This blog is mostly about the Fairy Faith – the ancient folk religion of the Celts of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man, and Brittany. It also tries to explore the relevance of pagan beliefs to some of the failings of modern Western societies and to the “blank spaces” that I perceive in the three religions that trace their roots back to Abraham. However, several friends who have read my novel The Never King have asked me to also use this blog to answer questions about my approach to writing popular fiction.
In a nutshell, my approach is pretty much the antithesis of how you’re supposed to do it. I’ve read that most professional novelists spend at least 6 hours a day on research and writing. I spend from zero to two hours on weekdays (but sometimes more than that on weekends). That’s because I have a day job. Of course, I write as a hobby (it’s a relatively inexpensive one) and not to make a living from it.
I’ve also read that many professional novelists begin with an outline that they gradually fill in until they have a full novel. I, on the other hand, just start to write. Once I get into it, the story seems to write itself sentence by sentence. It’s as if I am watching it unfold on a movie screen. Outlining it first spoils some of my fun and makes it more difficult to free my imagination so that it can do its thing.
The one exception to this sentence by sentence approach is that I don’t begin a novel until I have a firm idea of the ending. I once read that Nelson DeMille – a popular novelist whom I greatly admire – didn’t think of the ending (and it’s a good one) of Night Fall until he was almost done with the book. I don’t think that I’m confident enough to take that kind of chance.
I’ve also been asked how I thought up The Never King which some reviewers have pointed out is a unusual mixture of fantasy, spy drama, quantum physics, Celtic myth, improbable romance, and personal growth and discovery. Well, the Celtic myth part comes from my almost life-long interest in folk religions (a.k.a. paganism) in general and the Celtic Fairy Faith in particular. In addition, I have an extensive library on the subject (including one of two copies in private hands of the 1815 original published version of Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth which is probably the “holy grail” of Fairy Faith literature.) The imagination part is harder to account for. Let me simply say that I’ve always spent a lot of time living in my head which has helped me to develop a rich imagination. In addition, I learn from my dreams. Indeed, a fair amount of the plot of The Never King came to me in my sleep.
Let me conclude by noting that I’d written most of three other novels before I started The Never King. However, the The Never King is the only one that I’ve completed and published. You see, I’ve been writing for myself for at least 40 years.
If anyone requests, I’ll write more on my approach to writing popular fiction in subsequent blogs. However, I’ll return to the issues of paganism and fairies in my next couple of postings.