Monday, 10 November 2008


A while back, my publishers asked me to write a couple of short pieces -- musings really -- on the creation of Raine's Landing for their own blog, In case you missed them, here they are again.

On the whole Salem witches idea:
The weird thing is, when I first showed the opening chapters of 'Dark Rain' to Eos, there were no Salem witches. The town was there, the characters were in place, and I knew I wanted a kind of magic to prevail that sometimes went extremely badly wrong. But my original idea was that any spells cast were linked to the life force of the person casting them, what they call in the Orient the ‘chi.’ And if someone’s inner force was all messed up, then the magic went the same way too.
It took Diana a while to get back to me, by which time I’d gone more than a little cold on that idea. And by the tone of her email, she concurred. So I called her office.
"I just think it’s a little twee," she told me. "See if you can come up with something else."
So I promised her I’d get back in the next couple of days. But the moment I hung up, my mind just started buzzing. It was like one of those word-association games.
Raine’s Landing is in Massachusetts. What else is in Massachusetts? Boston? No use in this context. Hold it … Salem! The witchcraft trials. Nineteen innocent people hanged because of a substance called ergot in the rye bread. But what if there really were some witches there, and they saw what was coming and …?
Having told Diana I’d be back to her in two days, I phoned her again in precisely ten minutes. Inspiration really does come in a sudden flash sometimes.

On the process of creating an imaginary town:
Supernatural stories really do find good settings in fictitious towns, now don’t they? That’s because, when you read such a tale, you are wandering from the real world to a place that looks like it, but under the surface is not. My first ever visit to such a community was a superb and everlasting one … Ray Bradbury’s Green Town, Illinois. The images of that place linger clearly in my memory a good few decades later on. I’ve visited many others since then, and have created a few myself.
Shaddaton. Tennsville. Hope’s Hatch. I’ve published several set in an imaginary coastal town called Birchiam-on-Sea, and they’ve been very well received.
And then there’s Raine’s Landing. And though it’s a labor of love, there is a lot of effort involved in summoning up such a township in the reader’s imagination.
Yes, I know contemporaries of mine have created whole fictional countries, worlds and galaxies and even universes. But the point about a medium-sized town is that you have to be very specific. What are the districts? What are they like? The major and minor streets? The characters -- how do they dress, speak? What are their foibles? And who are there friends?
So -- not normally a very organized guy -- I’ve wound up drawing maps and making lists and keeping detailed notes, just to make sure I get everything correct. There a difference between ‘fantastic’ and ‘surreal,’ you see. Surreal means there are no rules. In fantasy, there are firm ones. They’re just different to the ones you’re used to.

No comments: