Today I am interviewing Rachel Atwood, author of the new fantasy novel, Walk the Wild with Me.
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DJ: For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Rachel Atwood: I fell in love with history as a small child. At first it was the costumes and horses; knights in shining armor, enchanted me. Then I saw the old Disney cartoon “The Sword in the Stone,” and I became enchanted with the whole Arthurian adventure. Somewhere in there I was introduced to the highly romanticized adventures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men with Richard Greene on TV. I’ve written straight historical works, (Magna Bloody Carta: A Turning Point in Democracy, under my legal name Phyllis Irene Radford) but I much prefer writing history with enchantments. Currently I live in the foothills of Mt. Hood in Oregon with protected wetland forest ten feet outside my office window. It is not hard for me to imagine myself on the edge of Sherwood Forest looking in on the adventures I write.
When I’m not writing I enjoy line dancing. Having grown up in a ballet studio, I cannot, not dance, so if we are at the same SF/F convention you might find me dancing in a local fountain. In another lifetime I was a seamstress and a lacemaker. Who knows what hobby I’ll fall into next. It’s all fodder for the fiction mill.
DJ: What is Walk the Wild with Me about?
Rachel: 1208-1215 A.D. the Church in Rome divorced King John of England, and King John divorced the Church. There was no one tell people that the fae Wild Folk of the forest did not exist, so they are free to come out and play. Our hero, Nicholas is an orphan who knows no other life than in an abbey. He frequently gets into trouble because when helping illuminate manuscripts he can’t help adding weird faces into the flowing illustrations. Then, with the help of a pagan goddess enshrined in an ancient cup, he stumbles into the woods one day and discovers another whole aspect of life. He makes friends with the wild folk and has adventures while exploring.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Walk the Wild with Me?
Rachel: I’ve studied British Folklore forever. The Green Man, dryads, sylphs, water sprites, and even trolls feel like my neighbors. I’ve also sung some Gregorian Chants in church choirs. Why shouldn’t I combine the two?
DJ: Briefly tell us about your main characters. Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them? What makes them compelling?
Rachel: Young Nick is smart and curious as only a twelve-year-old can be. He is hungry to learn new things and experience different ways of life. Sometimes his adventures bring him trouble, sometimes they show him awesome wonders.
The Green Man (Little John) and Father Tuck are ordinary men living in extraordinary times called to do more than they thought possible. They give us entirely different perspectives on life and politics. The Green Man measures time in seasons and generations. His roots spread through the entire forest and he knows what happens to every shrub, tree, and the animals large and small. Human lives come and go, but the forest is forever. Or is it?
Father Tuck filters his views through the stained-glass window of his faith as well as the dappled sunlight through the leaves of the forest. He can combine ancient wisdom with practical observation.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or favorite character with a smaller role? What makes that character a favorite?
Rachel: Elena, the pagan goddess of sorcery, crossroads, and cemeteries (the ultimate crossroad), mostly dwells in a little three-faced cup. She has seen too much of life and survived to take anything seriously. The first time she called Little John—a 300-year-old tree—and Father Tuck (an abbot in his seventies) “Silly Boy,” she came to life for me. I can still hear her chuckle, like rippling water over a cascade of rocks.
Nick’s friends Henry and Dom help Nick to not take life too seriously, and to look out for danger that is real when Nick is too enthralled with his adventures to notice it.
DJ: Describe the world and setting of Walk the Wild with Me. Does the world/universe have a name, and if so, what is it?
Rachel: Walk the Wild with Me takes place in 1208 A.D. England, outside Nottingham. I couldn’t resist adding the evil Sheriff and even found an historical personage, Sir Philip Marc. He had to buy his office from King John and needs taxes from the common folk to help refill his coffers.
The action of the book is centered around everyday life in both Locksley Abbey and in the villages that spill into the dark, mysterious, and dangerous forest. The abbey bells have been silenced and no church rituals may be performed. It is a time of transition. Everyone needs to learn to think for themselves in order to survive rather than depend upon orders from the absent church, or the nobles who are preoccupied with a rebellion brewing around the king.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Walk the Wild with Me?
Rachel: Every scene I wrote took me back to my childhood and all the pretend games. Most of my friends played cowboys and Indians or pilgrims and Indians. I wanted to play Robin Hood, and I had to be Robin Hood.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Rachel: I hope that people will look at the wild with new insights. Every tree, rock, and stream might be one of the wild folk hiding beneath a surface illusion. It is our job to help protect them from those who are blind to the wonders of our world.
Is there a particular message or theme you are hoping to get across with Walk the Wild with Me?
In the final scenes Nick and his friend Hilde realize that they have choices. This is something they wouldn’t be allowed to know before the political and religious turmoil distracted the people who had authority over the common people. And common people may go unnoticed by historians but each and every one of them extra ordinary.
DJ: Do you have any favorite quotes from Walk the Wild with Me that you can share with us?
Rachel: Stop thinking with your eyes, Elena admonished him on a giggle.
Silly boy, she answered him with another laugh.
“I am not silly.” His voice cracked, and he lost the last syllable. He was starting to resent that endearment.
You are silly if you do not listen to me, Elena, goddess of crossroads, cemeteries, and sorcery. Close your eyes and absorb the forest. The path will open to your other senses.
DJ: Now that Walk the Wild with Me is released, what is next for you?
Rachel: I’m working on a proposal for a sequel. I also have a number of independent projects under my Irene Radford pen name available through the Book View Café, a publishing co-operative www.bookviewcafe.com. I also edit and write for B-Cubed Press. We got our start with political satire the “Alternative Truths” anthology but we are expanding our repertoire.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Rachel: On Face Book I am Phyllis Irene Radford on my own timeline. I also run the Cranky Old Crone and Radford Editorial pages. In groups I run The Witch’s Kitchen, and am active on the Iron Writer Challenge, and the B-Cubed Project page. I have a newsletter but don’t send them out very often. You can find the sign-up page at www.ireneradford.net
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***Walk the Wild with Me is published by DAW and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
Orphaned when still a toddler, Nicholas Withybeck knows no other home than Locksley Abbey outside Nottingham, England. He works in the Scriptorium embellishing illuminated manuscripts with hidden faces of the Wild Folk and whimsical creatures that he sees every time he ventures into the woods and fields. His curiosity leads him into forbidden nooks and crannies inside, and outside the abbey. He becomes adept at hiding to stay out of trouble.
On one of these forays he slips into the crypt beneath the abbey. There he finds an altar older than the abbey’s foundations, ancient when the Romans occupied England. Behind the bricks around the altar, he finds a palm-sized silver cup. The cup is embellished with the three figures of Elena, the Celtic goddess of crossroads, sorcery, and cemeteries.
He carries the cup with him always. The goddess whispers wisdom in the back of his mind. With Elena in his pocket, Nick can see that the masked dancers on the May Day celebration in the local village are the actual creatures of the wood, The Green Man, Robin Goodfellow, Herne the Huntsman, dryads, trolls, and water sprites, the imaginary faces he’s seen and drawn into the Illuminations.
Over the course of several adventures where Elena guides Nick and keeps him safe, he learns that Little John’s (the Green Man) love has been kidnapped by Queen Mab of the Faeries. The door to the Faery mound will only open when the moons of the two realms align. The time is fast approaching. Nick must release Elena so that she can use sorcery to unlock that door and Nick’s band of friends can try to rescue the girl. Will he have the courage to release her as his predecessor did not?
About the Author:
Rachel Atwood is the author of Walk the Wild with Me. She grew up enchanted with British History. Now she writes historical fiction with enchantments. Every time she visits the British Isles, she basks in the shadows of standing stones and glories in ancient crypts while drinking in the lush accents of the people she meets. She thinks driving on the left is natural and roundabouts are efficient as well as aesthetically pleasing.