What Inspired The Lost Celt?
I’ve always loved history, and I was particularly fascinated by ancient history as a kid: Greek, Roman, Celtic, Viking and Egyptian. As a child I painted tiny Roman and Celtic soldiers and visited historic sites across the UK including walking Hadrian’s Wall. I was at Vindolanda, a Roman fort, the day they discovered a Roman sandal. I watched them unearth it. I read a lot of historical fiction, especially the works of Rosemary Sutcliffe and Henry Treece, as well as Greek classics like Homer. So many of these were stories about living through, and returning from, war.
The idea for The Lost Celt was sparked by a conversation with two friends, both ER doctors at our local VA Medical Center. They told me there were always more admissions on "certain nights," when war stories or natural disasters were in the news. Something about that phrase and one visual image particularly, stayed with me. I was sure that something needed to be written about it, but I didn't know what. Four years later, I was stopped at a traffic light, when the idea for The Lost Celt came to me. I had to pull over and write it all down before I lost it. Has it changed since then? Yes…but the germ of the idea never has.
Why was I attracted to this story? This has worried me on occasions, but I can only say that there were many factors at play as I explored the idea for this book.
I grew up in a small village in England where there were still veterans of the First World War, one of whom used to walk to the local pub in his medals, greatcoat, and puttees (strips of cloth that First World War soldiers wrapped around their calves). There were also veterans of the Second World War, and even a German Prisoner of War who stayed and worked on a local farm after the war ended.
My grandfather, whom I never met, was a career soldier, away for years at a time. My father did his National Service and was an Army Reservist when I was a child. Like many people my age in Britain, I was always aware that people in my family and in families around me, had lived, grown up in and served during wartime. Their stories surrounded us.
I come to realize, in my later in my life, that I was brought up by people intimate with the effects of war. However, I never planned for one of my main characters to be a veteran of a recent war. It was only as I listened to the news, that I became aware how deeply the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were affecting a relatively small portion of our society. Unlike the experience of previous World Wars, it struck me how large a gap there was between those who serve and their families and those of us who do not. That did not feel right to me. I really wanted to write a book that addressed that gap a little. Stories were not being shared, as the stories of earlier wars were shared when I was a child, or even the stories that the ancients told. I sometimes wonder whether the ancients were more willing to tell it, and accept it, how it is. Their understanding of a hero was more complex and maybe more helpful than ours today.