The writing of The Serpent in Spring
The Serpent in Spring began in a different way from the previous two parts of The Trystan Trilogy. Wolf had been written without knowing where it was going. In some ways that freedom was good because sometimes, out of the writing, a new idea would emerge. Occasionally a character would say something unexpected that would give me an insight into what he thought and therefore what he might do. Sometimes that would take me in a new direction. Swan was rather more controlled. I knew how it would start, and how it would end, but I still wrote without a plan which led to some problems in the middle.
So for Serpent, I decided to plan before I began to write. The title would have to follow the format of the previous two book titles. Wolf was in winter. Swan was in summer so the next book would have to be Something in autumn or spring. It would have to alliterate. It would have to be an animal. And it would have to be about a person. But that was easy. Ferdiad, the antagonist in Wolf and, to a greater extent, Swan, was known as a snake. And so volume 3 would be the Serpent in Spring. Ferdiad had, in any case, begun to intrigue me. What was his story? I knew that, somehow, he was connected with Corwynal’s past, that his desire for revenge wasn’t just because Trystan and Corwynal, between them, had killed the man he loved, the Morholt. It was for older and deeper reasons. However, I didn’t know what but instead of just sitting down and writing in order to find out (which was what I’d done for Wolf and Swan), I decided to try out the method suggested in Karen S Wiesner’s book ‘First Draft in 30 days’. Actually, it should properly be called ‘Plan of your novel in 30 days’ – and it took exactly that long, much to my surprise. Then, following the plan, I sat down and wrote the novel and even although scene 10, for example, turned into scenes 10a, b and c, I pretty well stuck to the plan. It took me a year – so compare that with 5/6 years each for Wolf and Swan. OK, I knew most of the characters and I’d done most of the research, but that should have applied to Swan too. So the method worked for me.
The Serpent in Spring is set in Galloway to begin with, but later moves to Atholl in Caledonia, which was a fantastic opportunity for me to explore the history and culture of the ‘Picts’. They’re a fascinating people and I always knew I’d have to send Corwynal back to face up to his Caledonian past, so I had great fun with that, even if he didn’t!
The novel ends with an epilogue which ties all the various strings together and, hopefully, makes sense of the ‘pre-prologues’ in individual books. So does the story end there? It does for some people. Others will continue on. Others still, have stories I’ve not told (or, in some cases, deleted from the first drafts of the books). Will these stories be told? I’m very tempted, so watch this space.