Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Legend in Your Own Mind with Guest Blogger Hywela Lyn

Welcome our newest Featured Author, Hywela Lyn to the blog!

Win a copy of her book Starquest and chat with her about using Legends & Landscapes as Inspiration for your writing...


When people hear I write ‘futuristic and fantasy’ their first reaction when the mention of world building comes up is often "oh well it’s all in your imagination, so you don’t have to bother with research!" Hmmm...not quite the case.
The thing is, when you start to write a story that has a purely imaginary setting, whether it be a fantasy which takes place on our own world, or on a distant planet, if there are any peculiar features of that world, you need to be able to offer some explanation of why ‘things are like they are.’

This may mean reading various versions of myths and legends in order to find a rationale and come up with a different slant, and could also entail reading scientific articles on flora, fauna or astronomy. (Thank goodness for the internet.) Even fantasy has to be ‘logical’ and you need to find plausible explanations if you expect the reader to ‘suspend their disbelief’.

I’m not one of those people who think because it’s ‘fantasy’ if there are dragons, the dragons should be there just ‘because it’s fantasy’. (For the record there aren’t any dragons in any of my books, so far, although I’ve nothing against the fabulous reptiles.) But - if dragons are in a story, I want to know how they evolved and what their function is, their reason for being there, and why they deserve a place in the story. (Anne McCaffrey’s Science Fiction series of ‘dragon books’ are a perfect example of a believable rationale.)

So if, for instance, one uses a character from a folk tale in a story, I believe there has to be a sound reason for them turning up when they do, and for how they relate to the other characters.

Although I do ‘dream up’ a fair amount from my own imagination, I also draw on real life memories, as well as myths and legends and the folk tales of my native Wales. For me, the setting is as important as the characters themselves. It's where my heroes and heroines live, breathe - and fall in love. So the setting is almost a character itself, and just as characters are shaped and influenced by events, so the plot is influenced by the setting and how the characters react to it.

My first novel, Starquest, takes place on several different planets, each very different from the other. One, Osind, has animals loosely based on universally recognized creatures from folk myths and fairy tales, and includes sea monsters and unicorns. The sea monsters are not quite what they seem though, and the unicorns are used much as horses have been used throughout history on our own planet, the only function of their horn is a natural means of defense and it has no magical powers. I have often felt that creatures such as unicorns or mer people must have some basis in reality. Perhaps they not only exist on other planets, but are as commonplace as the animals we take for granted. Who knows?

The hills and lakes of Wales are beautiful and mysterious, and the country is full of its own myths and legends which add their own atmosphere to the landscape. The peace and tranquility of the wild places, the large areas free of commercialization and the trappings of civilization, cannot help but inspire a writer. As a child growing up by the sea in Wales, I spent hours walking along the beach, watching the sea creatures in the rock pools and the changing moods of the sea. The many colored sea anemones which I found so fascinating, were the inspiration for the carnivorous, sentient plants on another of the planets in Starquest, where my main characters face their final challenge. The first planet they visit is Niflheim, named after the Norse land of cold and mist, and was the one which I enjoyed writing about the most.

All I knew when I began creating this world was that the inhabitants were telepathic, and that the planet was cold.

Niflheim came to me when I was looking across at the mountains in Wales, one winter’s afternoon. I’d just started writing Starquest and watched the mist rolling towards me from the mountain range of in front of my home. I suddenly realized the mist was actually snow approaching from the hills, and at the same time I remembered an article I’d read several years before, about colored snow. And so Niflheim, with its mists, and pink and white snow formed in my mind. Once the setting was established, the inhabitants of the planet, their customs and way of life were swift to follow.

Mythical characters and animals, places, legends and ones own memories can all play a part when writing a story, whether it be futuristic, or pure fantasy. Legends spark off ideas, which lead to stories that are completely original. A sunset, or the way the light filters through the trees or the wind ripples a stretch of water can form the basis of a whole new world.

Starquest originally started as a short story. A novel and a sequel later, I’m now working on a third book in the series. It’s surprising what can come from a snippit of remembered Norse legend and the sight of the mist drifting in across the mountains.

A Note from the Book Boost: Lyn, I love that you use the setting as an additional character in your novels. This simply breathes life into your story! Welcome to the Boost and we'd love to have you back very soon for an interview so that our readers can learn more about the author behind the book! In the meantime, please tell us more about your latest book Children of the Mist (the sequel to Starquest)!

Two minds united against a common foe. Two hearts afraid to show their love.

Long ago Tamarith fell in love with a man she can never have, and is convinced she will never love another. However, she cannot help but be intrigued by a handsome stranger whose psychic powers exceed even her own.

Vidarh seeks only to find his true purpose in life and to win the regard of his father, who eschews his son’s psychic abilities. Thrown together by a common threat to their planet, then torn apart by an evil greater than any they could have imagined, can Vidarh save the lovely Nifl woman who has captivated him, before it is too late?

Will Tamarith and Vidarh overcome the deadly enemy who threatens to destroy all they know and love? Will they find the happiness they both seek? Or are they fated to live their lives alone?


Vidarh struck a barrage of water with a force that winded him. Myriad rainbow colours flashed before his eyes. For a nanosecond, he sped through a vortex of black nothingness, sucked through the eye of a raging whirlwind. He hit hard ground and rolled over onto his side. A few moments passed before he could catch his breath and scramble to his feet. He stood in embarrassment, aware of the slightly shocked expressions on the faces of the three people gathered before him.

Welcome, Vidarh. Not quite how we were expecting you to arrive.

The young woman, at whose feet he had fallen, was pleasing to look at, even if her expression was one of bemusement. He'd formed a vague picture in his mind and thought she would be attractive, although he had not expected her to be so stunning. Large, dark eyes framed with feathery lashes lit up her delicate features. Thick black hair in a long braid reached almost to her feet, and the close-fitting riding gear she wore emphasized a petite, shapely figure.

Tamarith smiled, an action that made her seem even lovelier, and extended her fingers in the Nifl custom. How did you do that?

The question whispered in his mind, and he sensed no one else heard it. I'll tell you later, he telepathed, also withholding his reply from the others. I'm not entirely sure myself, I've only managed very short distances previously. He touched her fingers in return and glanced at a neatly bearded figure and an elderly man standing next to him, who repeated the gesture.

My brother, Gullin. And this is one of our elders, Liftrar, Tamarith informed him as they completed the polite ritual of greeting. I think we should make for Gladsheim. You must be weary after your journey. Not to mention, wet, she added with another smile.

Vidarh nodded and she led him over to one of the ponies and held its head while he mounted.
With a lithe movement, she stepped into the saddle of her own steed. She waited while the other two climbed aboard theirs, then led the way down the mountainside.

The sure-footed ponies picked their way along the narrow mountain path and Vidarh shivered against the sharp wind, his sodden clothes clinging to him, heavy and uncomfortable, chilling him even further. On reaching the foot of the mountain they urged the ponies into a mile- eating gallop, the exhilarating pace lifting his spirits and making him less aware of his discomfort. He knew there were questions Tamarith wanted to ask. Every now and then, he caught fragments of her curiosity, and that of the others. However, he merely projected back to her that he would explain once they reached Gladsheim and he'd changed into dry clothes.

At last, Gladsheim came into view. Vidarh drew in his breath. The city was even more beautiful than the stories had led him to believe. The mist, which still swirled over the mountains, had not yet reached the settlement. The setting suns cast a golden glow, suffused with touches of pink and crimson. Elegant houses, ranged around a long, narrow lake beneath snow-capped peaks, stood bathed in the ethereal light. Mosaic paths wound between tinkling fountains, and shrubs and flowers grew in profusion, despite the fine sprinkling of snow on the ground. Vidarh was still gazing around in awe, when Gullin came to his pony's head and held the bridle for him to dismount.

Come, you must be tired after your journey. You need to change and then we'll eat, and you can meet everyone.

Vidarh was happy to alight from the saddle and hand the reins to a girl, who also held Tamarith's pony. As she and a young man led their mounts away, Vidarh followed Gullin and Tamarith across the delicate bridge, which spanned the lake. Unseen bells tinkled, the sound drifting on the slight wind, and the bridge itself coruscated with all the colours of the spectrum, in the radiance of the two sunsets.

Want More Hywela?

Visit her website here: www.hywelalyn.co.uk
Check out her blog here: www.hywelalyn.blogspot.com
View her book trailer now! Click here!

Pick up your copy of her latest book today! Click here!

Contest time
One lucky reader will receive a copy of Starquest! Please leave a question or comment for Hywela Lyn to be eligible to win. Winners announced here at the blog in the right hand column box under Recent Winners. Check back in about a week to see if you've won and to claim your prize!


Miss Mae said...

Absolutely loved this article! I knew Nifl had to do with Wales, but I can't remember that you ever said before that the whole setting came because you watched the mist roll off the mountain one time when you were home. How perfectly natural now that I know!

Hywela Lyn said...

Thank you so much for visiting and your kind comments, Lula. Yes, sometimes the most natural things in nature can appear absolutely 'fantastic'

Hywela Lyn said...

I'd like to thank The Book Boost Blog for having me here today - and yes, thank you for the invite, I'd love to come back for an interview!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Lyn, what a fascinating post about the snow in Wales. I've heard you tell it before but it always gets to me. You know I love anything mystical and this certainly pulls at my heart strings. You are a talented author with a lyrical voice, and I love the Starquest series. Looking forward to book three. Best of luck, dear friend.

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Sharon,

Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting dear friend. I do so appreciate your lovely words and compliments,

Mary Ricksen said...

Hi Lyn, I finally got here!!!!
I so agree with you about Anne McCaffrey. I have just finished, not too long ago, two of her sons books. They are so much like hers and follow the story lines she created about the dragons, etc. I think I read every one of her books.
I wish I could see Wales, and you could see Vermont. I'll bet they are very similar.

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Mary,

Thank you so much for calling by, my friend. Yes, Anne McC did a lot to mend the reputation of dragons - who wouldn't want a telepathic 3ft long dragon that loves you like a dog would!

I've heard Vermont is beautiful. When we both have best sellers perhaps we'll be able to visit each other's homelands!