Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Rhiannon, a Wiccan, who acts as Gwern’s guide in modern England (Print by Emily Johns)

Gog-Magog: a fantasy novel

Local award-winning writer, producer and director, Glyn Carter, has initiated an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to produce his beautifully illustrated story, Gog-Magog, a fantasy quest from the perspective of giants. HOT’s Zelly Restorick asks Glyn some questions about the campaign and the creation of his latest novel.

Information about the project and the Indiegogo link for Glyn’s fund raiser can be found here.

Glyn, I know you like writing fantasy stories – what catalysed this particular story line?

“Giants feature in many mythologies around the world: India, Persia, the ancient Greeks, the Bible. The novel started with a “What if”? What if the legendary yetis of the Himalayas are the last of those mythical giants, forced into hiding?

“I was interested in English myths, and I got to wondering how the Jack-the-Giant-Killer stories would be told from the giants’ perspectives. Also the Arthurian trope of male heroes proving themselves by defeating an evil giant and claiming his daughter. We know who gets to write history!

“I was interested in English myths, and I got to wondering how the Jack-the-Giant-Killer stories would be told from the giants’ perspectives. Also the Arthurian trope of male heroes proving themselves by defeating an evil giant and claiming his daughter. We know who gets to write history!

“The legendary giant king, Gogmagog, was thrown into the sea by Corineus, one of the Trojans on the run after the fall of Troy. Corineus took over Gogmagog’s realm and named it Corinow – Cornwall; and his king, Brutus, took over Albion and named it Brutain. London was founded as New Troy.

“Then I found the legend first inhabitants of these islands were the giants, Albion and Albina, who were themselves fleeing curses placed upon them by Zeus. This is Britain’s founding myth, but it’s been forgotten. Considering that the original inhabitants were all refugees from the middle east, I think that’s a shame, given the current situation.

“In my novel, Brutus, Cornineus, and the cunning Jack have forced the last of Gogmagog’s descendants to flee to the Himalayas. But the tribe is dying out, so two of them journey back to Albion to find a relic that might save them – the lost head of Bran the Blessed, a Welsh giant king, whose tale is told in The Mabinogion.

“So the novel is a classic quest adventure like The Hobbit. The hero/narrator tells the giants’ history along the way. He meets the fairies, witches, goblins and elves who still hide in modern England. And of course he must face the descendants of the giants’ old nemesis, Jack.”

Nhiasse a fairy who helps Gwern after his arduous crossing of the Channel (linocut © Emily Johns)

How has the writing process been for you? Which part of the process have you most enjoyed and which has been the most challenging?

“This story gestated over several years. I originally wanted it as a graphic novel, but my skills as an artist aren’t up to that. Once I decided to make it a novel, the writing came fairly easily, and I settled down to a routine of a thousand words a day. That was a satisfying stage, especially when ideas popped up. At one point the giants find a zoo, and realise this might be their fate if captured. They try to free the animals, but it all goes terribly wrong. I have no idea where that idea came from, but it makes for a powerful episode.

Editing was more of a brain-ache, with various people’s perceptive and comments having to be considered.”

Who else is involved in the project?

“Then there was the challenge of finding an illustrator, because I couldn’t let go of the visual side entirely. I saw Emily Johns’s work online, and it had just the right feel. Then we discovered that we both had connections with Peace News, so that partnership was meant to be.

“I’ve known (HOT’s) Erica Smith for ages, and she’s done work for me before, so she was my first choice as designer for the book as a whole.”

Is the novel finished yet?

“Yes, and Emily has all but finished the illustrations.”

Are the characters’ stories continuing in your mind?

“There is a twist, which opens up a whole potential parallel backstory. It’s the seed of a sequel, but it hasn’t sprouted in my head yet.”

Do you have a message for our readers as to why they should help you with your Indiegogo campaign?

“Crowdfunding is more a way of getting wider sales than of asking for support. It also allows access to other materials, like stand-alone prints, and a separate story from the same tradition – the tale of how Arthur met Guinevere, from her point of view. Did you know that in one account, her father was a giant? And she wasn’t too thrilled at Arthur’s approaches…

“I’ve had great feedback from beta-readers aged 12 to 80. I hope that the story is exciting and charming enough for young readers. And with the mythical background, and the themes of being displaced in the world, and of looking after the earth, I hope it’s deep enough for adults too. Above all, I hope it’s a great yarn.”

The Indiegogo link for Glyn’s fundraiser can be found here.

There is a dedicated website, Gog-Magog, which has regular updates, latest news, details about events, you can ask any queries you have about the novel, how to buy a copy of the book – and how to buy a print – both ideal as gifts for the festive season ahead.

I asked Erica Smith about Glyn’s novel, as the graphic designer on the project: “Glyn has had a long-term plan to publish his Gog-Magog novel in a very special format. It’s been great to see him work towards this goal and I really appreciate the care he has taken to produce a book which reflects his love of fantasy and Welsh myths and brings these genres into the 21st century.

“I think Emily’s lino-cut prints are a beautiful accompaniment to Glyn’s narrative. I also like the fact that he’s chosen such an unusual format – the book is a 24cm square – the size of an old-fashioned 78rpm record. It means that the text is in 2-columns on each page – a bit like an old-fashioned manuscript. The size of the book and the illustrations make it feel like a grown-up version of a kid’s storybook. I also love the narrative which involves giants returning from the Himalayas to the United Kingdom and having to deal with the very contemporary challenges of crossing national borders and working out how to use smartphones.”

Gog-Magog: the story

Gog-Magog is a fantasy quest in the tradition of classics like The Hobbit and The Wizard of Earthsea.

Gwern, last-born of the exiled Gog clan of the Mharos (giants), seeks the lost head of Bran the Blessed, the king who promised to protect his people even after his death.

Gwern travels from Tibet to England, with no knowledge of the modern world. He is helped by the unlikely figure of a somewhat unpredictable Buddhist hermit, and meets Fairies, Wiccans, Elves and Goblins. He must face the descendants of the Giants’ nemesis of old, Jack.

In quieter moments between adventures, Gwern recounts the Mharos’s past, and tells the true version of what are fairy tales to us, but history to him. 

Exciting and fast-paced for readers young and old, its themes of friendship and care for the earth are relevant to all.

If you’re enjoying HOT and would like us to continue providing fair and balanced reporting on local matters please consider making a donation. Click here to open our PayPal donation link.Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 12:47 Tuesday, Dec 13, 2022 In: Literature

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