Genesis of the Scottish Novels
EARLY IN ADULT LIFE, I was deeply immersed in Dickens and Austen, Scottish dance and folklore, art and theatre. Not long after marriage, a turn of fortune’s wheel took me and my actor husband to Hollywood, where I started taking screenwriting workshops. I earned money by typing screenplays for others, then segued into doctoring and writing a few screenplays for hire. In between, I generated four or five scripts of my own. One of them was titled The Ballad of Young Tam Lin (which was also the very first title of the novel currently titled The Randolph Family Saga: The Ballad of Tam Lin … and very soon to be re-titled The Elfin Scots: Janet Dunbar; 1790)
Ever since my Scottish dancing days, when a fellow dancer insisted on loaning me Fairport Convention’s classic album, "Liege and Lief", I had been fascinated by the old Scottish “Ballad of Young Tam Lin”. Now at the time we were in Hollywood, fantasy-themed films were growing in popularity, and I thought then, as I do now, that this story of a love-triangle that crosses the Veil between the Elfin world and the mundane, was one of the most perfect fantasy-romances in folklore. It seemed like a wonderful story to bring to the screen.
But the "networking chutzpah" eluded both me and my husband. Nobody in Hollywood ever had one look at the screenplay. His acting career was also just treading water. We returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, resolving to close the door on the world of theatre, film, acting, and screenwriting. But having a sentimental attachment to all the hours I had devoted to writing my handful of screenplays, I kept them around in the bottom of the file cabinet, while I kept on learning and trying new things.
By May of 2009, my husband was working at night, teaching Adult Ed. I was at that time, a professional animal portrait artist, but my commissions had dried right up, thanks to the economic Crash of Autumn 2008, and I had nothing to occupy my three long, empty evenings. One particularly boring night, a strange thought struck me – would I be able to “novelise” the old Tam Lin script? The story still had a magnetic fascination for me, and I had recently bought a CD version of that old Fairport Convention album; listening to it again had reawakened all the magic for me.
I got out the script … started transcribing the first pages of dialogue. The story, settings and characters sprang to vivid life. New ideas and images were flowing – not from my imagination, but seemingly, into it, and almost faster than I could type. The basic story was still there, but page by page, it diverged more and more from my old (and admittedly, not-very-good) screenplay.
Most significant, was the transformation of the Queen of Elfland. I soon discovered that she was quite determined to be rehabilitated – no longer to be the witchy, vengeful, “evil” embodiment of the female principle (as she is portrayed in the old ballad, which was of course composed during a patriarchally-dominated period of Scottish history), but much more a true Goddess of Nature, Love, Fertility.
In retrospect, I can see that during the years since my first simplistic straight-from-the-ballad adaptation of the story, I learned what I needed to learn, to tell the Tam Lin story the way I ended up believing it needed to be told. Mid-life college studies in anthropology and metaphysics finally opened my eyes to the way in which the original nature deities of the northern European cultures had gradually (through the influence of urbanized Christian clergy), been re-imagined into the scary, “demonic” creatures of folklore, in a systematic effort to turn the rural people away from their traditional nature-based worship.
So, the “Ballad” became a novel, and I feel that I have now done the Elfin Queen the justice she deserves, in starting to restore her truest persona. The creative drive did not leave me at the completion of the first draft of the first book; within a few weeks, Book Two began to take shape. Now, the family-saga tale has expanded to four lengthy novels and a novelette.
As of summer 2019, two more novels (one, a prequel to the original) are partly written. And, for some odd reason, over the past year I've drafted the final novel of the series (#13). The other six novels will, goddess willing, continue to unfold, generation by generation, right up to the present, and perhaps even a few years into the future. Daniù (Elf-Queen; Nature Goddess) continues to be the “dea ex machina” of the tales: not always seen, but ever-present “just across the Veil”. And, of course, she remains ready to take action in the limited ways open to her, in an eternally passionate effort to insure the prophesied destiny, that if the Randolph line survives, some day a descendant will be born, who will have the power (and take the risk) to eradicate the enemy of life, bringing survival and redemption to Earth and all her creatures.