Friday, April 25, 2008

patience is everything, ha!

From: anonymous

Always rocked, but I am now ready for this Celtic book you've been talking about for so long. Okay, maybe not Celtic, old English or whatever - it sounds very interesting. Perhaps I should cut this email short, so you have more time to write? Do you have a contract for you next book? I am waiting as patiently as I can.

I wouldn't characterise the novel I'm working on as Celtic. If anything, it's Anglisc (pronounced Anglish), as in Angle, as in Anglo-Saxon. Having said that, of course, I'm now going to contradict myself :)

In the north of England in the seventh century, the majority of the population was probably genetically 'Celtic', that is, they and their people had been there more than a thousand years. They'd been there, living their Iron Age tribal lives when the Romans came; they lived as Romano British for three or four hundred years; they lived as Revivalist Celts (my made-up term) for a couple of hundred years after the Roman West faded.

What's a Revivalist Celt? A dead one. Just kidding (though not by much). The Romans left the Votadini, the Iceni, all those tribes, their language, but they seriously undermined their way of life; they took the tribal leadership and turned them into Latin-speaking Romans. The native British power elites moved from tribal culture, with the chief living on the land with his (very, very occasionally her) people, to city culture, with the Romans dispensing jobs and tax revenues, access to coveted trade goods, education, and so forth. Then the Romans left. The tax and urban system fell apart. The elites moved back to their ancestral lands. They revived their Celtic Culture quite self-consciously: their old songs, fashions, weapons. Then the Angles and Saxons began to flex their muscles. In many regions the Anglisc and Saxons (Anglisc mainly in the north and east, Saxons mainly in the south) simply filled the Roman power vacuum and many New Celts doffws their Celtic ways and donned Anglisc ones, including language. In some cases, the New Celts pumped themselves up with tales of old glory, marched the cream of their young men (and, occasionally, women) into battle, and promptly got slaughtered. (Read the Gododdin for an epic account of one such occasion.)

So, uh, where was I? Oh. Right. My novel.

The novel is about Hild, also known as St. Hilda of Whitby, a real historical figure (if we can believe Bede, which I do, mostly). She lived from 614 - 680 AD in what is now Yorkshire. She was definitely Anglisc, royal in fact. However, reading between the lines (what lines there are--she's a bit of a mystery figure, historiographically) she spent a lot of time living with Celts. So I suppose you could say, if you really wanted to, that this is, after all, a Celtic novel.

As for patience, yes, you're going to need some. Right now, Hild is only ten going on eleven (she lives to the ripe old age of 66), and I'm already 38,000 words in. This book is going to take a while. And, no, I don't have a contract. So get comfy, amuse yourself with other things, and occasionally take a peek at my other blog to see how things are coming along.

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