The Merlin Spiral Trilogy - Book One by Robert Treskillard
Day Two of the Merlin's Blade Blog Tour
The Story Behind the Story
click image for Amazon link or click link below) Merlin's Blade - available from:
CBD: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=38856EB&item_code=WW&netp_id=1132381&event=ESRCN&view=detailsAuthor's Web site: http://www.kingarthur.org.uk/
Author's Blog: http://www.epictales.org/blog/robertblog.php
I received a review copy of Merlin's Blade by Robert Treskillard from Zondervon
in conjunction with the May CSFF Blog Tour
in conjunction with the May CSFF Blog Tour
Mr. Treskillard made time to answer a few questions on writing and how Merlin's Blade came to exist. I say made time, because his wesbites and blogs have so much material for Merlin's Blade, I wonder how he ever finds time to write.
Mr. Treskillard, if you have time now, I have a few questions for you to use for the CSFF Blog Tour.
1. What brought about your desire to become a writer? Was it a love of reading, or maybe the influence of a certain book or author?
I grew up in a non-Christian, broken home reading a lot of superhero comic books. This inspired me to write my own comic books, and my plots got really complicated. I particularly remember talking the ear off of an older cousin while I told him my plot for hours. I think I made fourteen or so issues, and planned out twenty more.
In elementary school I was in the play “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”, and then in junior high I read The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, the Silmarillion, and a lot of other sci-fi and fantasy. God used these stories, along with many other things, to bring me into a relationship with him when I was fifteen. Then I got busy in high school and college, and didn’t have as much time to read. In 1988, the year I got engaged, my brother-in-law handed me a copy of Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness”, and that opened my eyes to the power of fiction in the hands of a skillful Christian author.
Then in 1993 I discovered Stephen Lawhead’s “Song of Albion” series, and then his “Pendragon Cycle” series, and devoured them. This showed me what fantasy, something I had left behind in junior high, could be like when written by a Christian.
I still didn’t get the bug to write, however until 2006, when I was burdened after reading the documentary book “Lime 5” by Mark Crutcher. I wanted to write something that would open people’s eyes, but the plot I came up with was too difficult for me to tackle as a new author.
So I put that novel on hold and then, one night, was pondering the legends of King Arthur for no apparent reason. I thought, “Why would someone put a sword into a stone?” It didn’t make sense to me, and so the only answer I came up with was “what if the stone was the darkest enemy?” Without even trying I had come up with a unique angle (I think!), and everything in Merlin’s Blade flowed out of that one idea.
2. How long did it take to write Merlin's Blade?
I wrote one scene in 2006 and decided I liked it and that this “writing thing” might work. Then I stopped writing and researched for a year. After that, it took two years to finish, or so I thought! Little did I know, but I had written it too long for a debut novelist in the CBA market. I also had a ton of things to fix. And so, fourteen complete drafts/rewrites/cuttings later, I finally had something I could turn in to a publisher in 2012 … so, yeah, it took six years, on and off, with writing book two in there as well.
3. I really enjoyed the intricate storylines and the retelling of the Arthur and Merlin stories. Did you plan heavily before you started writing, or are you more a seat-of-the-pants writer?
I plot pretty carefully, yes. I like to know at the start that when I get to the end I’ll be happy with the story arc. I actually had six novels plotted out in rough form before I put pen to paper for Merlin’s Blade. Knowing all that in advance has allowed me to foreshadow many things that won’t happen until much later.
4. Did you finish writing the book before editing, or write and edit each section of the book individually?
I write a bit, and then go back and edit it, and then I read it to my family, and they help me with more edits. Then I print it out and my wife, Robin, goes over it all in great detail, and I almost always take her suggestions. She has a sharp eye not only for plot issues, but character, grammar, and those all important emotional tugs that I sometimes miss.
5. Merlin's Blade included lots of great Celtic settings of both the area and people. The settings seemed so richly detailed; did you need to travel extensively to gain a feel for the culture?
I wish! Unfortunately due to budget constraints I had to travel through old books and the internet—still a privilege, but not a proper substitute, in my opinion. Thankfully my mother gave our family a huge set of old Cornish, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish history and story books that she had collected during her visits to the British Isles. With that and the amazing power of the internet, I was able to craft the story pretty precisely.
Then again, it helped that book 1 tool place all in one tiny village. That reduced the huge scope of my research a bit. Book two travels all over Britain, however, and even makes a foray to Norway, so that was a lot of fun to research.
But it’s amazing … there are so many details you have to worry about. I was writing one scene and I had a firefly in it, and my wife asks me “Do they have fireflies in Britain?” “Of course they do,” I replied, but then I researched and found they didn’t. They have glow-worms that don’t fly. As an American, I just can’t take anything for granted and I extensively research. I’m sure there are things that a native Brit will catch me on, but overall I’m fairly confident that I’ve gotten it right.
Then again, most of the details of the iron-age are lost, and so a lot of what I go off of is the excellent and trained guess-work of scholars. Did I invent things? Yes, I had to, especially about the Druids, of whom we know so little because they didn’t keep any written records. My daughter sent me an email this morning, however, with the subject of “Yikes!” She had found an archaeological article that backed up in grim detail how accurate I was on some points of the druids. You can read it at http://archive.archaeology.org/0201/etc/celtic.html -- but know that it’s not for the squeamish!
One of my first tests came when I was part of the British-influenced Authonomy website of HarperCollins, and all the Brits really liked my writing.
We have a trip planned, soon, however, and it will be great fun to visit all of the places in the novels.
6. What gave you the idea to write Merlin as nearly blind? Anyone with poor eyesight can relate to how Merlin sees everything as blurred shapes.
I actually didn’t want to make Merlin blind. Stephen Lawhead has his Merlin become completely blind for a short period of time, and it felt a bit copy-cat. However, the story necessitated it, and it just flowed naturally from my starting point … I had a rock that was the enemy. Well, what can a rock do? Not much! Roll over and play dead? No. So I came up with the idea that it can enchant those who see its glow. And so, if seeing makes you enchanted, then … not seeing makes you immune. And the only way to make Merlin immune is to make him blind. This gives him a unique trait … his greatest weakness becomes his greatest strength.
I originally tried to write him completely blind, but found it far too limiting. So he can see blurs, shadows, and motion, and this, along with his other senses, especially hearing, helps him figure out what’s going on around him. This allows him to be active, a key for any protagonist.
But it was *very* hard to write from the perspective of a mostly-blind person, especially as a first time novelist. I had to rely on his other senses, and that was actually a great exercise for me as a growing author because it taught me to not just be visual, which is always the easy way out.
7. Does Merlin's handicap and disfigurement represent the effects of sin upon our life?
I hadn’t thought of that. Hmmm…
8. If the village of Bosventor still existed in modern-day Great Britain, where might it be located?
Where *might* it be located? It is located right where it is! (This was one of the fun parts of my research!)
Run Google Earth and go find Dozmary Pool (Lake Dosmurtanlin, a lake that is really and truly connected to Arthurian legend). Compare the area around it to my map. This is a *real* place. Colliford Lake (dammed up) is the marsh, and the Meneth Gellik Mountain is now known as Brown Gelly.
If you look on the old British ordnance maps, you will find an iron age village at the exact location where I have Bosventor, most of the roundhouses placed exactly where they were.
We don’t know it’s name, however, so I made it up. It sits on Bodmin Moor, and the old word for that is Bos-menegh, or Bos-venegh, which means “the dwelling place of monks” Tor means mountain, and since the village was on the mountainside, I combined Bosven, and Tor. This name was encouraged by the presence of modern day Bolventor, Cornwall, just to the north.
Also, if you look *very* carefully, you can see, even today, the rough outline of the fortress on the hill … right where I have it. The stone circle? You can visit that today, too, and its name is the Goodaver Stone Circle (with smaller stones than I have portrayed it, though). I don’t know if an abbey sat where I placed it, but with a name meaning “dwelling place of monks” I figure they had to be around somewhere.
So … monks, druids, an iron age village, a fortress in an ideal site for a beacon, a lake connected to Arthurian legend (which geologists think was carved out by a meteorite!), and the story practically wrote itself. It was the ideal place!
9. Was Merlin's character based off any favorite childhood characters from books or movies?
Nothing intentional that I’m aware of. His blindness is the source of a lot of his character, including impatience, frustration, anger, perceived helplessness that he has to overcome, longing to do something with his life, unlucky in love, etc. Yet in his suffering he has also learned compassion, humbleness, and hard-work.
Randy Ingermanson was very helpful to connect me up with someone who had lost their sight to guide me a bit in how to write from that perspective. Very kind of him!
Thank you for answering these questions about Merlin's Blade, and writing, for the CSFF Blog Tour, Timothy Hicks
Your welcome, Tim … it was a lot of fun!
Day 3 Blog: Bosventor? It's Sure No Camelot! - Day Three I'll discuss the settings and people found in this new take on an old epic tale. The names sounded familiar, but the story kept changing from the expected.
*Participants’ links:Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Keanan Brand Jeff Chapman Laure Covert Pauline Creeden Emma or Audrey Engel April Erwin Victor Gentile Ryan Heart Timothy Hicks Jason Joyner Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Nathan Reimer Chawna Schroeder Kathleen Smith Jojo Sutis Robert Treskillard Steve Trower Phyllis Wheeler Shane Werlinger Nicole White