Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Ruin - A Word From The Author

I posed a couple of questions to John in relation to his book "The Ruin" which I shall share with you all now.
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Following up on Melisende's review of my novel The Ruin, there were some questions she raised with me.

The first was why I chose the mid-5th century as my setting, when the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain began in earnest and the post-Roman civilisation was in its death throes. As Melisende mentioned to me, there is a pretty near endless supply of fiction set in the supposed Arthurian era around the turn of the sixth century, and that's partly why I chose the period fifty years earlier. 

Vortigern's era has some of the same advantages as the Arthurian period (dearth of primary sources, wealth of legendary material) while the disadvantages (done to death by fiction, rendered meaningless by pseudohistory) aren't quite so severe. There is simply more room to develop a story without straying into areas that get pillaged for new material every year by every conceivable medium, in fiction or non-fiction, whether anyone is paying attention or not.

That said, there are already some great fictional pieces that deal with broadly the same period - The Little Emperors by Alfred Duggan, and 'Hun' by Anthony Burgess (this is a novella in a collection called The Devil's Mode). Well worth checking out.

Melisende also asked why I didn't use the more familiar forms of some of the names in dealing with historical figures. There were a couple of reasons for this. 

The first was to avoid familiarity dictating the reader's perceptions, especially for readers who might be familiar with some of the historical figures involved. You may already know the story of St Patrick, for instance - how he was taken into slavery by Irish raiders at the age of sixteen and later became a missionary. In The Ruin he is known by his birth name, partly because he adopted the name 'Patricius' later in life, and partly to preserve the sense of danger when the raiders land near his home.

The other reason was because a lot of the names have come down to us through different linguistic routes, and they often just look odd on the page together - the Latin 'Eldolus' and 'Pascentius' alongside the Middle Welsh 'Amllawdd', 'Ynyr' and 'Glywys', for example. So I did a bit of linguistic detective work. I could explain why the form 'Vertigern' is more historically correct than the familiar 'Vortigern', but I'm afraid it would bore any sane person to tears. The same goes for the place names.

Melisende asked if there might be a sequel on the cards, and to be honest I think it's unlikely for the time being. I have a pretty clear idea in my head of how a continuation might go, just in case there was some demand for it one day, but for the moment I'm just concentrating on trying new things.

Twitter: @JohnSawney 

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