Spirited Away with Cindy Miles
Being that Spirited Away is my debut novel, I've had numerous people ask, "What inspired you to write it?" Most authors, I imagine, have inspirations for the setting and characters of their books. Some may use that particular inspiration just once, and others use it multiple times, in various and somewhat altered forms. I have a few inspirations, but by far, the one dearest to me is Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland, on the wild North Sea coast. I can only vaguely describe the feeling I experienced when, while driving along the narrow, winding lane hugging the coast, this awesome sight came into view. Even having viewed loads of photos of it, I wasn't prepared for the raw beauty of it. NOTHING compares to the sight of it in "real life". I had to pull over, stop the car and literally catch my breath. My insides were tense and as corn-doggie as it sounds, tears came to my eyes. I knew, at that moment, that I'd found not only the setting for the book of my heart, but of the hero, who stole my breath away just as easily as the majestic ruins. The two went hand-in-hand. And so Tristan de Barre and his Dreadmoor Castle came to life.
I hadn't started writing SPIRITED AWAY when I first laid eyes on Dunnottar, but ideas swamped me as I sat in that car, staring at a fortress built by strong medieval hands more than 800 years before. Strangely enough, I didn't know the history of the castle until much later. I later learned the Caledonians controlled an original ancient fortress on the site in 84AD, and in 1296, William Wallace and his men reclaimed the present Dunnottar keep from the English-but I didn't know any of that at the time I visited-and I'm glad. I wanted to create my own garrison, my own knights, and my own history and circumstances, without being led by actual historical events or figures. And so I did.
While staying at the Dunnottar Mains Farm B&B, which sits directly across the cliffs from the castle, I set my clock for 5:45 A.M., pulled on warm clothes (it was October and CHILL-LEE!) and walked to the fortress. It was quite a trekk, as the gatehouse is more at ground level, and the castle is on the ancient shelf of rock. No, the castle grounds aren't open that early in the morning--I hopped the gate. I didn't walk amidst the buildings, as the gatehouse WAS locked (I did later that day, though!). But I found a particularly special spot to sit and ABSORB. It was cold, windy, the gulls were deafening, the air fabulous and salty, and as I sat, completely alone, watching the sun rise over the North Sea, with the sky turning brilliant shades of red and purple and orange, and Dunnottar in the foreground, I saw Tristan, striding briskly across the bailey, helm tucked under his arm, sword slapping his thigh, chain mail creaking with each step. I half-expected to be sucked back in time--and more than half wanted to be. I stayed there for a couple of hours, envisioning scenes, people, daily chores, horses, knights training, the clang of swords, swearing, and hearty laughter. And I thought of a modern gal being thrown in the mix of all that medieval stuff, and loving every single minute of it. My heroine, Andi, was born.
I'd had a time-travel in mind at first, but soon the idea of Tristan suffering an unfair death and worse, a curse, came to mind. But I knew the kind of guy Tristan was-powerful and so full of himself, even death couldn't snuff his pride, chivalry, nor his fierce honor. So even as a ghost, Tristan continued to be the way he always had been in life. Strong. Loyal. And up to his ears in chivalry--rusty perhaps, but still there in all its glory.
I started the original draft of SPIRITED AWAY as soon as I got home, and that was in the fall of 2000. Several things in the book changed from then to the book it is now; revisions, new ideas, etc, but one thing has ALWAYS remained the same: Tristan. His character is as strong to me as if he were a real person. Maybe because I've "known" him for so long now, but, well...you'll see when you (hopefully!) read the book.
Dreadmoor, though, is not in Scotland. I sort of slid Dunnottar/Dreadmoor down the coast a ways, and settled it in northern England. While Tristan's mother is Scottish, his father is French-Norman/Scottish, so I wanted a sort of "neutral" area for Dreadmoor-and chose the north of England.
Spirited Away officially releases May 1st. I invite you to meet my ghostly hero,Tristan de Barre, and his charming, loyal garrison of knights...and Dr. Andrea Monroe, the woman who proudly and quite sneakily steals all of their hearts-especially Tristan's.
I'd love for you to visit me at http://www.cindy-miles.com/