Sunday, 25 September 2011

SUSAN PRICE: Wolves, Woodcuts, World Trees

  Ghost Song by Susan Price 
            As Ambrosi trod over the bridge [to the Ghost World], its note changed, rising and falling. He could feel its rising curve beneath his feet, and, at the height of the arch, he saw the shape of a great and beautiful tree, winter-bare of leaves. It rose out of the empty dark with the pale, pale sheen of steel by moonlight, faintly outlined against the blackness and the stars. The stars shone through its branches, like brilliant, unseasonable fruit. He stood still, and the changing, thrumming note of the bridge steadied, but other sounds, distant and eerie, crept to his ears. The stars, every one of the thousands of stars, as it spun in darkness, spun its own crystalline, icy, piercing note that mingled with the thrumming of the bridge, and wove and interwove with the note of every other star. Cold, thrilling, calling harmony: poignant discord: the music of the spheres.

          I wrote that 20 years ago, but it describes something I imagined over 40 years ago.  When I was 11, I first read the Norse Myths, and the description of Yggdrasil, the Iron Ash, the World Tree.  I never forgot the image those Myths created in my head: the great tree, its roots in Chaos, its branches spreading among the Nine Worlds.  When I finally wrote it down, when I wrote ‘Ghost Song’, I remember feeling something like, ‘At last!’
'The scholar cat who walks round the tree...'
          And now that it’s available again, as an e-book, after being out of print for so many years, I feel that same sense of, ‘At last!’
          E-publishing my Ghost World books has been quite an experience.  There’s been the fun and challenge of learning something new, and of taking part with others in creating this blog.
          But one of the biggest surprises has been reading the books again, so long after I wrote them – reading them as much as a reader as a writer.  I confess, I’ve enjoyed reading my own books!
          It’s great pleasure to work so closely with the cover-artist too – he’s my brother, Andrew Price.  So I was able to tell him exactly what I wanted – something like a woodcut.  In the cover for Ghost Song, he has put the World Tree, the learned cat from Russian folk-tales, the bridge between the worlds (which to us looks like a rainbow), the bear-shaman wearing his bear skin, and the wolves.
          I’ll leave you with another quote from the book, this time about those wolves:-
          Their cold, cold cries rose into the darkness, each cry weaving its own way among the others, seeming to call down the black sky and nail it to the frozen earth…
          Wolves scratching at the doors, wolf faces looking in at the windows; the padding of wolf feet through the snow on the roof, and wolf growls down the chimney. And, every night, the beautiful, terrifying wolf carols about the village, songs celebrating - what? The people feared to know…

           All three books of the 'Ghost World Sequence': 'The Ghost Drum', 'Ghost Song', and 'Ghost Dance' are now available for download from Amazon.


madwippitt said...

I love those covers - I'd cheerfully buy the books for those alone! Of course the stories are good too - and now I've got a bit more time for leisure reading I've finally been able to start on the first ... fabulous! Why on earth did they go out of print?

Linda Newbery said...

It's a wonderful cover, Sue - and wonderful writing.

dirtywhitecandy said...

'The scholar cat who walks around the tree...' That's lovely - earnest and strange, like something out of a dream.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Absolutely gorgeous cover! More to add to my Kindle queue!

Susan Price said...

Thank you so much, all of you! Roz - the scholar cat is a traditional beginning to Russian fairy-tales. You can find him in Puskin's retellings. Always steal from the best!