When I published Spirit of Shehaios at the beginning of 2011, I confidently included news of the next books I intended to write in the Shaihen Heritage series.
The idea was to go back to my original scribblings, stories set in the same world but a couple of millenia after the events described in Cloak of Magic and its two sequels. Cloak of Magic is loosely informed by Britain at the time of the Romans. So 2000 years into the future takes us to the 19th/20th century. In other words, the original unpublished Shaihen Heritage stories were set in a time and place not far distant from our own.
I wrote them in the 1970s and 1980s when I was a young woman, purely as a bit of fun. It was more a stream of consciousness than a coherent narrative, and the story was a tongue-in-cheek adventure yarn – think Pirates of the Caribbean. But it had ended up in Shehaios. It had taken me to depths and insight I didn’t expect, and that was why I wanted to reshape it into a structure and form that would be able to convey the real story, the story that underpinned the adventure yarn, to others.
When I revisited the manuscripts in my late 50s, I immediately struggled to know how to re-capture the sense of humour and optimism that underlies the original writing while adding the depth of experience I wanted to bring to it. I was quite a different person from the newly-married young woman scribbling in an exercise book on the commute up to London, and the world had moved on since 1978.
Then, in October 2011, my world crashed into a brick wall. My husband of 33 years, soul-mate, father of my children, fellow-musician, business partner and chief consultant for my writings, went away for a sailing weekend and never came back. His sudden death knocked me down and almost out. For the first time in my life, I had no words. They were totally inadequate. Full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. Only the strength and support of my friends and family – most of all my two amazingly wonderful daughters – got me through the next few years.
I finally got around to digging out the manuscript again around 2014. But writing was, and still is, a stop-start process. I do not think you ever ‘get over’ losing someone who has been so much a part of who you are. You learn to cope, to construct pathways around the gaping hole left by your loss. That’s what my daughters and I have been doing, and are still continuing to do. Sometimes, everything goes on hold while we pick one of us up again and bring her back from the abyss.
On top of all the personal reality, my fictional take on life, politics and religion became overtaken by an alarming roller-coaster of global reality which is still throwing us from one sickening plummet to another jarring curve, gathering speed all the way. None of us know where it will take us, where we will end up, whether we will survive the journey. The rift between human constructs – economics, trade, technology etc. – and the land which gave rise to our being (with or without the intervention of a divine being, depending on your point of view) has reached crisis point. Either we will reconnect and continue to seek the Fair Land, or we will carry on as we are and prove homo sapiens to have been a brief, ultimately self-destructive evolutionary experiment.
Once upon a time, I was confident that the myth of the Fair Land would prevail. Now, as I enter old age and people seem so disconnected with reality, so incapable of distinguishing the stories we tell ourselves from the laws of nature, I’m not so sure. That doubt continually undermines my attempts to get the stories written.
I will plough onward, because I believe the insight the Children of the Spirit showed me is a valuable one to share. But I cannot guarantee this fairy-tale will deliver a happy ending.