If I had a dime for each time someone has asked me that question… Well, alright, I might have about $2 by now. But it does come up rather often. Before I inflict a snarky reply on the poor soul attempting to make conversation (‘I steal them from other writers’, ‘from the lost idea closet’, ‘from aliens downloading data into my brain’, etc) I have to remind myself that all numbing cliché aside, it’s not such a crazy question. Do I know where the idea for Tymon’s Flight came from? Not really. The answer might be something vague and unsatisfactory along the lines of: ‘I was inspired by various ancient myths and legends, religious scripture and the films of Hayao Miyazaki,’ but that doesn’t begin to cover it. I remember my husband telling me one morning that he’d had a dream of floating cities in the sky. ‘Oh, that would make a good story setting,’ says I, all innocent. The idea stuck in my mind, but every time I revisited it I saw more roots twisting out of the bottom of those cities, more branches sprouting from the top of them, and eventually the roots and branches joined together to make one mother of a Tree.
The feminine image is not haphazard. Plants are fruit-bearing things and a civilization cradled in the arms of a giant tree could easily think of God in feminine terms – even if such considerations were mere lip-service, having no real effect on how women were treated by the (male) priests and (male) rulers of that society. Everything proceeds logically from the setting. A world in a tree has its own natural constraints and consequences: travel becomes both three-dimensional (up and down as well as across) and convoluted, following branch-paths and wind currents. Metal is unknown. Flying dirigible balloons – first of the hot air variety, then based on the captured ‘Tree-ether’ – rather than carriages or even horseback becomes the norm. Horses would not do well on a tree with their slippery hooves and liking for wide grassy spaces. Instead we have the goat-like ‘shillees’, endless birds, monkeys and snakes, as well as shaggy ‘herd-beasts’ who take on the role of oxen (I thought of them as a slope-savvy creature resembling a yak.) ‘Margeese’ are humanity’s flightless fowl, raised for their eggs and meat, and vines are preferred over standing fields of grain. Draw inspiration from a certain period in history – the Renaissance in Europe for the tension between science and religion, the medieval Muslim world for the amalgam of the ancient and the new, the nineteenth-century for the devastating effects of colonialism – and the ingredients are complete. Each idea bears more ideas until a story is born.
How fitting that a story set in a tree should grow organically, rather than arriving ready-made and complete like Athena jumping out of Zeus’ head. And of course the tree metaphor fits my own philosophical prejudices exactly. I like my truth to be a winding tale, full of twists and turns and developing from the bottom up. I do not enjoy my fiction set in tablets of stone and handed down from on high. As I say, it’s a personal prejudice – some writers receive their ideas in a blinding flash of revelation on fiction’s Mount Sinai, and do very well. But not me. I like a spot in the sun with good drainage. It takes me a while to produce the magic apple.
Tymon’s Flight will be in all good bookshops in Australia and New Zealand on 1 August. It will also be available worldwide as an e-book from Borders.com.au, the Amazon Kindle Store, and from Whitcoulls in New Zealand. Mary Victoria lives in Wellington, New Zealand, and is working on Samiha’s Song, the second book in the Chronicles of the Tree. Tymon’s Flight will be officially launched at the Weta Cave on 14 August, see the News and Events page for the full details.
Filed under: Mary Victoria |