Sunday, 4 November 2012

Guest post: Derek Thomson author of Covenant

I'm delighted to welcome Derek Thomson to the blog to do a guest post...

Tell us a little about the book…
First and foremost, Covenant is a mystical fantasy quest (if it wasn't a genre before, it is one now!), set on a colonised world. The dominant society live in walled City States, and in the Outlands there are isolated settlements. The city folk have relative wealth, science and conformity; the settlers have the natural world and a more impoverished existence.
A third, nomadic religious group, the Thaylin Sarra, wander between them and spread their teachings - a mish-mash of Old Earth beliefs and spiritual traditions. One of those beliefs is that there is a hidden city known as Sarrell, their spiritual homeland, which a Righteous One will one day reveal to them. There is also a tradition that a great spiritual teacher was martyred, and her four disciples will one day return to complete her work.
Five hundred years after her martyrdom, three individuals discover they have connections from this life and beyond, things to atone for and work to be done. One is a priestess, one an outsider and one a heretic. As to the fourth person, you'll have to read the book!

Did you have to do a lot of research before you wrote it?
I would like to say that I approached it the same way I do any other piece of fiction or non-fiction, but that's not entirely true. Covenant developed over a long period of time and the ideas behind it came and went with the seasons. However, I did research some of the more esoteric concepts to give the book a certain structure. For example, there are 22 cards in the major arcana of a standard tarot deck and there are 22 chapters in the book.

The supernatural has always held a fascination for me, since I was a teenager. I 'm also interested in the way that mythic truth and archetypes seem to lurk beneath the surface of our rational minds. We seek to understand our place in the universe and the purpose of existence, and we either discern or create patterns and systems to explain the unanswerable questions. There's an element of that in Covenant as well!
I read some of Joseph Campbell's work on mythology (about the only thing George Lucas and I have in common!), and I also looked at Jungian archetypes. That was as much for me as for the book, but I suppose you could call that research.

The Tarot is a key theme in Covenant. Can you read Tarot cards – or have you ever had a reading?
Short answer: yes and yes. I was given a reading when I was 16, at my first job (clearly, not a busy day). And I remember being dazzled by the symbols and the way that the reader used the symbols as a springboard to - take your pick: intuition, inspiration, guesswork or imagination.
I subsequently learned to use The Rider Waite deck, which is now about 100 years old. Most of the cards depict a story, and it is said that the tarot has its origins as a conventional set of playing cards, in a 14th Century Italian game called tarocchi. 
The tarot has all kinds of correspondences around colours, numbers and certain symbols. If a reader is so disposed, they will find certain correspondences in the book, along with references (some veiled) to other traditions and practices.
Many years ago I used to read the cards for people, but I find the cards more useful now as very occasional tools for reflection. They can also be used for fiction writing, in the same way that a stack of old magazines can provide a rich treasure house of images.

What made you want to write about these kinds of themes?
I've always enjoyed books that do three things:
1. They entertain me.
2. They challenge me, in a certain way, to look at how I view the world - sci-fi and fantasy especially.
3. The ideas live on in my head for a time after I've finished reading. The 'What if?' ripples can spark other insights and creative ideas.

More than that, I wanted to weave together ideas about faith, perception, reality and mysticism into an archetypal quest. The intention was to take all those transpersonal ideas and make them personal to the characters.
Some of the authors whose fiction did that for me were Aldous Huxley, J. R. R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, William Morris, Dion Fortune, and George Orwell's 1984.

How long did it take you to write Covenant?
Another tough one to answer directly! I had some of the ideas when I was 18, and worked on the embryonic novel when I was in the US in 1986/87. It even has a walk-on part in Scars & Stripes, a comedy drama based on that eventful year! In a sense the novel was waiting for me to catch up, until I understood what the story and characters were saying (which wasn't quite what I'd intended for them!).

Who do you think it will appeal to?
Covenant will appeal to anyone who enjoys a fantasy novel that welcomes you to a new world. It's a world of consequences and surprises, where there are no easy answers and everyone has secrets to hide. If you enjoy the idea of a quest, of facng challenges and inner demons (literally, in one case) then you won't be disappointed.
Covenant will also appeal to those with an interest in certain esoteic subjects such as meditation, the tarot, pathworkings and the Tree of Life (another key aspect of the book's structure), but that's simply another layer woven in. 

What made you decide to go the route of self-publishing?
I came via the scenic route. I have been offered four different contracts for Covenant, over the years. Briefly: one died, one went out of business, one wanted just over £1000 and one wanted over £5000. That last one was the clincher for me!

What would your advice be to anyone considering self-publishing?
Not every book is commerically viable for the traditional publishing route. But that doesn't mean there isn't an eager readership for it. Take the time to do your research, plan each step and be bold!

For the ebook version of Covenant (paperback version out soon), I used a self-publishing guide, which told me everything I needed to know.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Covenant is currently available as an ebook, but keep an eye on my blog for an announcement about when the paperback version is out.

You can buy Covenant at:

And if you do buy Covenant, I'd love to hear what you think!
Meantime, here's the back cover 'blurb:

Isca has followed the faith since childhood, taking her from the Settlements and into the City States. Now, as a priestess, a prophecy bears fruit; she receives a stone tablet to liberate her people and reveal their spiritual homeland.

In order to preserve the faith, she must be willing to teach the path of True Will to a heathen, whatever the consequences. When a stranger appears in the city of Tarsis, he uncovers the truth about the tablet and the boy chosen to protect it. But what if the long-awaited Righteous One isn't so righteous after all?

1 comment:

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