years. Don’t forget that I was working on other novels along the way. Does anyone else work in this crazy lackadaisical way?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
William Horwood’s Duncton Wood novels are miles away from mine in terms of characters, tone, and milieu, but the serious attempt to include a spiritual belief system is a shared theme. Stephen R. Donaldson (The Mirror of Her Dreams, A Man Rides Through) would be a fair comparison, as well as David Feintuch (The King, The Still), although his characters in the books I mention are definitely on the young immature side compared to most of mine.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My personal struggles with some serious psychological issues (I’m bipolar) inspired The Salt Wizard. The process was unconscious at first, but it soon became obvious that Carl Jung’s writings about what he called the individuation process had strongly influenced both the novel’s central idea and the development of the story.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The story has iconic and philosophical elements (such as The Flame Imperishable) drawn from the old Mithraic religion and says a few things about the effects of the nanny state on character and the future of the West.