Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Guest Author & Giveaway: M D Lachlan on Inspirations & Influences

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Today’s guest is Fantasy Author M D Lachlan – the pen name for the author and journalist Mark Barrowcliffe. His first Fantasy novel, Wolfsangel, a tale that combines Norse Mythology, Vikings and the myth of the werewolf, is being published by Gollancz this month. To celebrate its release, we invited the author to talk about the ideas behind the book.

Please give it up for M D Lachlan!

It’s a bit strange to talk of inspiration just because I’m not entirely clear how it works for me. I’m sure there are some people in the arts (Noel Gallagher, for instance) who see or hear something they like and think ‘I’d like to do something just like that’ and do. That’s actually an under-rated talent and one that can produce some great work. It’s also a good thing to do for people who are starting off. The poet Philip Larkin wrote his first works with a book of WB Yeats open on the table in front of him. It taught him the fundamentals of poetry, which enabled him to go on and find his own voice.

I don’t work like that, not from any high-minded principle but just because I don’t think I could do it very well. Some people can take a top thriller, virtually copy it, and produce a convincing top thriller. They then buy their house in the Bahamas and continue writing from there. I’m not so lucky. For some reason I just can’t do that and I know I can’t because I’ve tried.

So I’m pretty much stuck with originality, whether I like it or not. That sounds like a statement full of lightly veneered hubris but I genuinely think that originality is an unhealthy aim in any art form. I’m pleased that I’ve done something people consider original but my aim was to produce a bog standard fantasy story. My failure to do so was, luckily, a failure people seem to like.

Originality seems to have replaced beauty, truth or just entertainment as the yardstick by which the arts are judged. You can see why. It’s easier to say if something’s new, rather than if it’s any good. This, I fear, has been the curse of conceptual art. I don’t say there’s no good conceptual art, just that there’s an awful lot of bad stuff that people hesitate to condemn because it appears to be original.

I think we should be suspicious of originality. The reason something may not have been done before might be because it’s inherently rubbish. If something’s never been seen in human history, the likelihood is it’s been considered and dismissed at some point in the past and for good reason. However, as a writer, sometimes you do come up with something that you consider new and worth showing to other people. This was the case for me with Wolfsangel – a book that surprised me when I wrote it because things buried deep in my mind seemed to come bubbling to the surface, seize the fantasy novel I thought I was writing by the throat and drag it down, like Grendel, into the mire.

Wolfsangel is a historical fantasy, set in the Viking period and containing various supernatural elements – witches, werewolves and Norse gods. Just a warning, there are some mild spoilers, to do with the theme of the book below. I don’t give away plot but if you want to read Wolfsangel totally unsullied by explanation then you might want to look away now.

I don’t think I was inspired by any one thing to write this book. It’s more that certain things I’ve read and watched on TV have created a sort of mental microclimate into which I step every time I sit down write the book. If you think that’s a pretentious statement, try the next one. If the book is a landscape, these are the things that rained on it, blew on it and scraped across it to form it. I know that seems a pompous description but it seems about right.

Inspiration comes from the fact that I love dark fantasy. By this I don’t mean fantasy with dark characters – evil or psychopathic characters don’t really interest me as a writer – but something where the protagonists seem to be up against strange and unknowable forces. When I say I don’t want to write about evil characters – I like bad people in my books but I like you to know why they’re bad. One person’s evil is another’s unsentimental self interest.

TV obviously had an enormous effect on people of my generation and no more so than Children of the Stones – a tea time series in the 1970s. I could tell you all about it but it’s better to just listen to the theme tune (not the HTV bit, which comes first, clearly) Kids today would need counselling if you stuck this on a TV programme. It’s about ancient supernatural forces impacting on modern life – not too dissimilar from the theme of Wolfsangel. It also contains the idea of ancient stories playing out in the modern day.A book with a similar theme is Alan Garner’s Owl Service – set in Wales with a different mythology, that of the Welsh Mabinogion. I have to say, I enjoyed the idea of this book – ancient stories playing themselves out through modern people – more than the book itself when I was a kid. I’d loved his Weirdstone of Brisingamen with a passion and The Owl Service seemed a bit subtle and dated for my tastes back then.

The film The Wicker Man has a related feel. Please, in the name of sanity, don’t confuse this slice of 1970s genius with the Nick Cage remake, for which crime I think he should be set upon by pagans and sacrificed to the darkest god available within a four hour car journey. I said at the time it had all the charm of watching a dear old friend beaten to death. The 1973 Wicker Man has a great look to it and a superb plot – it involves a staid police inspector going to investigate the disappearance of a child on a remote Scottish island. Christopher Lee, pictured, takes a great part as the lord of the island.

Without wishing to spoil the plot I will say that it’s full of surprises – one of which I have just realised is very near to a surprise that comes up in Wolfsangel. Perhaps these influences have a more direct effect than I’d thought.

Very often when I’m writing a book I’ll have a tune that comes insistently into my head. For Wolfsangel it was Psychic TV’s Thee Full Pack. I can only really find it on Spotify so I can’t post a link. It’s a semi-pretentious, very atmospheric song which could really be about Odin, the chief god of Wolfsangel. ‘He is the father of fear…ripping the line of the time.’ It also includes the sound of a dog attack, treated through some sort of synthesiser, which is very werewolf-like. I’d recommend giving a listen because it’s very interesting and doesn’t give a hoot for being commercial. The one in my head with the book I’m writing at the moment is this, which is clearly a work of sublime genius by the greatest female artist ever to draw breath – The Hounds of Love by Kate Bush.

This is what I mean by not striving for originality. I have the strong sense that she was just writing songs. They happen to be totally original and mad as a sack of badgers but that wasn’t her aim – she just wanted to write something good. I could be wrong about that, of course, but I don’t think I am.

Some things you don’t even have to see or read for them to have an effect on you. I have no memory of ever seeing the western A Man Called Horse but it seems certain that it informed my view of Sioux magic as a quest for magical insight brought on by pain rituals. I tried to check to see if this was based on actual practices but drew a blank so this must have been my source for it.

However, other rituals that certainly stuck in my head were the pain rituals and human sacrifice of the Mayans, Incas and Aztecs – with practices such as body piercing or drawing a rope of thorns through a slit in the tongue.

I had a view that the important magical aspect of the human sacrifice was the terrible and horrific effect it had on the priests. This led me to the idea that a magical reality could be accessed by shocking the conventional mind into numbness. That’s not my real view but it was an interesting one to follow for the purposes of the book.

Of course, there is no Mayan or American Indian culture in Wolfsangel. The specific inspiration for that came from The Edda – the collection of Icelandic texts that give us our picture of Norse mythology. Edda means grandmother in old Norse – indicating that the stories were old at the time they were written down.

I was particularly fascinated by the figure of The Fenris Wolf, here pictured fighting Odin, I think, though the horse seems to only have four legs and Odin’s has eight:

Here is the wolf again in a wonderful picture by the Swedish painter John Bauer. It’s taking the hand of the God Tyr in his mouth as an insurance against the gods tricking him into allowing itself to be tied with unbreakable bonds. This is among my favourite sort of fantasy art.

Unfortunately it’s a bit staid for modern publishers to put on the front of books! The story of the Fenris Wolf is rather long for this blog but interested readers can find in on Wikipedia here.There is a chilling prophetic verse concerning the death of the gods at their final day which I carried in my head throughout the writing of Wolfsangel.

‘The fetters shall burst and the wolf run free
Much do I know and more can see.’

This is a mean wolf, he eats gods.

I was also fascinated by the self sacrifice of Odin (the chief Norse god, sort of), losing his eye and hanging on a tree for nine nights to gain magical knowledge. Here is an image I like from eighteenth century Iceland of the one eyed god riding his eight legged horse Slepnir. I’ve always preferred this sort of stuff to conventional fantasy art, from Roger Dean to men in hoods.

This is a key verse from the Edda, spoken by Odin.

‘I know that I hung on a windy tree

nine long nights

wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin

myself to myself

on that tree of which no man knows

from where its roots run

No bread did they give me nor drink from a horn,

downwards I peered;

I took up the runes, screaming I took them,

then I fell back from there.’

This is a superb piece of writing that contains many of the ideas present in Wolfsangel – self sacrifice, the hanged god, and – of course – the runes, magical symbols.

The runes were a big influence on my writing an I think my interest in them stems directly from Tolkien and the mysterious writing Gandalf (this name appears in The Edda, meaning ‘magic elf’ in old Norse) carves on Bilbo’s door.

The one area where I do concede I tried to be original is where I sent my protagonists. I’d first decided to send them with the Viking fleets to Celtic Ireland but I thought the Celtic tradition had been well done by others. So I sent them north into the Sami lands, for which I had to do a lot of research. I shan’t say much about it, other than here is a Sami rune drum.

Another influence on my work is that I played Dungeons and Dragons to the point of Vitamin D deficiency when I was a kid. I loved it and would have to say that it must influence my writing. I’m not sure how, exactly, other than meaning I spent a youth with a head full of elves. However, I found its idea of magic too different to my own concept of magic.

The biggest influence on the feel of the magic in Wolfsangel comes from my early reading of books on the history of witchcraft. I used take these books to bed with me and scare myself stupid reading stories of witches vomiting pins or the excesses of the witchfinders. I think it’s the look of the illustrations I liked. Everyone has their own preferred sort of fantasy art and I think mine is woodcuts. It’s the strangeness of them that I like so much. This is the sort of book I used to read, or rather secondary texts that would contain quotes and pictures from this sort of thing.

The other magical practice – at least we assume it was a magical practice – that fascinated me as a kid was connected to the discovery of bog bodies.

These are presumed ritual sacrifices that have been preserved in peat bogs. Again, it’s the alien and strange nature of these images that appealed to me. Mire magic – you can’t really say bog in a modern novel without eliciting smirks – is a big part of Wolfsangel.

So all these things and more influenced me while I was writing Wolfsangel, or at least these were the things that I think helped form the mental climate in which the book was produced.

Thank you, Mark! And now for the giveaway:

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

The Viking King Authun leads his men on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village. Men and women are killed indiscriminately but Authun demands that no child be touched. He is acting on prophecy. A prophecy that tells him that a child of the Gods will be found among the Saxons. If Authun takes the child and raises him as an heir, the child will lead his people to glory.

But Authun discovers not one child, but twin baby boys. Ensuring that his faithful warriors, witness to what has happened, die during the raid Athun takes the children and their mother back to Norway and the witches who live on the perilous mountain known as the Troll Wall. He places his destiny in their hands.

And so begins WOLFSANGEL, the first of a stunning multi-volume fantasy epic that will take a werewolf from his beginnings as the heir to a brutal Viking king, down through the ages. It is a journey that will see him hunt for his lost love through centuries and lives, and see the endless battle between the wolf, Odin and Loki – the eternal trickster – spill over into countless bloody conflicts from our history. This is the myth of the werewolf as it has never been told before and marks the beginning of an extraordinary new fantasy series from Gollancz.

We are giving away ONE copy of Wolfsangel to a lucky reader! Entry is simple – just leave a comment here telling us what your favorite werewolf book/movie is. The contest is open to ALL, and will run until Saturday, May 22 at 11:59 PM (PST). Only ONE comment per person, please! Multiple comments WILL be disqualified. Good luck!

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59 Comments

  • Steven R. McEvoy
    May 17, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Underworld

  • Kimberly B.
    May 17, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Oh, this book sounds terrific! My favorite werewolf book is probably Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, though all of her books about Elena Michaels are terrific.

  • Aishwarya
    May 17, 2010 at 2:34 am

    The Company of Wolves (the movie, but also the Angela Carter stories it’s based on) is brilliant.

  • Pablo Cheesecake
    May 17, 2010 at 2:34 am

    I love The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon. A secret service werewolf taking on the Nazis in World War II. What’s not to like?

  • Susan
    May 17, 2010 at 3:04 am

    This book sounds like a fantastic read!

    My favorite werewolf book is actually a series, Alpha and Omega, by Patricia Briggs.

  • Liia Ann
    May 17, 2010 at 4:22 am

    My favourite werewolf book is Full Moon Rising from the Riley Jensen series by Keri Arthur. It’s a bit different from any other I’ve read but I absolutely love it! The series is fantastic.
    I just can’t wait for Wolfsangel! It’s going to be fantastic 🙂

  • Hannah
    May 17, 2010 at 4:37 am

    What a fascinating post – I love other cultures and traditions and beliefs and it’s great to hear about some I didn’t know of previously. The book sounds fantastic, I would absolutely love a copy!

  • Nikki Egerton
    May 17, 2010 at 5:28 am

    I think my favourite is definately the Underworld series with Rise of the Lycans as my favorite one.
    I also love Patricia Briggs books, aand Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

  • Rachel
    May 17, 2010 at 5:46 am

    It has to be Teen Wolf, not necessarily because I would rewatch it again (unlike Underworld) but because it started me off enjoying Young Adult Urban Fantasy. I have not seen the movie in years, but still remember Michael J Fox playing basketball as werewolf – a classic…

  • Sue Brandes
    May 17, 2010 at 5:50 am

    I haven’t read a were book yet. My favorite movies with them in are probably the Underworld movies. Great interview. I love your book cover~beautiful! Thanks for being here.

  • Alison
    May 17, 2010 at 6:21 am

    I really haven’t read too many…but I liked Shiver, Twilight series (sort of werewolves) and Harry Potter. Not the best answers, but alas, they’ll have to do.

  • danielle
    May 17, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Can’t go wrong with Teen Wolf, my friend.

  • Marie
    May 17, 2010 at 7:08 am

    I love that!

    I love Patricia Briggs’ “Mercy Thompson” series as well as the movie “Wolf” with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pffiefer.

  • Lisa
    May 17, 2010 at 7:19 am

    I’d like to enter! My favorite werewolf book is probably Bitten by Kelly Armstrong.

  • Zita Hildebrandt
    May 17, 2010 at 8:29 am

    My favourite werewolves are in Patricia Brigg’s Mercy series. Oh, and MaryJanice Davidson’s Wyndham Werewolves =)

  • Limbo Joe
    May 17, 2010 at 8:51 am

    So far, for the last 1x years, everything involving werewolves was pretty meh. I have high hopes for this.

  • azteclady
    May 17, 2010 at 8:52 am

    I can’t say that I have a favorite werewolf story–or even movie–but I am very taken by the blurb (hoping it doesn’t lie, as so many blurbs sadly do).

    And the cover, this is one cover that really works for me.

  • Teresa W.
    May 17, 2010 at 9:08 am

    The Riley Jensen series I’m really enjoying and Blood and Chocolate is my favorite movie!

  • Jessica
    May 17, 2010 at 9:25 am

    My favorite were movie is An American Werewolf in London. And the soundtrack is pretty good too

  • Virginia C
    May 17, 2010 at 9:54 am

    My favorite Werewolf (and my Mom’s,too) is the damned and doomed Leon from the 1961 British film “The Curse of the Werewolf”. Oliver Reed (Burnt Offerings, The Three Musketeers) is powerfully compelling as Leon, a young man destined to be a werewolf due to the evil circumstances of his birth. If you are a true Were fan, you must see this film. Awesome!
    😈

  • Mel S
    May 17, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I have to agree the Elena Michaels books by Kelley Armstrong are my favourite – stolen my top favourite! I like th Kiity series by Carrie Vaughn as well though.

  • Adrienne
    May 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Blood and Chocolate is always a favorite and a classic. The movie..not so much-but I did really dig the car that the Alpha was driving 8)

  • Etta
    May 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    This books sounds great! My favorite werewolf book is actually the short story “The Company of Wolves,” which I first read many years ago and I like to re-read every few years. A new favorite is Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy.

  • Alexandra
    May 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    When you say ALL, does that include Sweden? 🙂
    If not, I can still tell you which my favorite werewolf book is. It’s (among others, it’s hard to choose one!) Blood and Chocolate.
    I’m also curious about Martin Miller’s Lonely Werewolf Girl, anybody read that one, is it any good? 😀

  • Nicole
    May 17, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    My favorite werewolf movie would have to be… UNDERWORLD. It came on yeterday on the scifi network and it was good! 😀

  • Pamelia
    May 17, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Yet another vote for The Company of Wolves as far as films go. For books I too love the Alpha and Omega series (please I hope there will be more than the two already written) by Patricia Briggs.

  • Kimberly H.
    May 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    My favorite werewolf books are Lori Handeland’s Nightcreature series.

  • Christa
    May 17, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I love both the Kitty books by Carrie Vaugn & Soulless (which involves a werewolf, of course, though he is not the MC) by Gail Carriger.

    Thanks for the contest. 😀
    Christa

  • Tiah
    May 17, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I agree, Underworld series with Rise of the Lycans as my favorite one.

  • Julie Swaney
    May 17, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    My favorite werewolf movie is Steven King’s Silver Bullet.

  • Missie
    May 17, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Fun post and giveaway! Thanks!

    Although I haven’t read too many books invloving werewolves, I’d say my fav is Bitten by Kelly Armstrong, followed by Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur. Great books!

  • Katie
    May 17, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Favorite single book would have to be Blood and Chocolate, although I am a big fan of Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series.

  • Kat
    May 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    the Mercedes Thompson series.

  • sarac
    May 17, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    I loved Shiver by Maggie Steifvater.

  • Lisa Richards
    May 17, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Lori Handeland’s series “Night Creatures”. I was so tickled that this series had not ended and she had a new book coming out in the winter.

  • Alex (Tales of a Teenage Book Lover)
    May 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    My favorite werewolf movie is Blood and Chocolate. I haven’t read the book yet, but I really liked the movie. Which is odd, because people always tell me how much they hated it!

  • Lexi
    May 17, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Any of Patricia Briggs’s books

  • Stephanie K.
    May 17, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    My favorite werewolf book is Bitten by Kelley Armstrong.

  • ritu
    May 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    My favorite werewolf books: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong and Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs (like many). They are the only memorable were stories for me.

  • Carol Thompson
    May 17, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    What a fascinating interview.

    I think this must be one of the best I have read in a long time. I really enjoyed his explaining all about the mythology. It certainly makes me very eager to read the book.

    Favourite werewolf movie – An American Werewolf in London.

    Thanks for giveaway and for opening it up to all worldwide.

    Carol T

  • Adele
    May 17, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    I like both Patricia Briggs and Kelley Armstrong’s books. 😀 I’ll chime in with everyone else on that.

  • Firequeen
    May 17, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    I am really looking forward to reading Wolfsangel 🙂 It’s been on my radar for a while now!

    Best werewolf film = An American Werewolf in London
    Best werewolf book = The Silver wolf by Alice Borchardt

    Excellent guest post by M.D.Lachlan… very insightful.

  • Steve Capell
    May 18, 2010 at 6:12 am

    The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney, Jr. in the title role has to be my favorite as a young lad it scared heebee jeebees out of me. For those of you that have no idea what a heebee jeebee is … I don’t know either … but mine have left because of this movie. Thanks for a great review and for hosting this giveaway. 😯

  • Amber S
    May 18, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Lachlain from Kresley Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other. LOVE werewolves and wish there were more in fiction.

  • Rachael L
    May 18, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    My favorite werewolf book is Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.

  • Christine
    May 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Definitely Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I didn’t think that book was going to be as wonderful and poetic as it was!

  • Kara
    May 18, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    The book sounds amazing. My favorite werewolf book is The Silver Wolf trilogy by Alice Borchardt, although Blood and Chocolate comes in a close second 😀

  • Patty Magyar
    May 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    I love Shiver…one of my fav books of all time.

  • Isabel
    May 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I have to say that Teen wolf definitely, and all the Lycans from Underworld. As for books… Well, I guess I’m more into shapeshifters in general than werewolves. My favorite shapeshifter is Sam from Sookie Stackhouse series, but I guess he doesn’t count, since he turns into a dog. Close enough :mrgreen: 😕 😉

  • Joyson
    May 19, 2010 at 6:23 am

    It would have to be The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon 🙂

  • Kobato
    May 19, 2010 at 11:48 am

    My favourite wolf book is Moon Called by Patricia Briggs, probably.

  • Jacqueline C.
    May 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Definitely Patricia Briggs’s Mercedes Thompson and Alpha & Omega series

  • Eva SB
    May 19, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    An American Werewolf in London is my favourite because it was the first werewolf movie I ever saw.

  • Lisa
    May 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    My favorite werewolf book (so far) is “Bitten” by Kelley Armstrong. Love the kick-butt female protagonist! VERY CLOSE SECOND — “Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater.

  • jim
    May 20, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    a science fiction novel by A. Bertram Chandler “the dark frontier” it has everything, werewolf in space, catty women, sex, extreme violence, alien race of amazons, and Blimps. It came out in 1984.

  • Stephanie Tran
    May 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Van Helsing X3

  • Erica
    May 21, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    My favorite werewolf book is Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. 😀

  • Nastassia D.
    May 22, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    The movie The Brotherhood of the Wolf.

  • Guest article: Lad-lit | SciFiNow
    May 26, 2010 at 7:09 am

    […] This is the great thing about writing. It comes from an unseen place in the mind. So much stuff came tumbling out when I got going – there’s a blog on my influences here Guest Author & Giveaway: M D Lachlan on Inspirations & Influences […]

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