What was the starting point for The Bone Fire?
The inspiration was a dream I had—a lot of my stories come from dreams. It’s the same dream Nick has in the book: a young girl in a white shift hanging from a St. Andrew’s cross. It’s dusk, almost night, and she’s on the shore of a sandy breach. Alien stars in the sky, the waves lapping the foot of the cross. And I knew as soon as I woke up that she was in the spirit world, and if she let go the waves would take her and carry her soul into death. After that I had to know who she was, what she was doing there, how to get her back.
Can Jason really hear all those birds and animals talking to him, or is it all just inside his head?
What am I, the narrator? I’m afraid you’d have to ask Jason that—I just wrote it down.
This is your second novel, and both feature other worlds, other dimensions.
Yes, I’m afraid it is something of a preoccupation of mine. I think I believe in a metaphysical life after death, and a lot of my fiction is concerned with exploring what that might mean.
So do you think the afterlife is anything like you’ve described?
No, I don’t—any more than I suppose that it resembles the Black Lodge of Twin Peaks, or a Hieronymus Bosch painting! These are all just metaphors of something we really can’t imagine. I think whatever comes next is going to be far more wonderful. It’s the wonder that keeps me going.
Why did you decide to use different narrative voices in the book?
Well, it was a story that I felt needed different perspectives, and the voices came with that. And the third-person prose style is very dense, very tight—I wanted to balance that out with Jason’s first-person narrative, something a little lighter, more fun for the reader. Jason was great fun to write, he just wrote himself, pretty much. The second-person passages that describe Nick’s dream are more or less word-for-word the poem I wrote to capture the dream when I woke up, before I knew that it was going to be a novel.
Tell us a little about the character of Lee
I don’t want to give away spoilers, but Lee as a person is partly based on me, and my enthusiasms, while his unacceptable views come from a kid I knew at school way back in the seventies. It’s often assumed that people who hold those kinds of views must be stupid—or they wouldn’t believe them! But in my experience even the brightest, most charismatic people can espouse beliefs that leave you scratching your head. Assuming they’re just dumb is the easy way out.
The book leaves the possibility of a sequel open—do you have any plans to write one?
Not at the moment! And I should say the characters in the book can rest easy, their work is done. But I thought the idea of the sleeping knights being awoken by Merlin to sort out different problems was quite fun, like secret agents being sent on missions—so who knows? Maybe there’ll be another problem that needs an Arthurian knight to solve it one day.
So what comes next?
Another fantasy story, the first part of a planned trilogy. It’s called The Wraiths of Elfael, and it’s a story of the bleak midwinter, so I’m publishing it in time for Christmas. It’s about a village on my beloved Welsh borders that’s cut off and beset by evil things out of ancient legend—soldiers arisen from under a lake, a creature of shadows and darkness that steals men’s souls, carnivorous trees, ethereal snow wolves. But it’s also got the wondrous Wraiths of Elfael in it, so it’s not all dark.