Genesis of the Elfin Scots 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 later titled (clumsily - I admit!) The Randolph Family Saga: The Ballad of Tam Lin … NOW much more incisively re-titled as 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 took one look at any of my screenplays. Karl's 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, Karl 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 each week. 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 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, a lot had to happen, so that these novels could emerge in their "mature" form. 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, metaphysics and feminist theory finally opened my eyes to the way in which the original nature goddesses 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” at last became a novel. I now feel that I have done the Elfin Queen the justice she deserves, in starting to restore her essential, 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, the second novel in the series was already taking shape. Now, the family-saga tale has expanded to five lengthy novels. (Or, six - for those willing to accept the series ending rather equivocally, in a post-apocalyptic world. That is my interpretation of the two connected Niideni novels; but I've published them as stand-alone novels, so that readers can make up their own minds, about how Earth's and Humanity's future might g.)

     The Niideni tale took shape during the Pres45 debacle, when I was finding it damn hard to write anything very uplifting, or having the slightest comedic moments. over the past almost two years, Niideni's story is set in 2381. I drafted most of it before Covid19, or any of the drastic repercussions from that pandemic. But eerily, the novel describes a struggling way of life that has arisen, following a series of diseases, plagues, environmental extinctions, and wars, known as "The Collapse". I felt that the novel was particularly timely to make available in the summer of 2020, and therefore decided to release it as a pair of E-books (for ease of E-publishing, since as a single book, it is one of my longest.) This particular work actually lent itself exceptionally well, to dividing into a pair of shorter novels (see the covers and links for the two Niideni novels, on the Home Page of this site).

     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.

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