The Changeling and other short stories featuring fairies

Don’t you just love serendipity? Imagine my delight when I found out that J M Barrie was Daphne du Maurier’s uncle? Not only that, he was a contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Now obviously I’m a Conan Doyle fan, I have to be, I live in Crowborough. One of my favourite books is The Lost World, the book that inspired Jurassic Park. I’m intrigued that Conan Doyle, the doctor and scientist who invented Sherlock Holmes (known for his rationality), could also be a big fan of spiritualism and was totally hoodwinked by the young girls at the heart of the Cottingley Fairies hoax. I believe he was also implicated in the Piltdown Man hoax (more Conan Doyle facts here)

So, do you believe in fairies?

Clap your hands if you do.

When I was very young, we lived in Huntingdon Road, Crowborough. Our house was a corner plot so we had a really big L shaped garden. My dad was a builder and he used the bottom part of the garden to store his building supplies and materials. Builder’s sand would be delivered in bulk and Dad would shovel into the back of his pick-up truck and take off to various building sites. The tarpaulin underneath the sand had long since rotted away. In places the sand and earth was so mixed that the last bit never got scrapped up for making cement. This residue was perhaps six inches deep in places, covered an area of about six square feet and made the most fabulous sand pit. When sand stocks were low, I claimed it as my own. Rather than build castles or make mud pies, I created villages. They were model villages with houses, roads and shops. I used broken slates for roofs and bits of wood for doors and windows. I gathered twigs and stuck them along the roads, tying string from one to the other to make telegraph poles. I loved my miniature villages but I was always sad that they had no occupants. One holiday we visited Boughton on the Water where I marvelled at the model village there. Beautiful but also unoccupied.

What I really wanted was to see the little people. My mum read The Borrowers to us and I dreamed of the day when Pod, Homily and Arrietty would make themselves known to me. When we visited Cornwall, I was fascinated by stories of the piskies.

This desire to engage with fairies manifests itself in my creative writing. I have written short stories about fairies and my novel The Changeling focuses on a secret underworld of spriggans (evil piskies)

So, do personal beliefs and experiences affect creativity in writers? What is the influence on their writing?

  • Conan Doyle believed in fairies and spiritualism yet wrote rational, logic novels. Perhaps it wasn’t just Sherlock who was under the influence of opium?
  • Daphne du Maurier didn’t believe in fairies or the supernatural and yet she wrote stories with an eerie gothic flavour.
  • Her ‘uncle’ JM Barrie was so obsessed with the du Maurier boys (Daphne’s cousins) ‘the lost boys, that he adopted them.
  • Daphne suffered with depression, as did Virginia Woolf and Agatha Christie.
  • Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Apparently she experienced a fugue and Conan Doyle was asked to track her down using a séance.

Serendipity, I love it.

“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.” (Peter Pan)

I never want to grow up.

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