My writing ‘career’ started by accident in 2010. I was sitting in the Vet’s with my dog Charlie, a Springer Spaniel:
I noticed a poster for someone to write a dog walking book for the Yorkshire Dales (it was put there by an author who had been asked to do it, but he had no dog). So I rang up and got myself the job!
I had to map out and test numerous walks in the Yorkshire Dales, taking Charlie with me and finding routes that were ‘dog-friendly’ (easy to negotiate styles, places to paddle and run without restrictions, etc). I also included cafes and pubs where you could go with your dog at the end of the walk.
My first book “Yorkshire Dales: A Dog Walker’s Guide” was published in July 2011 and includes 20 ‘dog-friendly’ walks in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. My own dog Charlie, a Springer Spaniel, rightfully taking most of the credit. More here:
The book has done well and the first edition has sold out. The second edition is to be reprinted this autumn. Of course the star was always Charlie.
It’s never going to be a best-selling blockbuster, but it did give me a taste for writing.
On the walks nearer our home in Wharfedale there are rock carvings that date back to the iron age and as far back as the early bronze. No-one knows why they are there and I often wondered about the lives of the people who made them. Perhaps they had a life with more freedom but less safe than ours? Certainly there was a much smaller population then. These musings eventually lead me to consider writing a story about them, it could be my first novel. So the idea for Year Of the Celt was born.
for more on the Celts and Iron Age Wharfedale, including maps of walks that take in some of the rock carvings. I’m adding more to the site each week.
I wrote and published Year of the Celt: Imbolc in August 2012, the first of 4 books, each covering 3 months of the year and ending at a Celtic festival: Imbolc, Beltane, Lugnasa and Samhain. Imbolc was initially published as an e-book and is now available in print.
Otley, Wharfedale in 499BC.
“The ice sheets are coming, driving all before them. From the northern lands, deer, wolves and people flee the encroaching snow and ice. In their wake comes death, betrayal, love and hope.
A small village of the Brigantes tribe in northern England will be changed forever.
This is their story.”
The saga follows the fortunes of the Scefinge, whose settlement occupies the site of modern day Otley (where I live now). Set against a backdrop of a changing climate and a large influx of refugees from the north escaping encroaching ice-sheets, the story is all about how ordinary people struggle to survive in a rapidly changing world; only those who adapt have any hope of surviving.
I have always wanted to write a novel, but of course did nothing about it for years and years, it was always something outside my experience. The dog-walking book made me realise that actually, perhaps I could do it.
The idea grew quickly, most of the ideas coming whilst I was out walking Charlie over the local moors or chatting over a glass of wine with my partner.
I had in mind a story based on a small community, located in Wharfedale, struggling to survive in a changing world. I’ve been an organic gardener for decades, built my own solar power system (to power the office in my garden), set up a local gardening group, etc, as well as foraged locally for nuts, fruit and mushrooms. With this background it was relatively easy to include my knowledge of the local flora and fauna into the book and I realised that I was writing a story that was saying something about how people might behave when confronted with climate change and social upheaval (although it was never planned that way).
As if to encourage me I found that around the time I had decided to set the story (500 BC) there really was a change in climate when the temperature cooled significantly over Britain (marked in red in the graph below).
One thing I wanted to avoid was the stereotypical characters who were handsome, square-jawed, steely-blue eyes, orphaned/dispossessed princes, etc. Most of the stories of this period are about warriors, kings & queens, wizards, etc. I hoped that the characters in this story would come over as ordinary people, with no magical or special skills; not much different than ourselves, and how they would really experience a world that was perhaps much simpler, but also physically much tougher.
The research was fascinating, there is so much out there on the web!
One part I particularly enjoyed was matching the phases of the moon to the events in the story. I have a geeky side (I was a lecturer in Computer Science) and as I was looking up moon phases I came across a Nasa web site that had conveniently listed all the phases of the moon going back 6000 years! Brilliant!
So if in the book it says the moon was rising in the East on the Imbolc festival (end of January 498BC), it really did. In a similar vein there is a journey made on a boat, the high tides really did happen as written. When I wanted to include the appearance of comets I searched through the data (there was a lot on Wiki-pedia) and was able to track back and locate 2 that would have shown in 499 and 498BC. This gave me an idea to include an individual calendar image at the start of each chapter, showing the current moon phase and the appearance of any comets, to set the scene.
It did take me a year from start to finish although I did have a 3 month break in between whilst I was building the website below (it’s my day job):
To generate some interest in the book I recently organised an evening in the local community centre (it really is the converted town courthouse). The evening included readings by the local poetry society, music written for the book and songs with a ‘Celtic’ theme (as well as me talking about the Celts and the book). Come the night the place was full and what surprised me was how much people were interested in the ancient beginnings of their own town and how their ancestors might have lived. Here’s the link:
I am now working on Year of the Celt: Beltane and hope to have it ready for this autumn. The first book has had modest sales but of those who have read it, most seem to like it a lot. I’ve been asked many times when the next one is coming out. It makes writing the second a challenge in that I don’t want to loose the freshness of the first but at the same time continue the lives of the characters through the 2nd quarter of the year.
To find out more about Charlie (and his pet author), click HERE.