I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that so many myths and legends (and the lore within them) are similar in different countries. Take the story of the Deluge and the Flood. This tale is repeated in pretty much every continent. Huge rains are on the way. God tells one of the humans to build an ark, which he does. He and his family then escape the ensuing flood, whilst the rest of mankind is drowned. In the bible the human is Noah, in older texts he is Ziusudra: but the tale is almost identical. It seems unlikely that such a wide-spread story is just a myth. Far more likely that it records an actual event.
The tale of Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys also begins with a flood-warning, but this flood is not a real one. It is part of an orchestrated plan by those in power to micro-chip the population. Is such a plan pure fantasy? Perhaps, but the possibility is there, which is why it kicks off our tale.
Magic and myth are interwoven with the real world throughout the Tilly Greenway saga. Although many of the characters might have stepped from the pages of fantasy (such as Herne or the Dragons) the locations of the tale are all places you can find on a map. This was quite deliberate and, I hope, makes the books very different from other fantasies in which the reader travels through a wholly fictitious world.
I chose to write this way for several reasons. One is that I wanted to delve into the hidden history of our planet. In this way, the stories form a true grail quest, an exploration of what has been going on in the real world (and still is) in order to keep us from finding out the truth about our past. There are some eyebrow-raising revelations to come…
Having said that, the books are not allegory. Like Tolkien, I am not a fan of allegory. I prefer history – both real and imagined. In order to give the tale authenticity I’ve created a history of our race that goes back well beyond the Ice Age (as you’ll discover in later books). For this I’ve used a combination of sources, including some of the Celtic poems (many of which were written in a deliberately obscure way in order to avoid being edited) and the tales told on Sumerian tablets some seven thousand years ago.
There are hundreds of thousands of these clay tablets, most of them yet to be translated. My guess is that, as with the Qumran scrolls, many will never see the light of day (not for public consumption anyway). An interesting fact is that the majority of them are/were buried in the sands of Iraq and Iran, so you can see how relevant to today our tale really is.
But the main reason for mixing fact with fiction and magic with reality is that I believe magic is very much alive; that the world we live in is just as fantastical and full of wonder as any that I might create. Getting out into nature (and way from the screens that encroach ever more closely on our lives!) is magic enough for me, which is why Tilly and Zack spend so much time “outdoors”.
Take this photo that one of my daughters took over the Easter weekend. I love it! So much beauty. So much mystery. Who knows, perhaps each droplet of water is a universe of its own, with countless tiny lives being played out within it?
And I wonder what was going through this ladybird’s mind as it scaled the huge peak of this old leaf…
I hoped too that some people might feel inspired to visit some of the locations that Tilly and Zack find themselves in during their quest. So you can imagine how pleased I was to hear recently from a reader who had taken his sons to see Silbury Hill and the Avebury Stones after they had read Watchers.
Another wrote to me to say that she had climbed Glastonbury Tor and visited the Chalice Well Gardens because she had had enjoyed Tilly’s adventures so much. Wonderful!
Why does visiting such places make a difference? Well, for me, seeing them, smelling them, reaching out to touch them means that we re-connect with all they have to offer us, each one with its unique atmosphere, all of them with secrets that they whisper to us from across the long years.
They connect us with our past, inform our present and help us look to the future too. Wrapped in the mystery of myth and legend, they are very real gateways to knowing just a little bit more of the real magic that weaves its way through the world around us…
Next time, we’ll visit Skenfrith Castle, another of the real-life locations in our tale!