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SKARA Why I wrote it.

Redshanks, Shaka’s Totem birds fluttering over her

Since the late 70’s I’ve yearned of writing an epic Neolithic novel set in Orkney. I began it after a walk on Christmas Eve on Birsay Beach with my wife Sigrid. We watched the redshanks running in the ebb and across the wet sands. I said to Sigrid, “At last I have the beginning and end of my book. It start’s with a Tsunami and ends with one!” I began Skara that evening introducing Shala, her family and fellow villagers. I had by then decided the first Tsunami would be described as a race memory in later story telling. This is where the powerful character of Wrasse appears.

The day after next, the huge Tsunami hit Indonesia!

I’ve always believed that Orkney was a great centre of knowledge, culture and civilisation. I feel earnestly that Orkney influenced world thinking at a time when early civilisations were about to burgeon: But there is virtually no material evidence to back this up. It is when you think deeply about sites, dates in world history and the fact that these were modern people in their own time, thinking as contemporary folk at the forefront of their technical advances and natural wisdom, that this notion becomes plausible.

I have such admiration for the skills of people who use early technologies. Their efficiency of movement, style and concentration brings spectacular results. It is us who can’t believe or understand the simple, yet effective ways where ‘the struggle for mere existence’ is turned into a rich, rewarding lifestyle

I think many archaeologists tend to de-personalise lives of the past and misinterpret perfectly ordinary discoveries as ritual. I enjoy putting flesh on ancient bones, brains in their skulls, hunger and satisfaction in their pelvises and of course love and lust in their hearts. My characters are intensely practical in the way they live. Cult is there, but takes a very second place to real life.

Skara, with Shala and Oiwa, {Pronounced Whaaar} is only the first novel in this series of books. It merely sets the scene for the momentous movements in knowledge and political power to come.

But firstly, Orkney suffered from problems of inbreeding. These dangers had to be countered: Thus the spiritual dreams of Shala and Wrasse. I believe in telepathy and foreknowledge. I firmly support ‘Race Memory,’ and the predictive force of dreams. I have experienced these myself in quite abrupt and physical ways.

To be obscure {as is my want} when at Skara Brae, or Birsay, and gaze across the Atlantic, the next stop is Canada! So… this is where I chose our Hero, Oiwa, to travel from: He had his reasons; those you will discover: He had terrible and wondrous adventures too.

Getting to know Characters is such an exciting thing. I feel that they get to know the writer too and lead them, sometimes into temptation. Things happen, which the pen does not expect: Bark was such an example. I had planned a great future for him!

Some people from Skara 1 and 2 crop up unexpectedly in Skara 3. Spiritual forms play a distinct part too. They probably do in our lives, but we don’t recognize them.

A great inspiration for the book has been my active interest in archaeology since the age of 11. I have always tended to look at evidence with an alternative view, though. My experiments into ancient pottery, cooking and material culture has shown me so much of the practical skills and knowledge of the past. An old Orkney expression, “If it’s hard work, you’re doing it wrong,” always comes to the fore. We look back assuming everything was difficult and survival was tortuous. Well, as the great Arctic explorer, John Rae discovered, if you take your example from the locals, there’s always the right way for that time and place for you to work miracles!

This is what I’ve tried to get across in Skara, apart from all the adventure, drama and excitement!

Geese, Oiwa’s {‘Whaaar’s} Totem birds guiding him.


"quite remarkable… an enormous 'epic' fantasy/imagined history, which is extraordinarily coherent, detailed, accessible and plausible…"

"a classic 'quest hero' of mythic proportions who is also a believable (indeed lovable) character and 'ordinary' human being…" (Hi-Arts)


Andrew Appleby Skara Novels