This book has been mulling around in the back of my mind ever since I wrote the first part of my Elfael Trilogy, The Wraiths of Elfael, some ten years or so ago. At the time I failed to find a publisher for Wraiths, and (at 130,000 words) recognised that the book needed to be drastically revised and edited—something that was beyond my skill back then. So I put it away and tried my hand at other projects.
After a while I’d worked out what sort of writer I wanted to be, so I went back to the bloated carcase of Wraiths and put it on a strict diet and exercise regime, and got it down to a trim 87,000 words. I still couldn’t find a publisher, but that didn’t matter: I was writing the books I wanted to write, and the development of self-publishing on Amazon for kindle meant I was able to find an audience, albeit a niche one.
Readers of Wraiths naturally got to the end and wanted to know what happened next. Some of them were rather annoyed by the cliffhanger ending and felt that it implied I was killing off my heroines for cheap effect.
But there was never any doubt in my mind that Mair and Heulwen would pull through. In fact, I promised myself that, no matter how great the temptation (or the body count), both would survive the trilogy. That didn’t mean they’d get an easy ride—far from it, as readers of The World’s Midnight will discover—but they were tough cookies, survivors both of them. (In fact, I sneakily slipped them into the short story Alcwyn and the Tylwyth Teg in my Dragon of Stroma collection just to show them happy and contented in later life; I felt they’d earned it, really.)
I’m not entirely proud to confess that my working titles for the book were (a) The Wraith of Khan and then (b) The Grapes of Wraith. The sequence where Mair has a vision of her family and friends, their lives falling apart without her, was the first thing I wrote, long before the rest of the book, and is in many ways for me the most important. It owes a considerable and obvious debt to the poems of Ted Hughes, especially his poem Crow Alights.
So, what of my sources?
The story of Blodeuedd, the woman made out of flowers (who in the legend betrays her husband and in punishment is turned into Blodeuwedd, an owl) comes from part 4 of the Mabinogion, the great compilation of Welsh mythologies. Of course, Alan Garner used it as the foundation of his great novel, The Owl Service, in 1967.
The three lines of poetry Llywelyn Gwyllt quotes as he prepares to meet his destiny (“I was the sword in his fist/ I was his shield in battle/ I was the string to his harp”) come from the poem The Battle of the Trees from the book of Taliesin.
The ritual which the demon enacts as a shaman is very freely adapted from the “Mithras” Liturgy, edited and translated by Marvin W. Meyer (see http://hermetic.com/pgm/mithras-liturgy.html).
The Cyhyraeth, or Death Spirit, and the Cŵn Annwn, the hunting dogs of the Otherworld, are taken from Welsh mythology.
The Norman invasion of Wales happened very much as in the book (without the magic, of course)—haphazardly, with small bands of adventurers carving out baronies and fiefdoms a generation or so after Hastings, simply riding in and taking over. I’ve played fast and loose with the characters in the novel: Brochfael, Medyr and Ragnell are all made up; but the tradition of blinding and castrating rulers to make them ineligible to inherit was real, in stories at least.
All other aspects of the story and its underlying mythology are, I believe, my own—as is the spell which Jarvis recites to bring Dinogan’s spirit back from the dead; but if anyone knows of a source I may have unconsciously copied, please let me know.
So, what can we expect in part three? In it Mair will journey to the shadow world beyond Annwn, realm of the Death Spirit. The Tylwyth Teg, the fairies (or elves) who have so far remained elusively out of sight, will come centre stage to help Mair and Heulwen in their quest. We will find out why the 17th century ancestor of Jarvis turned to witchcraft; and we will discover whether the wound in the world caused by the death of a Wraith can ever be healed.
All this, as they say, and more. I hope to have this ready for publication for the autumn of 2014. All I have to do now is write it…