I’ve just published a new fairy tale and it’s called The Wind and the Castle. It was inspired by the strange fairy tales of Hermann Hesse. It’s my first eBook and putting it together was a scary adventure as an inner voice kept saying “you can’t do this.” Fortunately I have learned to ignore these voices, these inner demons.
My fairy tale is on Amazon and you can see it here.
If you look at my last blog post (5 Reasons to Publish an eBook) you’ll see that I recommend using the Draft2digital eBook platform, but I tried it, didn’t like it and am back with “the devil I know,” i.e. Amazon.
Chris Burn, a writer and therapist, sent me some interesting questions.I typed up the replies, which offer some insights into the fairy tale, and you can see them below. He then used some of this material to write a review for Reviewsphere, a cool new Edinburgh magazine. I thought it would be interesting to share the raw material — and if you agree please leave a comment below.
How did Herman Hesse inspire you?
One of the worst moments of my life was when I left my wife — long before the process of divorce brought some closure. I was wracked by waves of guilt and other negative emotions.
Then someone gave me a copy of Hesse’s fairy tales and for some reason I don’t really understand it provided me succor. His fairy tales are strange, modern, esoteric and more in the spirit of Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut than the classic tales I grew up with. I suppose they made me realise that this genre was more open than I had assumed and, in fact, anything goes.
So, later on, my own fairy tale popped out — rather like one of those quick births that women sometimes have. I wrote it really quickly and only later did I realise that it was full of scenes that directly relate to long-buried references to fairy tales I’d heard in childhood (e.g. the scene when Aladdin goes up to the princess on her horse); and other scenes were inspired by all those things I’d picked up over the years. This was the subconscious offering the right words at the right time, and I suppose this is what fiction writing is all about.
An example of this subconscious-feeding-of-words can be seen in this article: in the first paragraph of this interview I used the word “succor” and then immediately questioned myself: am I sure what this word means? No! Where did it come from? No idea! Maybe I should check! So I looked it up and realised that it was the perfect term for what I was saying (succor is a Latin word that means, amongst other things, “assistance and support in times of hardship and distress”). This sort of thing happens to me all the time. What’s great about it is that I can tap into this great power that we all have (the subconscious) but I don’t need to understand it rationally as it’s a mystery. In fact, I treat life as a mystery in that I don’t need to understand everything (or anything) and so I don’t stress when things don’t make sense.
All this is, I believe, in the spirit of Herman Hesse’s mysterious fairy tales.
Do you think there’s a place for fairy tales today?
If you had asked me this question before I wrote this tale I would have said “of course not — fairy tales are ancient stories for kids”. But now I think that this genre, as well as fiction in general, are useful tools for everyone. Here’s why:
- If you’re aware of the subconscious, fairy tales and fiction are good ways to engage it. The same could be said for any art form but, for me, writing is the easiest of them and the only one I can do with any competence.
- Writing fairy tales is fun. I’ve written loads of non-fiction, like opinion articles and travel books, but it’s a real slog as you need to be as accurate as possible. But with a fairy tale you can do what you want with your characters, and their stories, as long as they are true to the story, i.e. as long as everything written is done so in the spirit of that time and place. This comes naturally to anyone telling a story.
- If you are suffering from an addiction, or severe emotional problems, an important part of any therapeutic process is to engage in a creative act like writing. Writing fairy tales would be great for addicts; imagine the monsters! In 12-Step rehab they ask you to write your life story as well as to detail all the terrible things you’ve done when in the madness of addiction. That’s really hard stuff — the non-fiction part — but after that emotionally bruising exercise a bit of fairy tale writing would feel like a joy ride. It would also be away of telling your terrible stories in an entertaining way and without any real names.
- We are all full of knowledge, impressions, quotes, memories, lessons, stories — going all the way back to the nursery. Every one of us is like a walking Wikipedia, but we are totally unaware of this — at least I was. It was only when I wrote this fairy tale that I realised how much “content” I have stashed away in the archives, all ready to come out when needed. Our society is organised on competitive grounds (everything is a competition and only a few win). That makes most of us “losers” and who wants to hear their stories? But, funnily enough, the typical hero of a fairy tale is a loser who becomes a hero and this in itself is a reason to engage with the genre (it can be a way for us to deal with our negative self-perception).
- I think we all have an ethical duty to our families to write down as many stories, both from our own experiences and from our imagination, as possible. If your family is anything like mine they won’t be interested in anything you write now, they may even resent it, but future generations might cherish it. Just think how little written material, how few stories, we have about our ancestors; and what better way of recording all this than in writing?
- Self-publishing has become really easy. Once I had got over my illusions of making a fortune by selling books I realised that all I need to do is get the fairy tale off the shelf, out of the shadows, and into the light (it sat on the metaphorical shelf for years). At the very least it can be something to add to your CV.
- I think everyone has the potential to write a fairy tale.
Do you want children to read it as much as adults?
I don’t really have a neat answer to this, although I’d love it if teenagers read it. When I wrote the story I didn’t think about who might like to read it. In this I was guided by Philip Pullman who says he writes for himself, rather than publishers who often say you have to have your audience in mind before even starting (to me that approach seems far too calculating and misses out the joy and mystery that I delve into).
It made me think of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This is one of those fascinating connections that has come up long after I wrote this fairy tale, and it goes back to my point about the subconscious — I’ve been inspired by things over the years (including The Alchemist) that come out in some other form. Thus far, I’ve identified various scenes in the book that I (later) realised were inspired by books I had read or things I’d learned; but this is the first time that someone has made a connection with an actual book.
An author friend of mine called Arabella McIntyre-Brown sent me this comment about my fairy tale:
[The Wind and the Castle] “is in the best tradition of storytelling that reaches back thousands of years. Stories that hide profound truths within simple tales. A love story and a dystopian drama, if you like – or that old favourite, the Warrior’s Journey.”
Will there be sequels?
I don’t have any other fairy tales in mind. Also, I have a lot of other books in the pipeline (some already finished, others half-done). The important thing is to keep up the momentum; a daily writing routine. But, having seen what a powerful release this genre is I will always know that it is something I can do at any time — so watch this space.
Apart from a love story it has an ecological message
The ecological side of the story was built on what I had learned from my eco-warrior brother (Moona) who taught me about Permaculture which, I believe, is an approach to agriculture that can save the planet from chemical doom. Just this week there was a news story about how modern agriculture is killing off insects at an incredible rate. Unless we take this seriously, and use methods like permaculture, we really are doomed.
Will it be out in paperback or audio book?
This is my first eBook and I did think about doing a print version. It’s easy to do on Amazon, who call it Print-on-Demand. But I would rather wait for a sponsor or publisher to come along and offer the resources needed to do it properly — which, in my view, would be a slim and very elegant hardback.
Audio book? I’d like to do it but would need a partner who would know how to fit it into the very crowded market.
If you’ve read this article I’d be very grateful if you could leave a comment below here, however short or negative. All feedback is encouraging.