Message From The Author

Author's Message

My love of old stories was initially inspired by my father, who used to sing me long, melancholy ballads, Scottish ballads for the most part, about selkies, and fairy queens, and drowning maidens. The shape and strength of these old songs settled into my bones, and later, led me to fairy tales, especially those of Hans Christian Andersen. I read Andersen’s stories again and again, those bitter-sweet stories with their powerful natural settings—snow and oceans, roses and ice. I was also lucky enough to have been exposed to some of the best British children’s books as well as those from the United States. We had a pile of Penguin paperbacks, which I read again and again—The Land of Green Ginger, Carbonel, Mistress Masham’s Repose, The Magic Pudding, The Doll’s House, Once on a Time . . . I would love to be able to write with the dry wit shared by many of these books, but I haven’t the ability. I see the influence of neither A. A. Milne nor T. H. White in my work but rather the influence of Hans Christian Andersen: Chime, for example, is written in a minor key and relies on a powerful, natural setting. I have come to discover how important setting is to my books. I had originally set Chime in a small mining village and I worked on the novel for years, making little headway until I came to understand that the terrain was holding me back. That the terrain of that mining village was not organic to the story—or perhaps it was the other way round—but in any event, it was only when I found my way into the swamp that the story sprang to life.

Chime is at least leavened by the playful energy of the romantic hero, Eldric, who came to life after a friend said she was sick of the “bad boy” trope, of the brooding hero, always hovering on the knife-edge of violence. And I thought, Yes! Why not have a good boy instead, a good boy who calls himself a bad boy, which casts his “good boy- ness” into even greater relief. Briony has her own sharp wit, which came into being only after I understood what her weaknesses were—her guilt, her self hatred. Once those percolated to the surface, Briony began to comment on them in various ways, always serious, always meaning what she said about herself, but stamped with her own particular brand of humor. I did not impose this upon her. She came up with it all by herself. I am always astonished when this happens, but it does happen in the natural course of writing, and it is a great gift.

- Franny Billingsley


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