My Inspiration: Ivy Lewis – And Where Will You Go, Gan Didean? | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Essex-born author and medieval history expert Ivy Lewis releases her new novel, And Where Will You Go, Gan Didean?, on 1st July via local publishers InkyLab. This fairy tale adventure is a two-threaded story of a young girl who is mocked by her village on account of her crippled right leg and so seeks refuge in the forest, where she encounters the faerie folk who burn the village to the ground. Not happy with that the villagers chase away the young girl who befriends Poem, a beautiful pony, as well as a spider called Gwendoline, which kicks off more fantastical adventures.

Here, Ivy tells us more about what inspired the book…

When Poem died I realised that I became homeless.  Not in the literal sense (I still had four walls and a roof over my head), but without the pony I had loved since I was a child I was lost; formless, shelterless.  The identity that I had formed for myself and the security that I had known for over twenty years was gone.  I became Gan Dídean.

So the initial motivation for my novella was grief. I began writing the day after I had Poem put to sleep.

But the story and the characters came from somewhere else.

I’m a historian by training with a love of folklore and fairy stories; not the Disney kind or even those recorded by the Brothers Grimm.  I like the traditional tales passed down by generations of local people or buried in medieval exempla.  These are the stories that make you feel as though the world is just a little bit tilted, as though there is something strange and dangerous lurking just on the edge of your vision, something fey and fickle that’s slightly out of reach.

Faeries are not small and cute like Tinkerbell, they are tricksy and wicked and full of mischief.  They dwell in liminal spaces and occupy a realm somewhere between the living and the dead.  There was a medieval belief that they were too bad for heaven and too good for hell.  In the Christian medieval mind they shared many of the attributes of ghosts and spectres, but they were never the trapped souls of the once living.  In Celtic tradition they were powerful beings from a realm beyond ours, a place that might be accessible to mortals, but that was perilous to visit.  Celtic fae came in many shapes and sizes, ranging from the beautiful to the grotesque, and might help or harm a human according to their own unfathomable intent.  These are the faeries that Mise Erskin encounters and these are the creatures she must be smart enough to outwit.

And Where Will You Go, Gan Dídean?  is set in a future world, where the forest has returned.  The forest is another great inspiration of mine and it felt right that the story was set mostly amidst the trees.  Part of my healing journey after losing Po has been time spent in nature, with the sound of birdsong and the soft rustle of leaves.  We all know that our wild spaces are dying and I wanted to imagine what it would be like if the primordial forest returned and brought with it the denizens of the Old World; if Mother Nature somehow got her revenge and we became the hunted rather than the hunters.

The main theme of my novella is obviously love, but it explores other ideas as well; identity, growing up, disability and finding our place in the world.  Who do we trust?  Who can we count on?  As kids we are sold the story of the villain, the hero and the princess.  Girls are damsels in distress and boys ride in on their white chargers (or the modern equivalent) and save them.  Good and bad are black and white, clearly defined.  When we grow up we realise those concepts are all a lie.  Life is messy and painful and gender stereotypes are outdated and generally just plain wrong.  There’s no such thing as black and white, everything exists as shades of grey.  In the end no one is going to save you – you have to be your own hero and save yourself.  Something I have learned as a disabled person.  This is why it was important to me that my main character had a disability.  I didn’t want her to be physically perfect and stereo-typically beautiful.  Her worth is in her strength, not in her appearance.  Something that I believe is true of everyone.

And Where Will You Go, Gan Dídean? is an adventure, in the classic model of the Hero’s Journey, but with a twist.  Each chapter can be read as a stand-alone folk tale and each chapter is deliberately incomplete.  I want my readers to follow Mise on her quest to reunite with Poem, but I also want them to imagine the adventures that she and other characters in the story might have along the way.  I hope that next time they are out walking in the forest they too might wonder what’s lurking just out of sight and, perhaps, if they’re fortunate, catch the briefest glimpse of Faerie.

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