How The Dawn Herald Came To Be
By LB Mara
I’ve always dreamed heavily. As a tiny child my nights were populated by strange images of fantastical worlds. I would often wake with a start, my eyes adjusting to the dark. So vivid were these dreamt worlds that the shadows in my room took on personalities; the tree-shadows on the ceiling became wraiths, my wardrobe with its strangely ornate lock a grinning face, the long shaft of light from the hallway a moon-path leading to a bright-white world. The floor became a seething night-dark sea across which I had to leap lest I drowned, my bed a slow-moving white prowed ship that sailed through infinite gulfs of stars.
I wrote my first little book at the age of three. It was called ‘The Moth People’, about creatures which looked human to the naked eye, but shimmering just beneath the surface of their faces were velvet wings. Over the years I became obsessed by peoples’ stories. Northern Ireland, with a history inscribed in blood, fascinated me; the Holocaust, the greatest living nightmare in history; the legends of the Romans and Greeks and Persians – all were an endless source of fascination. By the age of sixteen I had written six full-length, very bad novels. I burned them and started again. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties, however, that I began to write The Dawn Herald.
One night I fell into a deep sleep and dreamt the entire plot in all its intricacies; felt the ground tremble as the Goddess fell from her Arc in the Sky and heard the Arc crack and fall away; saw the stars appear in the broken firmament; went on the run with Isolde and the angels, shivering with fear as our little boat crested perilous waves, all the while pursued by the Trackers, immense creatures of the storms wearing cloaks of mist, their swords forked lightning bolts; rode giant dragonflies across mosaic mountains, brought worlds into existence from nothing; and faced the Lady Lilith and her monstrous horde in battle, snarling Tygers and two-headed men and centaurs at my side. When I awoke I scribbled down the plot, drew a map of my imaginary world, shoved them in a drawer and forgot about them. A while later, I stumbled across them by chance. The memory of the dream resurfaced in my head, whole and complete: I began to write it as if I were watching a film and trying to capture its most salient points. I only stopped writing when my hands cramped and my wrists ached. I lost all sense of time and place. Five hours would pass without my knowing it. The day that I finished The Dawn Herald, I wrote ten thousand words and fainted.
I’ve rewritten the book five times since. Each time the perspective changed a little – the same scenes seen from a different angle. I felt so bereft when I finally finished it that I started writing its sequel, and another two after that. All are works in progress; all are writing and rewriting themselves. I don’t have a set routine; if I try to sit down and force myself to write, or if I try to impose a plot on the narrative, my characters become obdurate and wooden and dull. On the other hand, anything – a sound, a sight, a memory – can compel a burst of creativity that lasts up to eight hours. During this time I am absolutely unreachable; the world falls away, my beloved fiance ceases to exist, I am nothing more than an instrument channelling images and turning them into words.
And, because my writing is so very real to me, I’ve taken the decision to commission artists to illustrate the series. Dominique Ruhlmann is creating an extraordinarily detailed illuminated manuscript for the front cover; Abi Daker has produced an exquisite map of the imaginary world and watercolours to illustrate each chapter; Andy English’s woodcuts, dramatic and arresting, provide a stunning contrast to the richly coloured cover and watercolour illustrations. I want the book to be as visually stunning as it is compulsively readable. And working with these artists has inspired new ideas, new flights of fancy. I want for little because the dreamt worlds inside my head are so real that it is as if I am living many lives simultaneously. I only hope that I exist long enough for all my words to be used up.