Every story starts with an idea. An idea can spark from my thoughts, a piece of music, a book, a movie, artwork, an event, an internet snippet, a historical event, a person I meet—anything and everything can be turned into a story or part of one. The original idea for The Rose of Caledon was a little romance I made up in my head one night when I couldn’t sleep. The story kept growing night after night, becoming longer and more complex, until it finally had to come out on paper. The spark for the romance came, oddly enough, from The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. (Long, winding story how I got from there to here. Anyway…)
A spark for another book was a picture of a dragon mask a friend of mine had posted on Facebook. That mask immediately captured my imagination, and within two hours of seeing that image, an entire story was born. It needs characters and details, but the basic outline is there, all from one photograph.
Music frequently inspires ideas, and I often enjoy listening to music as I write. A piece that influenced The Rose of Caledon was this one by Celtic Woman, titled “Tír Na NÓg” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhW1mh7U6-U. “Tír Na NÓg” is inspired by an ancient Irish myth, and it sparked my idea for the ancient Caledonian love song “Tighin, Fy Caru.” In turn, “Tighin, Fy Caru” sparked an idea for a further book, so you’ll get to learn the story behind the song, and meet the composer, in Book Six.
The idea for Myrhiadh’s War sparked as Rose progressed, and the character of Myrhiadh Eathain was inspired by a piece of music entitled “The Way,” by Florian Bur. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQLVlJWf02M. That music became Myrhiadh’s theme as I worked through the story. When I listened to that, I could interact with Myrhiadh as though she were right there in the room with me. And at 0:58, you can hear her life-changing arrow fly!
Another piece I listened to while composing Myrhiadh’s War was this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fyDHNssXnY, “Assassins” also by Florian Bur. I can see the showdown in chapter sixteen while listening to this music, and hear the voices in Myrhiadh’s head. While writing and researching that chapter, as well as some of the battle scenes from Dragon’s Fire, I enjoyed this extended Celtic mix too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWObTfiovD8.
The idea for Dragon’s Fire came randomly at three in the morning as I was typing out a conversation between James and Myrhiadh in War. If you’ve read Book Three, you’ll know the conversation I mean; they discussed Dragon’s Fire on the way to the Black Cliffs in chapter six—or at least, they debated the legends they had heard about the past. I finished their dialogue, looked at it, and realized that here was the mysterious “What Came Before?” that I had been looking for since I was halfway through Rose. The spark got tweaked and changed as I developed it, but I left the piece in War as it was, because history can get twisted over the course of nearly 400 years.
And that idea—that history gets twisted—gave me an idea for a book of Caledonian legends and faerie tales… all the stuff you’ve seen in the books and then some, but twisted and fantastic and extra-magical! The haunted castle and the ghost of the bloody bed will play into this book for sure, and I think it will be fun to read stories that will make you say, “I remember that!” and, “That’s not how it happened at all!”
Incidentally, some of Caledon’s landscape and the dance scene from Mya’s birthday party in Dragon’s Fire were inspired in part by another piece of Florian Bur’s music, titled “The Irish Melody” which I view as “Ciara’s Theme.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX84fAw_nDk. At the beginning of the piece, I see the sweep of the land at Ampleforth, from the castle on the cliff, across green fields and the harbor, to the Sacred Cliffs on the north shore. I see an Aderyntan take to the sky with a mighty flapping of wings and I see Cythraul turn his regal head to look at me with fire blazing in his eyes. The dance scene starts at 1:27… can’t you just see Eric defying Adrian and leading a reluctant Ciara to the dance floor, where the music and fun sweep her away? I see the swirling skirts. I see the intricate Caledonian footwork. I see Ciara laughing up into Eric’s face as I listen to this song. It’s Caledon.
(I love Florian Bur’s music, in case you can’t tell. For more of his beautiful work, check out his website at https://www.florianbur.co/. Great music inspires great stories!)
Book Four, The Brigand’s Promise, was more forced than most of my stories usually are. The spark was the prophecy in Dragon’s Fire: I knew what year the book needed to be set in, and the central plot concept, but beyond that, I had no clue what to do with it. That spark needed a lot of conscientious fanning, using typical writing aids like plot arcs and timelines and character sketches and boring stuff like that, but once the ideas began to mesh in my head, the book started coming to life like the others. (I’m still in the enhancing process, but it will be ready for release soon!)
Book Five was born out of all that went before: the ultimate culmination of the Dragon’s Fire mystery. What had happened to the Dragon’s Fire all those years ago after it was stolen from Caledon? Where was it now? Who was going to find it, and what was going to happen to Caledon if they failed to return it? I had about 35 pages of random notes and scenes for Book Five written long before I was ready to start the book. It lived in my head as I worked on the others: the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, only I was extremely happy in the tunnel, so while I kept the destination in mind, I never minimized the journey.
By the time I had finished the first draft of Book Five, I knew I hadn’t had enough of Caledon yet. I wanted to play with my dragons some more, and so many new ideas had ignited in my head as I wrote the first books: stories that I couldn’t pursue within the context of the existing plots. Things that would be spoilers for the first books if they were written in sequence. So Books Six, Seven, Eight, and so on are currently written in my head and will make their way onto the computer once I get the first five books published. I found many new stories within the pages of the first five books. Joseph Callahan. Adrian’s great-grandson, Laurence. The first king of Caledon, and the building/carving of Caledon castle. Sara, the surprisingly spunky Zandorian girl from Myrhiadh’s War. They all have their own stories, aching to be told! I’m having far too much fun in Caledon to stop writing about it, so I’m going to keep creating these books for as long as I’m enjoying the process.
Next time—the plot!
Who are some of your favorite characters from the first three books? Anyone you want to know more about? Did the books hint at an untold story that you want to hear? You never know, your comment just might be a brand new spark!