Sunday, August 17, 2014

WILLIE MEIKLE: Five Things I Learned Writing THE EXILED

 
 
 
 
 
When several young girls are abducted from various locations in Edinburgh, Detective John Granger and his brother Alan, a reporter, investigate the cases from different directions. The abductor is cunning, always one step ahead, and the only clue he leaves behind at each scene are the brutalized corpses of black swans.
 
When the brothers' investigations finally converge at a farmhouse in Central Scotland, they catch a glimpse of where the girls have been taken, a place both far away yet close enough to touch. A land known throughout Scottish history with many names: Faerie, Elfheim, and the Astral Plane. It is a place of legend and horror, a myth. But the brothers soon discover it's real, and, to catch the abductor, they will have to cross over themselves.
 
To catch a killer, John and Alan Granger will have to battle the Cobbe, a strange and enigmatic creature that guards the realm, a creature of horrific power that demands a heavy price for entry into its world. The fate of both realms hangs in the balance…and time is running out...
 
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1. The black bird isn't going away.
I've been having a dream off and on since I was a boy. It's of a bird - a huge, black, bird. The stuff that dreams are made of.
 
In the nightmare I'm on the edge of a high sea cliff. I feel the wind on my face, taste salt spray, smell cut grass and flowers. I feel like if I could just give myself to the wind I could fly. Then it comes, from blue, snow covered mountains way to the north, a black speck at first, getting bigger fast. Before I know it it is on me, enfolding me in feathers. It lowers its head, almost like a dragon, and puts its beak near my ear. It whispers.
 
I had the dream many times, and always woke up at this point.
 
Then, in 1991, I heard what it said.
 
"Will we talk about the black bird?"
 
The next morning, for the first time since 1976, I wrote a story. It wasn't a very good story, but something had been woken up, and the day after that I wrote another, a wee ghost story. It didn't have a black bird in it, but it did have some jazz, and a sultry broad, a murder and some dancing. When that one made me 100 pounds in a ghost story competition, I was on my way.
 
The bird comes back and whispers to me every couple of years - I've come to think of it as my spirit guide. Although it terrifies me, it also reassures me in a weird kind of way. As long as it's around, I'll still be a writer and not just a drunk with weird ideas he can't express.
 
The bird's most recent appeareance was last year, and the next morning I had an idea. THE EXILED, my Darkfuse novel is a way of making sense of that dream - I think I got close to the heart of it.
 
2. Scotland is seared into my soul.
I moved to Newfoundland in 2007, but my writing keeps circling back to my homeland. A lot of my work, long and short form, has been set in Scotland, and much of it uses the history and folklore. There’s just something about the misty landscapes and old buildings that speaks straight to my soul. Bloody Celts… we get all sentimental at the least wee thing.
 
I've been writing 'away'a lot in recent years, picking up stories in my new environment here. But as soon as I started THE EXILED and got the sights and sounds of Edinburgh in my head, it felt like coming home.
 
So, although there will be many tales to come set in the New World, it is in the old one where my heart truly lies. I don't think that'll ever change.

3. Shite happens.
I've tried writing outlines, both for short stories and novels, but I've never stuck to one yet. My fingers get a direct line to the muse and I continually find myself being surprised at the outcome. Thanks to South Park, I call them my "Oh shit, I've killed Kenny" moments, and when they happen, I know I'm doing the right thing. It happened again in THE EXILED, at a pivotal point in the story. A character was taking form, staring to get a voice and grow real - and then a sentence later, they'd gone. I don't question it - I've learned to trust my subconscious on these things, but it was still a jolt at the time it happened.

4. The pulp is seared into my soul.
It's all about the struggle of the dark against the light. The time and place, and the way it plays out is in some ways secondary to that. And when you're dealing with archetypes, there's only so many to go around, and it's not surprising that the same concepts of death and betrayal, love and loss, turn up wherever, and whenever, the story is placed.
 
And in my case, it's almost all pulp. Big beasties, swordplay, sorcery, ghosts, guns, aliens, werewolves, vampires, eldritch things from beyond and slime. Lots of slime.
 
I think you have to have grown up with pulp to -get- it. A lot of writers have been told that pulp=bad plotting and that you have to have deep psychological insight in your work for it to be valid. They've also been told that pulp=bad writing, and they believe it. Whereas I remember the joy I got from early Moorcock, from Mickey Spillane and further back, A E Merritt and H Rider Haggard. I'd love to have a chance to write a Tarzan, John Carter, Allan Quartermain, Mike Hammer or Conan novel, whereas a lot of writers I know would sniff and turn their noses up at the very thought of it.
 
So here's to the pulp. I may long for literary recognition, fancy awards and bookish respectability, but in the end it's the story that's the important thing. I hope I don't forget it.

5. I'm a long way from done.
I started writing in '92, so the twenty five year mark isn't that far off. I've written 25 novels, ten novellas and over 300 short stories. And they just keep on coming - faster now if anything. Ideas continually vie for attention - and just this week the nightmare paid me another visit... Will we talk about the black bird?
 
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William Meikle is a Scottish genre writer now living in Newfoundland.

He has 20 novels and several hundred short stories in genre presses, anthologies and magazines. His current top seller is the sci-fi novel THE INVASION with 20,000 copies sold and counting.

His work covers several genres including:

When he's not writing Willie drinks beer, plays guitar and dreams of fortune and glory.
 
Links: