Historical novel set in Austria
Talking Location With author Ian Green – SCOTLAND
7th August 2021
#TalkingLocationWith… Ian Green, author of The Gauntlet And The Fist Beneath, set in a fantasy world inspired by Scotland.
I wanted to create a world that echoed the rugged landscape and complex history of my home in Scotland. I grew up in Aberdeenshire, and spent my childhood travelling around ruined castles and clambering around the countryside- Aberdeenshire encompasses magnificent stretches of golden beaches, ancient gloomy forests, and windswept hills. The landscape acts as driver of culture, history, and life. A variety of harsh beauty intertwines with the history layered in every step as you travel through the country.
The remnants of lost times are ever intriguing in Scotland- at the top of the hill Bennachie, the ruined wall of an iron age fort is where you shelter from the wind. At its foot, the Maiden Stone stands tall, carved in ancient Pictish ogham script- a mystery to follow. The Picts defied Roman colonisation, and the building of Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine wall in the south are stark reminders- Scotland is perhaps the end of the world. To the west and north and east there is the iron dark of the sea, water cold enough to shock your lungs to stillness. Standing at the high points of Hadrian’s wall and looking north you can see that vast wildness beyond you, the Roman stone at your feet a reminder of an unbroken chain of history. The Stormwall in my book is partly inspired by this, a physical barrier trying to hold back horrors and chaos.
The story of Scotland is one of conflict, against the climate, and other people- the castle trail that runs from Aberdeen includes the highest density of fortified castles anywhere in the world. Some are now stately homes, or royal havens like Balmoral. Others are crumbling ruins- Dunnottar castle south of Stonehaven is perhaps the most impressive, a hulking fortress set on a prominence jutting into the cold of the north sea. You can wind your way up the steep path and wander the fallen walls. This militaristic feel, the entire world ordered to provide protection from so many outer forces, was something I strived to recreate.
When creating the fantasy world of Morost I wanted to think about the geography, the history, the religion, and the culture- Scotland was a font of inspiration throughout. For religion, I looked back before the wave of monotheism that covered Europe to celtic animism, a link between the people and the place they live in, was a huge source of inspiration. It is easy to understand when you stand somewhere like the valley of Glencoe, mountain walls rising on every side and a torrent of mist and rain coming down, or up in the rolling mountains of the Cairngorms- these places are not dead. These places have a spirit.
I love wandering The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. It’s a place that cannot fail to inspire- it traces the history of Scotland from the dawn of time to the present, tracking the innovation and industry that have shaped the modern nation. Stepping out from there into Edinburgh’s streets you can feel the history in every step, but with it always a push forward. In Edinburgh you can gaze up at the castle, still occupied after 900 years, Arthur’s seat a suitably epic backdrop. You can wind your way through narrow streets that seem unchanged since the Victorian era. But! Look closer. Look at the Edinburgh festival, with art in every form at its most vital. In Scotland laurels are never to be rested on. There is innovation and action to be had.
The Scottish artist and writer Alasdair Grey often said ‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation’. If you wander down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh to the Scottish Parliament, you can see this epigram writ in stone.
With The Gauntlet And The Fist Beneath I created a world inspired by Scotland’s geography and history, the mountains and castles and wild seas, but most importantly I was inspired by its people. That central precept of Grey’s led me to build a world that is complex and a country that is flawed and weighed down by history- but there is always a chance to work, and to build something better.
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