As part of the celebrations for the launch of her new novel Alchemy, it is my great pleasure to welcome Ailsa Abraham to my blog today.
Hi, Annette. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to strut my stuff about my latest release. It’s very kind. Here are some thoughts on the seemingly endless gestation period for this one.
There is some very good advice around for beginner novelists. One of them is “Start your novel with a bang! Hook the reader from the very first sentence.” That is exactly what I did when writing Shaman’s Drum. It dived straight into the action, referring to past history along the way but concentrating on the adventure at hand. Yes, well, great advice if the newbie novelist is writing a stand-alone work. It’s not so hot if the book ends up being part of a series, especially if it turns out to be Volume Two. Readers of Shaman’s Drum liked it but wanted to know the beginning. How did the changes come about? How can you start a story where the world has altered so completely without explaining? Easy. I’m a duffer but I can honestly say that “Alchemy” was written in response to public demand.
Alchemy – the search for the secret of turning base metal into gold. The title refers to a scientific discovery which allows the commercial conversion of methane to a cheap alternative to fossil fuels. The price of implementing this world-changing system, which works on waste products, is the abolition of the established religions. WHAT??? This exchange is designed to end war and terrorism. It explains the situation at the beginning of Shaman’s Drum where “The Changes” have been in place for some time.
My hardest job, however, being a complete numpty where science is concerned, was the chemistry. For that I had recourse to my husband a nuclear, electronic and electrical engineer. Fortunately he knew all about alternative fuels. Writing as a prequel gave me the chance to make Alchemy a much more rounded and complete novel, introducing sub plots, parallel stories and interesting new history. Everyone wanted to know about Iamo and Riga’s early lives, how they had grown up and how they had come to fall in love in the first place, seeing as they were imprisoned for that crime at the start of Shaman’s Drum but once I got going, there was so much more to include.
Three separate couples appear in this novel, one stable and happy, one tentative and seemingly impossible and the two main characters from Shaman’s Drum who do not fall in love until the end of Alchemy. Unlike the technical bits I was OK relying on my memory for early training in shamanic and Wiccan practices having been through them myself. A long time ago, admittedly but that kind of thing stays with one.
Dealing with demons had figured largely in Shaman’s Drum so the new story centres around their return, with the absence of organised religion to oppose them. It raises interesting philosophical questions on the purpose and nature of religions in general.
It isn’t often that an author can say that they are 100% happy with their work but, having spent nearly a year on Alchemy, I am. The cover artwork, designed by Laurence Patterson of Crooked Cat is particularly stunning. I cannot wait for the release in paperback and e-book on 31st January. Early feedback from beta-readers and that most severe of critics (the scientific husband) are very favourable so I’m dying to hear from other readers very soon.
Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France for over twenty years and is married with no children but six grandchildren. Her passion is motorbikes which have taken the place of horses in her life now that ill-health prevents her riding. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn’t have all those, I’d have to work for a living, instead of writing, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing.
As Ailsa Abraham :
Shaman’s Drum published by Crooked Cat
(nominated for the People’s Choice Book Prize)
Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords
Writing as Cameron Lawton