Books begin in different places. Song of the Golden Hare began with a strong desire to write a story featuring hares. I had no other idea in mind but took this wish for a walk over a period of days.
When you stand on the hill above my house, a place where I often go to write, on a clear day you can see Ireland. This was one of the threads that was drawn in to make the weft of the story. The warp came from other places. It is, I think, a story about courage and patience, about finding your voice and your place in the world, about regeneration and rebirth.
The problem was I had another book on contract that I was supposed to be working on, but once this story came through I could think of nothing else and wanted only to paint it through to completion.
I began with sketches in my sketchbook, chasing a story board.
Next I moved on to a dummy book, working all but one of the images up at full size. One picture came through so very strong, of the children, resting. At first though there was only one child, the boy alone. The book was called The Boy Who Loved music and Hares. Then along came his younger sister, and she wound her way into the story, so that when the hares began their journey she went too.
The landscape is very ‘Pembrokeshire’, although there are no hares here where I live and few indeed in Pembrokeshire.
I have sat in cold fields where the earth is iron hard and watched the day dawn and the hares wake, emerging stiffened by cold sleeping to stretch and yawn out small steaming puffs of hare’s breath into late winter mornings before running across frost trimmed grasses to warm cold muscles. These moments have been some of the most beautiful in my life.
I have seen hares run from their forms across green fields in late evening sun slanted light to leap honey coloured Cotswold stone walls.
I have seen hares on Derbyshire hillsides in twilight and one cross a road, loping like a long legged mythical creature, seeming to be the size of a small deer.
All this helps while capturing images in the mind’s eye.
I have sat on cliffs watching grey seals as they pup in the autumn, swum in the same water, so close that I could almost smell the fish-breath and see their whiskers. I have watched seals swimming under clear water on calm days, water so still that you could see the mating, curling bodies of a bull and cow seal as they twisted together in a water dance. I have watched them from a boat, looking into those great liquid eyes of these sea dog creatures. So this also helps when trying to capture an image. And I do love the smell of the sea.
When I was working on the book I began to be fascinated by moths and butterflies. I have always loved moths. I love the way they are drawn to the light and I love the soft wing breath of moths if you are lucky enough to feel their wings on your skin. And butterflies fascinate me and I will never understand how they navigate through the long grass labyrinths on their crazy wings. And so this book is threaded through with moth wings and butterflies, and daddylonglegs and birds. And a snail or two.
Song of the Golden Hare will be published in October in UK. Not sure of publication date for USA. You can pre- order copies from Solva Woollen Mill and also request dedications via email and Solva ship all around the world. There are only 3000 copies in the first print run, so to avoid disappointment it is best to pre-order as new stock will not be available before Christmas.
While I was working on Song of the Golden Hare two strange things happened. The first was that on the day I had completed the text I met a woman, Cathy Cooper. Cathy had come in search of snow leopard paintings, was staying in a holiday home above Whitesands. I was resisting all who wanted to come to my studio. I work at home, and I work hard and this is not the best place to see my work, although people do seem to like seeing the space I work in. Cathy talked her way in by telling me that she had spent time with spirit bears in Canada, and I was intrigued by the thought of spending time with someone who had breathed the same air as the spirit bears. Cathy invited me to supper at her house, and I offered to take Hare to read, to ‘pay for my supper’. In the story there are two hounds, one silver, on black. They chase the golden hare. Cathy’s holiday house was the beautiful farmhouse, until recently still a working farm. Hanging on the wall, above the table where we were eating was an old print from a book. It showed two hounds chasing after a hare, one hound was silver, the other black.
Then I discovered that there is an island, called Rathlin Island where there are two golden hares, elusive creatures, just like in my story. Rathlin Island is a small island off the coast of Irelend. Sometimes there is a certain magic in the way a story will find you. I think it was working when I found the Song of the Golden Hare.
Song of the Golden Hare is dedicated to Lyn Oates who has seen a golden hare, Cathy Cooper who was most definitely in the right place at the right time, Nicola Davies who said, ‘silver, it needs to be silver,’ to all the singers in the world and most of all to the innocent hare.
You can order signed copies from Solva Woollen Mill along with all of my other books in print.