Today I am so thrilled to welcome the wonderfully adventurous & inspirational Abi Elphinstone to my blog.
From exploring the Scottish Wilderness to abseiling in Brazil, Abi's adventurous nature shines through the pages of The Dream Snatcher trilogy. I am so honoured to catapult you all into a small snippet of Abi's imagination with a very special guest post.
My Top 5 Names in THE NIGHT SPINNER
I spend a lot of my ‘writing time’ hurling pieces of scrunched up paper around my shed and rocking back and forth before my laptop but when it comes to creating names for places and characters, I remain calm. Because conjuring names is one of the most playful and enjoyable parts of the writing process. For my first book, The Dreamsnatcher, I stole a surname – Pecksniff – from a shower gel in TK Maxx, for my second book, The Shadow Keeper, I pinched a boy’s name – Smog Sprockett – from a cocktail list in Wilton’s Music Hall and for my third book, The Night Spinner, I’ve been pilfering names from Scottish fairytales and ancient bagpipe tunes. So, here you go for my Top 5 Names in The Night Spinner.
Whuppity Cairns, a mound of stones in The Night Spinner that acts as a gateway into a labyrinth of tunnels beneath the moors, came from reading a Scottish fairytale by John Rhys, called Whuppity Stoorie. It follows the Rumpelstiltskin motif where a woman from Kittlerumpit must guess the name of a trickster fairy, Whuppity Stoorie, if she is to keep her ‘bonny wee tyke’. Everything about the word ‘whuppity’ is wonderful. The wistful promise of the opening letters, the mischievous rise and fall of the second two syllables and the way the mouth curves into a smile as the word ends. I pocketed ‘whuppity’ as soon as I heard it, and I took ‘Kittlerumpit’ with me, too, because what else would a trickster goblin beneath the moors be called?
Fillie Crankie is the name of a bothy I place in the middle of the Rambling Moors and I named it thus for two reasons. Firstly, because of the extraordinary face my siblings and I used to pull every time our parents drove us past Killiecrankie, a famous wooded gorge in Perthshire, where the Battle of Killiecrankie took place in 1689. There was no reason for the face-pulling really, other than our delight in the absurdity of the word, the playfulness of guttural consonants backed up against each other then rounded off with drawn out vowels. It was to us what ‘snozzcumber’ is to so many other children. And secondly, because my youngest brother used to play the tune ‘Killiecrankie’ on his bagpipes while I, and the rest of my siblings, danced like imps around the sitting room. I took the spirit of the word Killiecrankie for my bothy but I knew that in my story it was the home of a crossbow-wielding feminist and so, after a while, it became Fillie Crankie.
3. The Clattering Gorge
I grew up beside a farm, just outside a village called Edzell, in Angus and though I couldn’t possibly know that I was going to re-invent this landscape in a book years later, I did have a feeling that there was something magical about where I lived, and about one walk that I used to do with family, in particular… After you leave Edzell, you cross an old stone bridge and then, on your left, there is a little blue door. You could miss it if you didn’t know it was there but my parents knew about it and they pushed it open. And what lay beyond could well have been Narnia. On the left, thundering through a steep gorge, the North Esk River browned by peat from the moors and on the right, above the gorge, a little path that wove alongside rhododendron bushes, silver birches, beech trees and a long-forgotten folly. The gorge opens up eventually, then the lochs, moors and mountains take over. I borrowed this world beyond The Blue Door for The Night Spinner and its centrepiece, the North Esk river, became The Clattering Gorge, home to a coven of terrifying witches.
4. The Rock of Solitude
The Rock of Solitude, home to a lonely selkie I introduce out near the Lost Isles, was pinched from a signpost by the North Esk River on the border between Angus and Aberdeenshire because it perfectly captured the atmosphere of the setting I wanted to create.
I couldn’t resist including one character name in this round up. Wallop is a giant who lives inside The Stone Necklace, a circle of staggeringly high mountains in the Barbed Peaks, and it was actually an author friend of mine – Rebecca Fletcher (@Margotgoodlife on Twitter) – who named him. I invented a giant pal for Wallop though, and I decided to call her Petal.
A massive thank you Abi, for writing this wonderful blog post. I'm now even more excited for The Night Spinner which is out on the 23rd February 2017.
Abi Elphinstone grew up in Scotland where she spent most of her childhood building dens, hiding in tree houses and running wild across highland glens. After being coaxed out of her tree house, she studied English at Bristol University and then worked as a teacher in Africa, Berkshire and London. She is the author of THE DREAMSNATCHER, THE SHADOW KEEPER and THE NIGHT SPINNER, a series of fast-paced adventure books for 8-12 year olds which follow Moll, Sid, Alfie and wildcat Gryff's quest to find the Amulets of Truth and destroy the Shadowmasks' dark magic. When she's not writing, Abi volunteers for Beanstalk charity, speaks in schools and travels the world looking for her next story. Her latest adventure involved living with the Kazakh Eagle Hunters in Mongolia and you can read about that here.