Please welcome Paula Brackston back to the blog! She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her new book, Lamp Black, Wolf Grey!
Will you tell us a little about your new book, Lamp Black, Wolf Grey?
The story is set in Wales in the present day and in the thirteenth century. In the modern story, artist Laura and her husband Dan move to a remote Welsh longhouse so that she can paint and hopefully conceive their longed-for child. Neither of them could have dreamed of the way in which the magical landscape proves to have more than a few surprises in store for them.
In the medieval story, Megan meets and falls in love with young Merlin. Megan is employed by Lord Geraint, however, and the pair become victims of his avaricious plans.
The two stories overlap in a way that is life transforming for Laura.
What made you decide to feature the magician Merlin, and what do you think makes Laura a compelling protagonist?
Being brought up in Wales meant that I grew up surrounded by tales of the mythical wizard. We like to think of him as ours! I thought it would be interesting to have him as a hero and set the story before he met Arthur and became famous.
My idea with Laura was to create a character who was flawed, and who struggled to cope with the consequences of those flaws. I felt that she would be more relatable that way. We all make bad choices, sometimes, and the way we move beyond those mistakes is what really shapes us. Laura pays a high price for her own ill-judged decisions, but she is basically a good person, and does all that she can to put things right.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I was lucky enough to live in the house in which I set the story. Living in such a setting is a gift for an author. The house itself vibrated with past lives lived within its ancient stone walls, and the high meadows and wild mountains seemed to me to hold even more stories.
There is, of course, a huge amount written about Merlin, both non-fiction and fiction. I was already familiar with a lot of this work, but enjoyed reading more. There is always the danger that I will just get lost in the research and never get to any actual writing, so I have to ration myself. You can never know all there is to know about a subject; you have to decide when you have reached a point where you just know enough. I do keep on researching as I write, but then you have to be careful not to get so taken up with a discovery that you shoe-horn it into the story!
I made Laura a painter because I wanted us to see the wonderful Welsh landscape through the eyes of an artist. Fortunately for me, both my parents are painters, so I was comfortable writing about how one might work and might see things.
It’s been a while since we caught up. Have you read any good books lately? Anything you’d recommend?
I spend far too many night hours reading when I should be sleeping, and still there are so many wonderful books out there I never seem to get to. My favourites lately have been The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – fabulous historical detail and a really spooky story; Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – for sheer structural brilliance and beautiful, fluid writing; The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – which had two of the best characters I’ve encountered in a long time, masterfully sustained and consistent; and The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin – a wonderful example of atmosphere and pacing. I recommend them all!
What are you currently reading? Are there any upcoming books that you’re particularly looking forward to?
I’ve just started The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami, which I have a feeling I am going to love.
I always eagerly anticipate the new David Mitchell book. A few more weeks to go yet.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on the sequel to The Witch’s Daughter, titled The Return of the Witch. It should be out next spring. Once that’s in good shape I start on the next Detective Gretel adventure in my Brothers Grimm series. This one’s called The Sorcerer’s Appendix. So lots going on, but always good to take a little time to talk to you, and to thank my lovely readers for all their support. Happy reading!
Keep up with Paula: Website
About Lamp Black, Wolf Grey:
Artist Laura Matthews finds her new home in the Welsh mountains to be a place so charged with tales and legends that she is able to reach through the gossamer-fine veil that separates her own world from that of myth and fable.
She and her husband Dan have given up their city life and moved to Blaencwm, an ancient longhouse high in the hills. Here she hopes that the wild beauty will inspire her to produce her best art and will give her the baby they have longed for. But this high valley is also home to others, such as Rhys the charismatic loner who pursues Laura with fervor. And Anwen, the wise old woman from the neighboring farm who seems to know so much but talks in riddles. And then there is Merlin.
Lamp Black, Wolf Grey tells both Laura’s story and Merlin’s. For once he too walked these hills, with his faithful grey wolf at his heel. It was here he fell in love with Megan, nurse-maid to the children of the hated local noble, Lord Geraint. Merlin was young, at the start of his renowned career as a magician, but when he refuses to help Lord Geraint it is Megan who may pay the price.
From New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston, Lamp Black, Wolf Grey is an enchanting tale of love and magic featuring her signature blend of gorgeous writing, an intriguing historical backdrop, and a relatable heroine that readers are sure to fall in love with.