I was 25, growing my first decent beard, and with a good income from my first job. Which meant I had the resources and the free time I needed to revisit my family and friends in Denmark. With a plan…
That visit was another turning point in my life, because everyone was supportive, and everyone wanted to help. Thanks to them the trip was, in fact, an unalloyed blessing. And – though the birth was slow and difficult – it led to the publication of my first (and so far only) solo novel, The Dragon in the Stone.
The core idea in Dragon is a simple one. Suppose – for the sake of argument – that Norse dragons (the ones killed by the likes of Beowulf and Sigurd) had a job to do. That they were, in fact, the Norse equivalent of Cerberus, guarding a dangerous frontier and holding back the dark forces eager to cross it.
In which case killing them would be A Bad Idea…
On its own, that’d be the plotline for a classic fantasy. But I wanted, as in Ice King, to put the story in a contemporary setting, with contemporary characters. So I needed a way for my viewpoint character – a chancy, aggressive young American called Peter Brockman – to move through time.
At first my research was all about examining Iron Age archaeology in Denmark. What would a king’s hall in the legendary age have looked like? How would it have been furnished, and protected? And what kind of settlement might endure from that time all the way into the present?
The answer to that second question turned out to be very close to home. My great-uncle had owned a farm in what was then the country village of Birkerød . My mother had provided me with a detailed description of the building as it was before its destruction by fire in 1935. And it had stood just opposite the church, on the far side of the churchyard.
The church itself is well known for its medieval wall paintings – including a magnificent Last Judgement. But the churchyard – unlike some others – does not contain a pagan burial mound or a pre-Christian runestone. Though both can be found in other Danish churchyards.
What my research revealed was that a farmhouse, in particular, might well have stood in some form on more or less the same site for many, many centuries. Most especially if it were associated with a pagan holy place – as marked by a pre-Christian runestone, for example.
Whcih meant I had a fixed point for my time gate – the runestone itself. And a perfect modern setting for the beginning of the novel – supposing that my great-uncle’s farmhouse had survived into the present day.
With a burial mound – and a runestone – between it and the church. Where the frescoes – in my version – were more than a little unusual…
I’ll be the first to admit that the finished story – hammered out with superb creative support from my editor, John Jarrold – has enough ideas in it for at least three novels. I”d probably worked on it too long and too hard. But John believed it was more than suitable for publication. He even commissioned a cover design by Ian Miller which, to me, captures my vision perfectly. And when I somewhat hesitantly sent the manuscript to Poul Anderson, an SF and fantasy author I had admired since my teens, he was kind enough to give me the nicest cover quote I’ve ever had.
‘Allan Scott has an extraordinary gift for making every scene come to life with vivid reality.’
In an equally kind private letter he politely pointed out that my hero’s broken rib in one battle scene would have been considerably more crippling than I’d imagined. Years later, when I broke one of my own, I realised just how right he was…
When the time came to deliver the finished manuscript, there was just a week to go before my wedding to the love of my life, Rosemary Muntus. That had consequences. But that, once again, is another story…!