These are questions I’m often asked about Fire dreamer by teenagers I’ve talked to. I’ve collected them all together into one ‘interview’. If you have more questions, why not contact me – and I’ll get back to you!
This book takes a very different direction from Star Dancer, why did you do it this way?
I wanted Tegen to grow up and to move out into the world. If she’d stayed by the Winter Seas for the rest of her life, she’d never have grown into her full potential, she’d have been caught up in the petty wranglings of her home village.
Worst of all, her Mum wouldn’t have let her do anything!
Tegen had done all she could for her village by the end of Star Dancer, and magic as powerful as hers has to be used on a great scale.
More importantly, Tegen’s world is a real, historical place, with dramatic and terrifying events (like the slaughter of the druids on Anglesey and Boudica’s revolt) and I wanted to ‘tap into’ these and let Tegen become involved.
But Fire Dreamer is a ‘Who Dun It’ crime novel, rather than history!
Fire Dreamer started with a conversation with a friend who’s a CSI – I asked him how he’d go about solving a crime that had been committed by magic. After many discussions, we realised that even magic leaves a trail of evidence, so I worked out who might be murdered in Tegen’s world, and why, then came the tricky question of how.
I studied quite a bit of social psychology and anthropology at university, and I was fascinated by the way many ancient cultures use magic and how it works. I tapped into this to create the ‘how’ of the murder.
The ‘why’ is the history bit. Eiser was a real king of the Dobunni tribe at the time of the Roman invasion, and King Cara (Caractacus) was also real. He was taken with his wife and family to Rome as ‘prizes’ for the Emperor. There is no recorded of Owein, but other young British princes were taken to Rome to be trained as puppet rulers to serve the new regime.
Admidios was real too (his Roman name was Adminius), and he really did betray Britain to Caligula. It was such an exciting story, I couldn’t help wondering what he’d sacrifice to regain his power and influence – he wasn’t the sort of man to simply take defeat!
Why do you use history instead of just making stories up?
History is really exciting stuff. Blood, guts, murder, betrayal, love, faithfulness, courage – it’s all there!
If I made a story up out of my head, I couldn’t think of anything as thrilling as what really happened.
But once I have the ‘facts’ (as nearly as I can) I then imagine what might have happened to make things turn out the way they did. Add a little magic and the story becomes amazing!
I must confess I do ‘play’ with time a bit. Tegen was born roughly the time of the Roman invasion, February 43 AD. By the time she went out into the world in about 58 AD in Fire Dreamer, the Roman hold on Britain was fairly established, but I wanted to show how the Romans changed the land and how the British tribes reacted to the invasion (some thought the Romans were a brilliant opportunity to make money, others thought they were just evil).
The only way I could do this was to ‘slow things down’ a bit and pretend the invasion was still getting underway. The order of events and the setting is fairly accurate, I just cheated on the timing.
If you use real history, where are the places you mention in the book?
Sul’s Land is Bath (the Romans called it Aqua Sulis after the goddess of the hot springs there). The Hill of the King is Silbury Hill, the Stone Forest is Avebury (and it probably was overgrown in those days), the ‘wightbarrow’ where Tegen hides is West Kennet Longbarrow. There really was a Roman road to the south of Silbury hill, as well as a Roman Garrison nearby.
The stronghold of Baras is Badon Hill, the wightbarrow where Tegen sleeps with the ancestors a second time is Wayland’s Smithy near Swindon, and the stronghold with the white horse is of course, the Uffington and it’s wonderful White Horse.
You can still walk the Ridgeway all the way up to the Thames, and if you turn left and follow the river (as Tegen and Owein did) you come to Wittenham Clumps and Dorchester on Thames (the Sinodun hills and Dorcic).
If you get a chance, go there and walk around the area. One od Sinodun’s hills really was an Iron Age stronghold, and the other probably was a druids’ grove. The lands of the Catuvellauni, Dobunni and Atrebates tribes did meet here, probably for markets and for councils.
Go over the bridge to Dorchester, and walk the ancient earthworks… it’s all very spooky and aching to have stories written about it!
Oh, and there really is a legend about the ghost of a raven hovering over the ramparts in Wittenham Clumps…
Would the British really have put men inside the stronghold to ambush the Romans? Wasn’t that suicide?
Yes, there is documented evidence that they did exactly that on another fort. Sadly, it’s how people think during war. Watch the news and you’ll see what I mean!
Why did you give Tegen Fire magic?
Fire, in ancient thinking is to do with creativity. In this book, Tegen starts to mould her magic and to be in charge of it, instead of slightly scared and surprised by it (as she was in book 1). She begins to be creative and to take control of situations. That’s all firey stuff!
But just as important, Tegen is beginning to get angry at the injustices she sees all around her – and it’s not just the Romans who are guilty.
Anger is often expressed as ‘fire’, you say someone has a firey temper, or they burned with anger… It’s a sort of metaphor for what she is thinking and feeling.
Why are the books called ‘the Book of Air and the Book of Fire? Are you going to use the other elements for the other books?
The four magical elements are air, fire, water and earth (or stone). Many people believe that they have to have love, or spirit as the fifth element that ties them all together at the centre.
The first book – Star Dancer, was the book of airbecause in druidic thought air means inspiration and becoming aware. It’s symbolised by spring – new life and growth. This is exactly what Tegen experiences – she’s becoming aware of who she is, and drawing in her first breaths of magic. (Inspiration literally means ‘to breathe in’).
The second book, Fire Dreamer is the book of firebecause it’s about coming into one’s full creativity and strength (see above). This element is very ‘summery’.
Book 3, Wave Hunter is the book of water. Water is about being thoughtful and reflective. Tegen learns to listen to the Goddess before acting (something Gilda tried to teach her in Star Dancer). She learns that simply flinging spells around to try and rectify situations sometimes leads to worse trouble – and she also begins to understand the ‘weave of all things.’
Water is like autumn: it’s a time of drawing back from all the action and fuss, gathering fruit and taking stock of things.
Book 4 is Stone Keeper – the book of earth. Earth or stone symbolises death – but not in the sense of everything being over – druidic thought sees it as winter. Although everything seems to die back and go cold, but it’s just in preparation for next year’s new burst of life. It feels cold and dreary, but in reality it’s positive and life-giving.
In this book, there is rather a lot of fighting and killing, but Tegen’s job is to find hope in it all to make the spring come again.
The fifth element of spirit or love, holds all these elements together – something that Tegen discovers woven throughout her adventures!