I first began to write the story of Heirs to the kingdom, as a made up addition to blend the folklore stories I told my daughter as a young child, and bring them into a more up to date setting. I had no idea at the time how the tale would expand, and allow me the pleasure of seeing its effect on the many who have began to read it as published work. Back then I jotted down notes so that I could keep the story consistent, more as a means of ensuring my daughter did not spot my inability to remember parts that for her had become special.
By the time my daughter had grown up, and I actually had the time to sit and think about some of the stories I wanted to write, HTTK had become an elaborate catalogue of notes, filed in some disarray, but none the less a very comprehensive and detailed guide to the first outline of the series. Writing the first draft was not that difficult, as I had told the story thousands of times to my daughter aged four, and it flowed off the printer, a relatively painless experience. At this point I must confess that this has been a story I have worked on off and on for over 15 years, as it held a special place in my heart, and although it was at first somewhat of a child’s tale, it had in parts evolved into a more adult story over time.
The very first draft was well received by the few I allowed to read it, but I felt it lacked a great deal, and did not feel real enough to live on the pages. Looking back now I know that the time was not quite right, and the story needed a deeply thought out injection of reality, and it was in the following months as I struggled to hold my shop against the local council who wanted to demolish it, that the reality of HTTK was to become very apparent.
In the later parts of 2007, I finally lost my shop to the all powerful force of the local council, who under a great deal of pressure finally accepted some of my terms, it was not the best deal on earth, but for the sake of my health, and to end the pressure’s and stress of over a year of living hell, I found a compromise that gave me a chance to end on my own terms. The Christmas and New Year that followed over the next fortnight saw me retire to my home and lock all the doors, as the pressure and exhaustion took its toll. I had reached a crossroads in my life, and in an exhausted state I collapsed into bed and slept, dreamed, and considered my bleak options for the future.
To be quite blunt, I was indeed very ill, the stress had pushed me to breaking point, I lost everything in the fight to save my shop, and all I had left, was the ability to sit and look back on my life at the ups and downs to try to find some new direction to move onwards. I was escaping from reality by sealing myself in the house and refusing to open the doors, I was ill, alone and needed to hide from the world for a while in order to recover and begin again. My mind whirled with the reflection of the struggle and pain of the last twelve months, as I struggled to come to terms with the injustice I had faced, so I used writing as a daily focus to occupy my mind while it rested from my actual life.
The time was finally right to put the jigsaw of HTTK together, and filled with reflection from 40 years of life and understanding what I wanted for my own future, I sat with a stack of cigarettes, a full kettle, and a huge pile of cheese and pickle sandwiches and I began to write the story again. With my mind filled with every happy moment, and all those moments of despair from my own life, I began to weave everything I had every felt or experienced into the characters of my story, filling them with a life lived in reality, but set in a world of make believe and fantasy.
What had began its life as a children’s tale about two young 11 year old children, evolved into the life of two late teenagers, who shared a similar destiny together, in a world that was hard and unfair, and filled with the challenges that day to day life can throw your way unexpectedly. I used all my own thoughts and feelings of my own teenage times, as well as many that I observed from those around me, and wove them into the storyline. The end result was not a true autobiographical account of my life, but it was emotionally accurate. I did reflect on my early life, and the sense of community that surrounded me at that time, and it became an important source to add to the background of the village life, set around the two lead characters. I spent hours looking into the situations of each character to imagine myself in their shoes, and try to understand how I would react before writing in the pages of text, and I also added my hopes and dreams for the future.
The end result, which will only really be fully understood, when the reader has read the whole series of books, is I hope, a richly filled and accurate account of the life of my two central characters and their adventures as they seek to fulfil, their destiny. I would hope that it does indeed jump into life as the pages are turned, and the reader is drawn deeper into the story, and I can only hope when the last page of the last book is finally closed, that the reader will feel a little sadness as they realise that their time in the realm is over, and like all good holiday, although it was wonderful, it is now time to leave and head back to normal life. For myself, I think it was a very important learning curve in the process of writing. It felt very personal, and if I thought a certain chapter did not leave me feeling like I was actually there besides the lead characters, I scrapped it, and looked deeper into the personalities of them, before writing it again.
The irony of the story is that the journey I undertook in writing HTTK (Which is still ongoing as I write) and bringing it to life, is that it has indeed helped me to understand myself better, and has very much shaped my life. For you the reader as I write this, there are just two books of the series in print as I prepare the third for publication, but for myself I am obviously much further on as I have written this series back to back since New Year 2007. The story, which does contain much of the emotional journeys of my own life, has very much played a role in the shaping of my future. Like all good stories there are hopes and dreams that motivate the characters to continue, and although this is a fantasy adventure story, a little of that hope has passed across into my own life.
Book two reveals a small character of a child, who plays a more important role in the future of the series named Iona Violet. At the time of writing, I described the sort of child I had always hoped for as a sister to my first daughter, for myself it was just a dream, as I had reached a point in my own life where it was a dream I had given up on. Ironically today as I write this for the blog site, I will celebrate the first birthday of my second daughter, who is in many ways almost the double of the child I wrote about back in 2007. I gave my story the essence of my life, and as a result I have been blessed with a meeting through the books with a person who has turned my whole life around and given that which I thought was never possible. When my partner suggested we name her Iona Jade, I was delighted, and for just a moment, like my characters I did wonder, if destiny was playing itself out in reality. The story and my life now seem to be bound up in a circle, and the story that began with the questions and happiness bound to the early life of my first daughter, have come full circle in the creation of my second daughter, who will begin her life in a similar way, hearing the tales of HTTK.
In conclusion, I now see how what was the worst and most heartbreaking time of my life, has indeed been a source of deep inspiration to my creative work. I must confess, I felt I was in a darkness that could not possibly provide any light, and yet today I see that even from a ruined foundation, there is the hope of building something new and more wonderful than before.