RowanKind, A New Release from Fantasy Writer Jacey Bedford.
November 26, 2018
I first met Jacey Bedford at Milford SF in November last year. Milford is an annualweek-long get
together for Science Fiction & Fantasy writers, that’s held at Trigonos in Caernarfon annually. More recently we caught up at BristolCon, an event for writers and enthusiasts of the SFF community. Jacey’s writing impressed me a great deal and knowing that her new novel ROWANKIND is being released this November 2018, we took the opportunity to ask her a few questions and for a preview of this thoroughly gripping novel.
Jacey, how did the Rowankind idea occur to you and did you always plan it as a series?
I didn't plan it as a series. I wrote the first book, WINTERWOOD, as a one off. But I had it in the back of my mind that there were places to go with the story if I ever sold it and if the publisher asked that lovely question: What else have you got?
Was the idea for the series hashed out in your mind before you started, or developed as you go?
I didn't have the trilogy in my head when I started Book One. I made a big mistake several years before, when I wasted a lot of time writing a sequel to a book my agent hadn't been able to sell. When I realised what a basic rookie blooper I'd made I decided that in future I would only write stand-alones’, but that I would have follow-on ideas in place that I could use if I got a publisher interested.
DAW bought WINTERWOOD and ordered a sequel, which became SILVERWOLF. I knew that SILVERWOLF was going to explore Corwen's side of the story, even though it was still Ross' first person viewpoint. When I was about halfway through I emailed my editor and asked whether she wanted me to wrap up the story in the second book, or whether there was the possibility of making it into a trilogy. She said it looked like a trilogy to her. So even though I didn't have a contract for the third book at that stage, I did know to plan for it. It meant that something I sowed the seeds of in SILVERWOLF, I got to finish off in the third book ROWANKIND.
Could you tell us how long it takes from acceptance to publication?
I got acceptance in mid July 2013. There was a bit of a delay while I pinned down an agent, so IIRC the contracts weren't signed until October, but in the meantime I was already doing edits as directed. The first book came out on 4th November 2014, which was exceptionally fast for the publishing industry. They were pushed for time so I had to do the copy edits and final proof-read all in one pass when the page proofs came.
They arrived, extremely inconveniently, in August 2014, just as I was setting off for London Worldcon on the Wednesday, with the request for them to be returned by the following Tuesday. Yeah, right! I had to remind them that the reason their office was empty was because their editors were also at Worldcon preventing me from doing my page proofs by taking me out to dinner! I got an extension to the end of the week. :-)
Is there room for expansion in the RowanKind trilogy?
I'm not sure I'm totally done with that world yet, but for now I'm going to let Ross and Corwen have a well-earned rest.
I do have a YA novel set in the present day of that world. It's got teenagers and horses, a missing dad and dark magic. Because of the events in SILVERWOLF and ROWANKIND, the industrial revolution has been much slower in developing, so it's present day without mobile phones and the internet, and with steam buses and a limited number of cars on the road. A couple of familiar Fae show up, and, of course, look no older than they did in 1801.
RowanKind is set to be released on 27th November 2018. You can pre-order a copy here.
‘ROWANKIND’ (DAW, 2018)
By Jacey Bedford
3rd January 1802
The Okewood, somewhere in Devon.
Freddie was on trial for his life.
Corwen sat beside me, sick with dread. He owed his life and his allegiance to the Lady of the Forests, but he didn’t owe her his brother. And he was sure that she would demand the highest price.
It was no secret that Freddie and I were not friends. For Corwen’s sake, however, I hoped that some accommodation could be found for the troubled wolf and the even more troubled man sharing the same mind.
Freddie had killed one of the Lady’s sprites. The matter wasn’t in doubt. We had all heard the death shriek. To hear such a sound from one of the usually silent creatures had brought the whole camp running to its aid, but it was too late. The sprite was a mangled mess on the ground beneath the stark branches of a winter beech tree, and Freddie had sprite blood all over his maw.
The Lady of the Forests ruled over Britain’s magical creatures—shapechangers, pixies, sprites, trolls, hobs, and even a kelpie or two. She had deep magic, but though she had acted swiftly, her sprite was beyond help.
I knew the Lady felt things deeply, but I’d never seen her weep.
Her sprites were perfectly proportioned, humanlike creatures, no more than three feet tall and of no particular gender. They carried out the Lady’s bidding in silence. They were her eyes and ears, agents of healing and nourishment, silent helpers, but so much more than servants.
I had never seen one injured or ill before, never mind dead. They didn’t age, unless there was a home for retired sprites somewhere deep in the Okewood that none of us knew about.
I couldn’t weep for the sprite. I hadn’t known it, but the Lady’s grief caused my own eyes to leak saltwater.
The Lady called, and her sprites answered, emerging from between the trees, more of them than I’d ever seen in one place or at one time before. They were almost indistinguishable from one another, but when you saw them together, you could pick out slight differences. They gathered around the small corpse, covered it in a silken cloth, and four of them carried away their fallen comrade without a second look at the miscreant who had done the deed.
Freddie, still in wolf form, lay with his nose between his paws, his ears flattened to his skull. He knew what he’d done.
Corwen knelt beside his brother. I wanted to tell him not to, that Freddie was dangerous, even to his own kin. The sprite wasn’t Freddie’s first kill.
“What were you thinking, Freddie boy?” Corwen asked softly.
Freddie whined in the back of his throat.
“I don’t know what’s to be done with you.”
“That is for me to decide.” The Lady loomed over both of them. I don’t think I’d ever heard her voice so cold before.
Corwen rocked back on his heels.
“Change!” the Lady commanded Freddie.
“You can do it,” Corwen encouraged him.
Freddie’s wolf-change had never been easy. Both Corwen and his sister Lily had changed as children and their changes were fluid and fast, but Freddie’s was a bone-wrenching, gut-churning change. You could hear his joints popping and his tendons twisting.
“Change!” This time the Lady wasn’t taking no for an answer. She was going to force him to change, here in full view of everyone.
Freddie yowled, possibly in protest—it was hard to tell, but the Lady simply folded her arms across her chest and said once more, “Change!”
Freddie’s fur began to shrink back from his front paws and his fingers extended. It was a start.
He flung himself sideways, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. As we watched, it began to shrink back, and his snout shortened perceptibly. He whined again, but this time the whine had a more human sound to it, more like a groan. He arched his back, and his whole rib cage began to snap and pop as it changed shape.
I couldn’t watch anymore. All I could think of was that I was thankful Corwen’s change wasn’t like that or—if it was—it was all over in an instant.
“Does it hurt when you change?” I asked Corwen. “I mean, do you go through all that but faster?”
“You’ve never asked me that before.”
“Your change seems almost instantaneous. If I thought that was what you went through—”
“You’d what? Walk away from me? Smother me with pity?”
I shook my head.
“There is a moment . . . but the pain is fleeting, and I’ve learned to ignore it, knowing it won’t last.”
“You never said.”
He shrugged. “It is what it is.”
Freddie’s change was advanced now. He was almost human again, though covered in wolf hair which only retracted gradually. By the look on Freddie’s face, even that hurt.
Charlotte, our rowankind friend, one of the magical refugees under the Lady’s protection, walked forward and dropped a blanket over Freddie to cover his nakedness. He clutched it around himself as he became fully human once more.
There was still sprite blood on his chin.
He sat on the ground, shivering but not, I thought, from the cold. Everything about the way he held his body, including arms wrapped around himself defensively, said that he was miserable and ashamed. He knew that the Lady had ordered magicals killed for the kind of transgressions he’d committed at least twice. He looked directly at the floor, not even glancing up when Corwen said, “Welcome back, brother.”
The Lady contemplated Freddie.
I don’t know exactly what or who the Lady of the Forests is. She’s not one of the Fae and she’s not a goddess, not quite, though her powers are extensive. She is the consort of the Green Man, who may have been worshipped as a god once, long ago, by the number of carvings of foliate heads on many of our ancient churches. The nearest I can reconcile is that they are, between them, the spirit of the land given form. He is the earth and slow-growing things; she is the skittering woodland creature, the half-seen doe in the deep woods, and the lark in the clear sky.
He appears in leather, crowned by horns, skin like tree bark, eyes unfathomable. In the spring when the sap rises, he’s the May King and Jack in the Green. In the summer he’s the Oak King, Herne the Hunter, the Green Knight, and Robin Hood. In the autumn he’s John Barleycorn, and when the snow falls, he’s the Holly King and the Lord of Misrule.
His consort, his queen, however, shuns all names. She simply is. Sometimes she appears as a fresh-faced virgin, at other times she carries her pregnant belly high and with pride. She may also appear as a mature woman, wise and powerful. She is the nameless maiden, the mother, and the crone: three in one.
Even the Fae recognize that the couple are to be respected in all things.
“Frederick Deverell.” The Lady spoke and then left the air empty of sound until, inch by inch, Freddie was compelled to look up and meet her eyes. I don’t know what she saw when she looked at him, and I don’t know what Freddie saw when he looked at her, but their eye contact continued without words until Freddie looked away again.
“A sprite lies dead,” the Lady said. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
Part II of this interview will follow shortly.
Jacey Bedford is a British science fiction and fantasy writer with novels published by DAW in the USA
and short stories published on both sides of the Atlantic. She lives in an old stone house on the edge of Yorkshire's Pennine Hills with her songwriter husband and a long-haired, black German Shepherd (a dog not an actual shepherd from Germany). She's been a librarian, a postmistress, and a folk singer with the vocal harmony trio, Artisan. She once sang live on BBC Radio 4 accompanied by the Doctor (Who?) playing spoons.