I was incredibly lucky that I had a very mild case, that first time. My husband wasn’t so lucky, though – and as I struggled to look after both him and our young children (both of whom were, of course, home fulltime throughout lockdown), fighting to keep our household running and keep the atmosphere as positive for our children as possible (even as ambulances carried their dad away from home more than once in the middle of the night), the stress of my own reality felt completely overwhelming. The idea of taking on any real creative challenge – even rewriting my own novel into a stronger, sleeker shape – seemed, at first, to be completely inconceivable. How could I get past all those whirling fears and worries and distractions to dive into a creative headspace again?
What saved me, in the end, was exactly what saves my heroine, again and again, in The Raven Heir. It was nature – or, in my case, the modest patch of nature in our small, rectangular back garden, which was filled with trees, bushes, and wildflowers, and which was left to go fairly wild across the course of that whole spring and summer, with my gardening husband stuck in his sickbed.
No one in any gardening show would have been impressed by the looks of our garden in 2020...but the first time I ever managed to start brainstorming solutions for my novel edits came when I first brought my printed manuscript pages out to the weathered old picnic table in our garden. The leaves of the Japanese maple tree cast shadows across my pages, bees and butterflies buzzed around the hollyhocks in front of me, and the mountains of our small Welsh town rose high in the distance all around me like a cradle, giving me a steadying reminder of their endurance and a larger perspective on the world.
With a warm, scented breeze playing over my hands, I finally started scribbling notes on the manuscripts, asking questions of myself and dreaming possible answers for the first time in weeks.
Cordelia, the heroine of The Raven Heir, is often teased by her triplets for being ‘feral,’ because she has a wild, shapeshifter’s heart, and she can turn herself into any sort of animal. It’s all part of her deep connection to the land under and around her – and it’s that connection that consoles her and guides her on her quest when she and her triplets discover that everything they thought they knew about their family and the world beyond their first home was untrue.
My own patch of garden was lifesaving for me. It gave me a feeling of renewed possibility and a badly-needed escape during the hardest year of my life. I hope that The Raven Heir (and its wild, nature-loving heroine!) can give readers both of those gifts whenever they escape into it, too.