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29 March 2019

A Novel Conversation with Richard Abbott's character Brendan mab Emrys,

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
let's meet a character...
Brendan mab Emrys


Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. 
Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Richard Abbott’s novel Half Sick of Shadows. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  
A: I am Brendan mab Emrys, singer to my king and his court, and I am seventh in the line of singers from my great ancestor Caradoc of the silver voice. You would call me a bard, I think, and I am an important supporting character. It was I to whom The Lady first revealed herself, when she wearied of her solitude. I do not know any of the drinks you name, but I should be glad of an ale. Or some mead, perhaps? Your chocolates look unappealing – forgive me – but your fruit bowl is excellent, and brings back happy memories of The Lady’s visit.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: I think of the book as sober history. It faithfully records that precious time when The Lady of the Tower – she who we also call The Lady of Flowers – made her one and only visit to us in her true bodily form. But in your age, I think many would call it fantasy. It tells the story of The Lady from when she first awoke, long ages ago, through to the time when she left us in order to fulfil her destiny. She told me how she had lived in this my land from when it was all covered with ice. She came to know the land where she lived, but she did not know herself at first, and had to strive through all those years with a device she called The Mirror. Her triumph was our gain, and she gave us gifts as she left her tower for the last time.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: I am most certainly a ‘goodie’: what else should a man of character be? But I think when people sing their own songs of my time, people might not remember my name. Rather they will sing of my king, or of his companions in arms. And if they notice me at all, it will be as one who stays in the background.

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: I shall speak of my queen, Queen Gwynwi. She is fair and honourable, but there are some who think ill of her because she has never quickened with child. My king speaks nothing bad of her, but he longs for an heir and grows impatient. And lately, Llawen y Luh, the leader of the king’s companions, has been seen too often in her company. They should be more cautious about this. Like me, though, she was deeply touched by the Lady as she passed through our land, and perhaps her life will change now. She implored the Lady to grant her the gift of children, but the Lady would offer no reassurance, and said only that she could no longer do that.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: This is the only one so far, and I do not expect there to be others about me. But being mortal and somewhat proud of my ability, I entertain hopes that one day I may return out of the shadows again.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: Surely that must be as the Lady was leaving us. Her face had become dry and wrinkled, her voice weary, and it was as though she was fading before our eyes. And I had only known her such a short time! Mere fleeting days since I first spoke with her at her tower, and now she was going. She looked into my eyes as she climbed into her boat, her limbs stiff and weary, and I knew in that moment that she wished that there had been more time. It was a dagger in my soul.

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: Oh! That would surely be when the king asked me to sing for him at the feast, and The Lady knew of it and visited us in her unseen shape. This was before she made her true visit on that last day. I did not see her in visible form, but I knew beyond doubt that she stood before me and approved of my song. Few indeed of us saw her like that – Queen Gwynwi, Llawen y Luh, a handful of others – but most could not. The king could not. But she looked on me with favour that day, and I shall never forget it.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has he written any other books?
A: Oh yes, he has. Some of them take place long before my time, in the hot lands near the great empire of Egypt which has now passed into dust. Others are set in my future. Once when I asked him how long it will be before these future things happen, he told me that it was nearly a hundred great cycles of the moon as it dances to and fro in the skies. I laughed at that, and told him that the stone circles of our forefathers would count that as only a little while, and that I could be patient.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: He is working on another book in the far future. He tells me that try as I might, gazing at the night sky as I often do, I will never see the little world Charon on which it is set. I know that that is the name of the boatkeeper who carries the dead, and so at first I wondered if it was a grim place. But this is not so. The same sun that warms us also gives that world its light, and he tells me that I would recognise some of the people of that place. Surely though, he must mean that I would acknowledge them as distant kindred, though clad in other forms? Some of them, look you, are not even flesh and blood, not born of a woman as are we all. Instead, they are clever things, fashioned to speak and think like a person, though to look at they are no more than pieces of metal or stone. He tells me that I would particularly like the one who calls himself Ynys Enlli. That is a holy place north and west of here, and I do like it that some future being has chosen to honour its name once again.

Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for him personally?
A: He finds the fellowship of other readers and writers to be a very great help. Many of his friends live so far away from his home that he is not likely to ever meet them in person, but he can talk and share thoughts and feelings with them through devices and instruments. He has a few particular friends who provide encouragement and challenge to his writing, and a wider circle of friends in groups who one book after another, and then talk about them. He cannot often attend great gatherings of the bards in the way that I do, and so these other ways of connecting with friends and colleagues are very important to him.

Q: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion, does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else he would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve?
A: Yes, I think he finds it helpful, though he does sometimes wonder how many people in the wider world understand what it means. He is a great enthusiast of connecting with other people, and appreciates that IndieBRAG strives to link together readers and writers, listeners and narrators.

Helen : Thank you Brendan, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? 

Brendon : Indeed he would: it is my favourite scene that he has chosen.

Helen : While he is doing that, chatting is thirsty work, would you like a refill of that ale?
Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!

The king signalled to the minstrel and sat again. The room hushed in anticipation.

His singing was beautiful, she realised. The assistant kept the rhythm steady and flowing on the longer strings, as the master sang out the tale, plucking out higher riffs and ornaments here and there. She watched with admiration as his lay unfolded, not knowing the words but appreciating the patterns. And her own voice lifted up and joined him, even though her body lay on the couch within her chamber.

The lady moved between the guests, less than a shadow among them, step by step up to the musicians. She stood in front of them, basking in the melody. The singer’s words never faltered, but his gaze followed her as she came up to him. She had no idea what he saw of her – perhaps some extra brightness against the firelight, or a flicker of movement like a hidden bird within a thicket – but something in him knew that she was there.

The people heard his song, though not hers, and they were wild with delight as he finished, stilling the strings with the flat of his hand. The king took a ring from his own hands to give to the minstrel, but he shook his head. Instead, he stood and bowed very low before the lady. The room was silent now, waiting to see what happened. She wanted to lift him up: this adulation was altogether too much. But she knew that the desire was fruitless, and that she could not touch him.

The king spoke, a note of puzzlement in his voice, and the minstrel stood upright again. His answer was quiet, respectful, and he gestured to where the lady stood. The king, eyes narrowed, glanced here and there, but could not see her. She looked beyond him to the queen, whose face was alive with interest. She was aware, and so was the king’s right-hand man, who had moved across behind the queen to protect her.

There was a growing noise in the room, a tumult of speculation, and suddenly the focused attention became too much. The lady fled the room in haste, pulled herself from the couch and its loom, and pattered about in the courtyard, slowly being soothed by the sights and scents of her garden.

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  1. Great interview and an interesting 'peek' into the premise of the book.

  2. Very interesting concept and love the Welsh bard of course!


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