February 7th 2014
It is very easy for an author to get lost in the publicity and promotion surrounding a book launch, so I want to state for the record now how I see my book Veil Of Time, aka Dunadd, just about five weeks out from publication.
I remember thinking last year about this time, when I found out the publication date had been postponed until February 2014 that it was too far in the future to even think about. I sat on my chair in my office, head in hands and cried. I lost sight of the big picture for a moment. But here we are. Time waits, as the proverb tells us, for no man nor woman nor anything here under the sun.
Before I proceed, though, I'm going to give a nod to a friend of mine who jumped off a bridge this last weekend. Whether you knew him or not, we should all take pause, because except for the smile of fate and the graces there go we. He was a fine journalist here in Aspen, someone who had given generous time and space in his writings to me and mine. In fact, the last article he wrote, which came out on the day of his death, was about me and mine. He had recently read my book, and he described it in the article as a dark family drama. It isn't, though. The darkness must have been in him. But I didn't recognise that darkness, and never pegged him for the kind of person who would go to such desperate measures. But, even though no man is an island (and I will stop with the clichés soon), individuals can often act like them. And I suppose feeling isolated like that with no hope of rescue, a person might opt out. I can't get there even conceptually myself, but I cannot judge him either. Stewart Oksenhorn, friendly, upbeat, handsome, driven, with a quiet presence. You leave it hard for me to breathe. 8am in the first break of sun on a world just buried in two feet of snow, you took off your jacket and left it with your backpack on the bridge. And I keep wondering, perhaps because my mind has nowhere else to go, why did you take off your jacket?
So Veil Of Time is not a dark family drama, though it has elements of that. It is not a Romance, though it has elements of that, too. It is not Time Travel Fantasy, though, of course, that is part of it. And it didn't even end up only being what I started out to try and write, which was just some kind of homage to this magical place called Dunadd in Argyll, Scotland, a place only a few miles from where I grew up. Dunadd was for me in those far-off days a school bus stop where a couple of boys got on. I was more interested at the time in the boys than in this ancient fort that loomed behind them. Like most teenagers, the ancient past was only a blur around the edges of my world. But, of course, Dunadd stuck with me. When I moved to America, all these remnants of the past that had been shouting out to me down the years suddenly came into sharp focus.
Dunadd is a hillock, like an elephant's back in a flattened-out valley studded with rings of standing stones and marks in the rocks too ancient for anyone to know anymore what they mean. If you climb up the path to the top of Dunadd, you walk through a narrow slit in the rock that you don't know was where the great oak gates were once hinged, but you begin to feel the presence of the people that erected them and even more so as you walk around the rubble of the once ten-feet thick walls that ringed the hill. There's the ornate Pictish boar carved into the rock and a stone footprint. On the very top is a partial wall of a once round shelter built into the side of the hill, and from up there, the wind rushing up from the sea makes you gasp. But on any clear night from Dunadd, just around sunset, you can see the islands set on a wash of brilliant reds and oranges. It is probably the most beautiful sight in the world. In my world it is. So, I wanted to write about it. That was the impetus for Veil of Time.
As I wrote the book, though, other things started to push their way in. The first was Sula the druidess. These people were matrilineal, and I don't believe just druids once ruled here. And I started to think about where that line of wise women was going to go - to the stake eventually. When I considered why this was so, I had to think of the advent of Christianity in Scotland, eventually to John Knox and his Calvinism, which brought with it these insane periods of Scottish history when councils of men were out to eliminate any hint of women-once-in-control. Our evangelist John Knox wrote "The First Trumpet Blast against the Monstrosity of Women Leaders," and all hell broke loose.
So, druidesses, Christianity, the interface between the two, and time, of course. That's where I disagree with anyone nominating this fantasy. Time travel isn't fantasy to physicists these days. Time is smoke - who can say definitively what its direction? Newton and Kant thought time was a thing. But Einstein said, No, No. It's not. In the quantum world, it is just part of the soup.
So all of this crept in. By the time I was writing the sequel, these elements had pretty much taken over. I let them because they need a voice. In this material world, we need a new paradigm if we are to go on living. So, that's what I am about in this trilogy. That is my raison d'être.
Stewart lost his for a moment there. But let's not forget. It's the crux we all struggle with, the allure of a bridge on a sun sparkle morning in the snow.