Author Anna McKerrow talks about writing her new book: Crow Moon
Crow Moon is a new book by Anna McKerrow and the 1st book in a new trilogy called The Greenworld. She has written a blog about writing magic in a realistic way. It's full of tips and hints you can use in your own writing so listen up!
CROW MOON was a very gradual book: I took over four years writing it, and when I started it I had no idea what it would become. I think lots of writers are like that. You start with a thread of something and weave it gradually over time. And you often go down wrong routes and have to go back and unpick loads of bits of the story later, especially when someone else points out a glaring hole in the whole fabric of your story that takes ages to mend. I had lots of those.
It was always a book about magic, and from the start I wanted it to be about real magic – the earthy pagan magic of the tides, the phases of the moon, of trees and plants and the ebb and flow of natural energy. Danny, the main character, was also there from the start. However, at first I had more of an idea about kids surviving in some kind of wasteland, in a kind of Bear Grylls way. I blame that on my husband: he’s always watching TV shows about how to survive in the wilderness, drinking your own wee.
I got a useful piece of advice from a literary scout that read an early draft of CROW MOON for me, which was that in any story you should only give the reader one really unbelievable thing to deal with at a time. When you’re writing passionately about any subject you love and feel deeply invested in, that kind of advice is deeply irritating, because (I felt, certainly) why wouldn’t your reader be enthralled with long expositions and detailed technical information? But really it’s about balancing that – your subject expertise, your research, whatever – with what it does for the story.
Ultimately, a work of fiction is a work of fiction and not an instructional textbook. The task of your subject information – in my case, paganism, meditation, magic etc – was to help create a world, a feeling and a context for the action to unfold in, and provide ways that the action could unfold too. Earth magic is key thematically for the whole story – it’s about looking after the land that we love, otherwise bad things will likely happen to it. Which is not good for anyone.
It’s also a tough balance to write about earth magic from a pagan point of view and interest both the pagan and non-pagan audience at once. There is a sense that as with any specialist audience, young (and older!) pagans don’t want their beliefs to be misrepresented, but you also don’t to bore or turn off the reader who’s reading for romance, action and the whiff of magic. You have to make sure you are accessible. In that way, I knew that Danny had to be quite offhand about the Greenworld, the eco-pagan community he lives in. It’s all very normal – and quite boring - for him to do the monthly full moon worship but because we see everything through his eyes we’re allowed to find it all a bit ridiculous, and that means the reader feels comfortable with him, even if they do find him (as a horny 16 year old boy) irritating at times. There’s that sense of not being too evangelical about any utopia that’s important, especially a religious one, because in my opinion that’s a total turnoff. And no utopia is a utopia for everyone in it, after all.
As well, whatever world you live in as a teen, it’s pretty boring (unless you are one of the thousands of truly unfortunate teens having very real and horrible problems who are no doubt wishing for a much more boring life). Brad Pitt’s kids probably think he’s really boring and daddish. My parents were pretty cool, very artistic on both sides and pretty liberal, but I still definitely went through that stage where I despaired of how embarrassing they were. So Danny’s just the same about his mum being the head witch of his village and initially he really doesn’t want to be involved in all the magic she does. He’d rather be anywhere else in the world.
So for me, writing magic is about keeping it as real as possible (with one notable exception in the book where I definitely strayed into fantasy) in terms of being rooted in the earth, rooted in the real practice of pagans everywhere, today, and making sure that my characters are as down to earth as they can be. They’re real people, flawed like we all are. They also know that the earth around us is full of magic. And when we watch a full moon rise over a calm sea or feel the fresh spring air on our skin, we all know that too.