Message From The Author
By the time a book comes out, you the author are usually a year or more past finishing writing it—you’ve moved into a different mindset and a different world while your publisher gets on with turning your deathless (in your dreams) prose into a real book. Although "real" has gone through some changes lately, and it may be newly rearranged pixels on a familiar screen rather than fresh whispery/crackly pages between your hands and a faint smell of glue.
I’ve been telling myself that part of my present sense of dislocation in my own personal writer-verse is the increasing presence of the electronic world within it. I’ve been blogging for a few years now, but I only joined Twitter about this time last year, and this publication day it was very disconcerting seeing things tweeted before I knew about them. Wait! Yipe! That’s my book! It’s a bit like watching your best friend or your youngest child set off to cross the Alps wearing plimsolls and armed with a netbook. Wait! you cry. At least let me give you an elephant!
Every writer knows that a story has a mind—and a will—of its own, and you want it to. A lot of necessary story tension, in my experience anyway, is caused by the struggle between writer and story. It’s not that you’re enemies—far from it. You both want the same thing: the story on paper in a form that makes both of you happy. You want it badly. And you long for better communication. But you’re such different species—you the writer and you the story. A bit like humans and pegasi.
Someone recently, as part of the fuss Penguin is making about Pegasus’ publication (thank you, Penguin!), suggested that most and perhaps all my stories have been about communication against the odds, communication across great ravines of culture, history and sometimes species. The Beast forces an appalling bargain on the merchant because he has no other choice if his enchantment is ever to be broken. Corlath kidnaps Harry because his foresight tells him his failing country needs her, and like the Beast, he has no other better choice. Aerin is rejected by her father’s people because of her mother’s witch blood, but it is that witch blood that will enable her to rescue them from someone who bears witch blood too. Whoever it was (apologies: I’ve written kind of a lot of guest pieces about Pegasus lately, and I’m losing my grip) added that I seem to be raising the stakes. Jake’s dragons are dying out because they have been dangerously misunderstood and demonised; Willowlands may disappear because its true Master is no longer human and cannot make contact with its genius loci; and the alliance between humans and pegasi has been precarious for the eight hundred years of its existence, because the two species cannot speak to each other.
The first flickers of the story that would become Pegasus are at least ten years old; I may have had my first computer by then, but email and the web were things that happened to other people. For all that I write fantasy for a living, in the world away from my desk I want grounding in that world: I have two dogs that need a lot of exercise, I garden, I ring bells, I play the piano. I feel the tug between the on-line world and the three-dimensional one much more strongly than I used to. I don’t think this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it is a thing. And I wonder how much the increased tension between my two worlds has influenced the development of Pegasus. The story is the story, but who and what the writer is can’t help but inform her writing. And as I sit here, being more than usually thrown off balance by the nonetheless gratifying hubbub around publication day, I wonder if all this two-worlds business has anything to do with the fact that Pegasus has become two books. The new world and new mindset I’m inevitably in to work on my new book have more in common with the world and mindset I was in to finish the last one than they ever have before. I’ve made a career out of not writing sequels. Never mind the world-wide web, Alps, or elephants—this is very disconcerting.
- Robin McKinley
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