Rachael Lindsay

A Conversation with Rachael Lindsay

as given to Ink Pantry

Founding Inspirations

As a child, I was an avid reader. I loved nothing more than climbing my rope ladder into the large sycamore tree in my back garden, taking with me the characters of my favourite books: Peter Pan, pirates, mermaids, Red Indian princesses, faeries and dragons. Closing my eyes and gripping the tree’s branches firmly, I played out scenes from the stories, exchanged riddles with Gollum, and became lost in my imagination.

J. M. Barrie was my hero but I also revelled in J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, C. S. Lewis and A. A Milne. I loved Kipling’s asides to his audience (dearly Beloved), the landscape of Narnia, and nonsense poetry. My young mind was full of mythical creatures and places; I still have my copy of “The Sentimental Dragon” by Grace Cox-Ife, pages now falling from their binding and signed at the front in my childish hand.

I spent many happy weeks in Switzerland when I was young, as my father worked there for periods of time. Those breath-taking mountains, lakes and waterfalls have now joined forces with the fjords and forests of Norway, to create a backdrop to much of my writing. Who could not be inspired by all of these influences?

As a result of my happy experiences in both real life and fantasy, I always wanted to write stories, from being about five or six years old. Of course, I had to be a serious grown-up for a while - teaching, earning money and bringing my two wonderful children into the world – but then, I reached an epiphany when sealing the large, brown envelope which contained the manuscript of “The Warrior Troll”. It seemed like the right time. Time for me.

All it took was one deep breath and a leap of faith.

The Troll Stories

I have never had a bolt of lightning moment in the creation of my stories. They have evolved over time from squirreled away ideas and fleeting moments of inspiration. I liken the notions to butterflies, catch them in a net and then allow them to connect.

The first troll who lived with me was Hairy Bogley. He grinned at me, roguishly, and immediately, we became friends. To while away the evening hours in a small Norwegian cottage, in the middle of a dark forest, miles away from sanity, my father and I wrote a lengthy poem about him, which began:

“’Midst Norway’s craggy mountains,
In a dark and gloomy cave,
Sat hermit Hairy Bogley
Who wasn’t very brave…”

Other trolls followed until I had a whole excitable family of them: Ulf, Grimhildr, Dotta, Snorrie Magnus, Finnr, not forgetting Hildi and the Warrior Troll himself, Thom. It was then that I recalled a strange account my Nana had told me as a child, of a meeting in the woods. She had been invited into a tiny cottage for tea, by an odd couple who were small, with faces as wrinkled as walnut shells.

The scene was set then, for my first novel. I had all I needed.

Fun and laughter to inspire young minds

Fun and laughter? How important are these elements for inspiring young minds…?

How else do children become engaged and learn?

When I walk into a classroom with my wicker basket bursting full of trolls, eager to scramble out and tell their stories, the youngsters in front of me are all excitement and giddiness. Every child is keen to talk, to ask questions and to try imaginative ideas which takes them away from the humdrum of the usual format. Familiarity breeds a certain amount of disdain and the ensuing boredom can stifle creativity, never more so than in teaching. If an author can enter their lives for a short time, talking the peculiar language of trolls, and open their eyes to the escapism of fantasy, it’s fun and laughter all the way! I strive to be different. I want to inspire and enthuse. Imagine how I would have felt and behaved, as a child in the same circumstances – it would have blown my tiny mind!

Writing Places

I have various places for different stages of writing.

Planning happens anywhere and everywhere. In this stage, I have a special notebook, preferably with a rustic cover, held together loosely with a piece of string and a button, which accompanies me wherever I go. I jot down my random butterfly ideas and make notes whenever they occur to me. If I am cycling and see a derelict farmhouse, I stop and record the tumbling bricks, the ivy clinging to the chimney stack, the sound of the crows overhead. Crauk! Crauk! Even in the rain. Sitting on a grass verge. Getting soaked.

At night time, the notebook is by my bedside, with pencil, ready for dreamy-headed jottings in the dark - which prove tricky to decipher by day, but otherwise would have been lost in sleep. Travelling on a plane, the notebook is always in my hand luggage, never in the hold - far too precious to get lost in another foreign land! Recently, my plans have become more visual. I am no artist, but perhaps this is an indication that I am becoming more confident to plan as I wish.

Then the butterflies are netted together and connections are made. The story begins to emerge, chapter by chapter, planned in pencil to free my mind and allow alterations, scribblings and the flexibility to cross out. My favourite place for this stage of writing is through the troll tunnel and into the garden room. Troll tunnel? What other use is there for an under stairs cupboard, which normally houses only the junk that is never needed? Once through to the other side, the garden room allows me to draw the strands of my story together. No mobile signal. No Internet connection. Just me, my ideas book and a pencil.

Then, with copious amounts of coffee, I write. This is where the serious business begins and so I need a serious place. The study houses my laptop and I sit, notebook on one side, to tap away at the keys. The main PC is switched on for research and reference material; perhaps Viking jewellery; how to keep bees; facts about minke whales; toadstools and fungi; herbal remedies and how changelings were dealt with. Hours pass.

Write. Save. Check. Edit. Write. Save. Check. Edit.

Fun with words

Word funneration indeed.

Love it.

I adore language and the ever-morphing evolution of its change. I play with words and encourage children to experiment in the same way. A serpent, snake-like monster in “The Quest of Snorrie Magnus” eel-ripples over stones in his putrid pool of filth. Why use a simple – and clichéd – simile, when you can create a new verb, instead? And how glorious are his “suppurations of oozing ghastliness” and “cankerous gums”?

The Troll Talk in my books has developed into a language of its own. Each book has a glossary at the front to help the reader to translate, but after a few pages, there is rarely a child who cannot understand the language, in context. I can hold whole conversations in troll, and my family regularly texts troll to me, mainly “kissig, kissig” stuff, but delightfully pleasing! The first line I wrote in this talk was: “Gooshty morgy, Thom. Varken oop!”

I realised that forest-dwelling, Norwegian trolls needed their own hurdy-gurdy language and so it was born. Whole classes are answering the register now, in troll. “Gooshty morgy, Miss!” and they greet me in assemblies, in the same fashion. Marvellurg!

I play with the names of characters, too. It gives the reader an idea of their trustworthiness if someone is called Liar-nel, Fiblet or Fibkin. A mermaid is called Miasma for the effect she creates. A frog is called Herpet from the word herpetology; Mr Scarab scuttles from house to house wearing his bottle green overcoat; a kitten has something of the very devil in her - and so is named Lucy-fur; a pretentious slug is called Pearl.

My latest story, currently in production, “The Changeling’s Child”, has no trolls but word play is still very much a part of my writing. The main character urges her charges on, saying, “Come now, you two! The time is sun-dialling fast and soon the dimsk will be upon us! We must quick-hurry to beat it.” How much more fun is that, than, “Hurry up, both of you!”?

Passions, hobbies and relaxation

I am asked how difficult it is to switch the creative mind off and find relaxation.

I am a keen swimmer. I find it clears the mind of everyday concerns and anxieties, enabling creative thoughts to blossom. These may be story ideas, or solutions to cliff hanger dilemmas, or the possible visualisation of a front cover. So this is relaxation of a sort, but no “switch off”.

I run away to the mountains as often as possible. Here also, I am bombarded with ideas and cannot resist the urge to note them down. Once more, wonderful relaxation, but no “switch off.”

I love cooking for friends and family – and many an afternoon has been spent cheerfully testing our homemade wine. Relaxation indeed, but…

Why would I want to switch off my creative mind? This is the least stressful part of my life! I consider my writing to be sheer self-indulgence and any opportunity to disappear into my fantasy worlds is grasped, eagerly. It is other aspects of my life which get in the way, all too often.

Future plans

Now that “The Changeling’s Child” is in production, I can uncross my fingers and start to plan the next story. “Tales from the Dark Hole” will be a series of books, this current publication being the first of them, and I am relieved that leaving my trolls behind has not caused my publishers concern.

I will always want to write for children; those inspired, imaginative children who climb trees and can occupy themselves with a good story; the children who are thinkers and enjoy embracing something a little bit different; those children who enjoy a challenge; the children who are happy to create pictures in their heads from the words in a book.

The children who I have in the palm of my hand, when I begin to read.

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