Mary: Please do tell me about this book.
L.A.: It’s ‘Arthur: Roman Britain's Last Champion’ by the extraordinarily named Beram Saklatvala. It cost 3 pounds and 75 pence, and was first published in 1967: it opens with a quote from William of Malmesbury, 1095-1143:
"It is of this Arthur that the Britons fondly tell so many fables, even to the present day: a man worthy to be celebrated, not by idle fictions, but by authentic history. He long upheld the sinking state, and roused the broken spirit of his countrymen to war."
This first book more or less says it all for me in regards to “The Silurian”--a man worthy to be celebrated, not by idle fictions, but by authentic history
L.A.: Where would I like to live? I really don't know! I love Australia; but maybe New Zealand around Queenstown or Dunedin, in the mountains; or Tasmania on the west coast, or Wales where it's remote and mountainous.
It would be nice to dream of living in Arthur's time, but the reality of that age was too harsh and savage to be happy. I like the here and now, but even now is harsh and becoming more so. Ages past were terrible times for women, so I would only go back in time to Arthur as a man (and I did, as Bedwyr the Fox).
I love landscapes that are high, cold, mountainous and elemental, like Norway, or the Fjordlands of the Vikings. The fjordland of New Zealand is so amazingly close to the Northern Hemisphere of Norway that New Zealand is very close to my ideal. I suppose!
Author, poet and all round enchanter
Mary: Your feeling for these kinds of wild places comes over strongly in 'The Silurian' series. Well, more than strongly, passionately. Your vision of Fifth century Britain is a time travel experience for me. Bedwyr's voice is so strong and truthful. When did Bedwyr and Arthur first enter your life?
L.A.: When did Bedwyr and Arthur first arrive in my life? I think they've always been there in some way or other. Arthur has been with me in one form or another since I was about 12 years old, only his legend didn't really take hold till I was in my early 20s, where I became obsessed with everything to do with the Arthurian myths, and I went seeking for him everywhere.
I lived in England in those days, and I went on a tour of all the Arthurian places I could think of. I went to Cadbury Castle (Caer Cadwyof “The Silurian” books) and Tintagel etc, where I bought my very first book, a non-fiction book, about King Arthur.
Before I knew it, I was writing my own novel about Arthur called "Chasing the King" (which I still have on file and dates back to the late 80s early 90s). This story was a 'stream of consciousness' experimental novel that used the Arthurian myth to an insane degree, mirroring my own personal obsession. This novel began to evolve into ‘The Silurian’ in a form not recognizable to readers of today's 'The Silurian' series.
It was the love of the Arthurian myths and legends that got me into writing in the first place, and without Arthur, I might never have picked up a pen and begun to write. I studied hard and long and painfully. I have no idea how Bedwyr came to save the day! He just began to stand out more and more as Arthur's champion, and it was Bedwyr's voice that took over the Silurian story and made it his own; and again for some mysterious reason, I could only tell this story as a first person narrative from Bedwyr's point of view. I did once try to write a third person version, which failed, and when I let go and allowed Bedwyr the Fox to take control, only then did the story begin to take its true form. I will always be grateful to Bedwyr for rescuing “The Silurian” from the world of mediocre writing that I was doing at that time. I now consider Bedwyr my alter ego, and he will always be with me, as will Arthur.
Mary: That is fascinating, L.A. As a totally addicted reader I can say that Bedwyr's voice is so powerful that I too have images of the Fox and the Bear as part of my inner life. And I'm not alone, as I can see from other people's reviews and on social media. ‘The Silurian’ seems to me to arise from a more mysterious source than imaginative research. Hmmm, I'm not expressing this well, I'll have to quote Shakespeare:
'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'
What is your view on this?
L.A.: I do understand what you're saying. My mother in law used to say the same thing, and that I must have lived a past life in or near Arthur's time. The very first time I heard about King Arthur, when I was twelve, something seemed to have 'clicked' on in my head. Out of all the many hundreds of kings and queens that have existed in British history, only Arthur stood out to me, and that was long before I even knew of his story: it was the mere mention of his name that was enough to mesmerise me.
So, yes, maybe there is a kind of memory of something that gets passed down generation after generation: what I call a DNA memory. I do think Science has only just begun to uncover the true depths of our connections with our ancestors, a much more mysterious 'life force' that's in all of us, passed down in our very DNA and blood and bones that carries a memory of some kind yet to be uncovered (or not). And yes, there are more things in heaven and earth, and whether we will ever know of these things or not, that's another area of yet untapped discovery.
I have said that I think of Bedwyr as much more than a character in a book; to me, he is beyond doubt, my alter ego, and how this has come to be, well, that's another mystery! As I said before too, I've always known of Arthur and Bedwyr being there in my psyche in one form or another, even in my childhood, I had two imaginary male friends who were always together, a part of each other, and a part of me. I will end by saying that I am Bedwyr, but he is not me. That makes little sense, but I understand it...
L.A.: Everyday life...that is, the way it is for me now, is that I've learned over the years to completely separate my writing life, from everyday life, and rarely do the two ever meet. Like parallel lines, running side by side, but never meeting. When I first began writing, it did impact on me far too deeply and sometimes even a little 'psychotically', sometimes to the point of deep depression that I had to struggle hard to overcome and put into a different space.
I live very much in my own head; but there's an internal, and external me. My entire psyche was and is totally consumed by Bedwyr and his world, by Arthur, but nowadays, being more mature in age and experience, I can live a fairly normal daily life, and no one would ever suspect what's going on in my head.
I do still though disappear into another realm while supposedly being in this realm; people can talk to me, and I can talk to them, but right at the same time, I'm somewhere else entirely. I've learned how to manage the two worlds somehow. I'm a very down-to-earth person who lives another life in a far, far away world with the most mightiest and brave and unusual souls you can ever meet. It is utterly strange and normal both at once! Though, I do confess, that in private when I'm alone, which is almost all the time these days, I can BE the Fox so much more freely, and will have emotional highs and lows as he does too. I can express these highs and lows when alone, but when in company, all that will be strictly suppressed. And if I should ever let it all out, oh my!!! Lions and tigers, and bears...!!