Dark Themes in 'The Ghost of Crow Cavern'

After having the initial idea for writing a fictional fantasy story about squirrels, my intention was merely to write an exciting tale.

Did you know initially that the story would be dark?

In a way, the story developed organically. From the first conceptions I had a vague idea that these visiting grey cousins from afar were not going to be all that they initially seemed. How despicable they would become was at the time of writing unknown.

Did you know who the readership would be?

Having no idea that the story would become a published book I didn't really concern myself to any potential readership. This worked well in one way as it allowed me the freedom to write without any chains, I did not have to worry about the themes being suitable for any targeted readership. The flip side of this came once the book was considered for publication and Norman and I were trying to decide on the age group to which the story was most suited.

Which dark themes are in the story?

The story is lined wi…

A Murder of Crows: Choosing the Right Collective Noun

I have always found collective nouns in English interesting; everyone knows it is a 'pride of lions' but how about a collective noun for squirrels?

As I was working on 'The Ghost of Crow Cavern,' I found myself having to check collective nouns.

There is a scene in the book when the greys demonstrate their awe inspiring technology. In a pompous demonstration with the help of a device which they had stolen and adapted from the Cerebri, with the flick of a button they reap havoc on a flock of curious crows swooning around above them sending many to their deaths.

I knew the collective noun for birds is 'a flock of birds' so in theory 'a flock of crows' would be correct but then I thought to check what the collective name for a group of crows was and these are what I found:

a horde/hover/muster/parcel and my absolute favourite and the one I used, a 'murder' of crows.

Murder! Yes it is a 'murder of crows', wonderfully fitting for the story I …

Weird Things Can Happen During the Writing Process

One of the amazing things that can happen during a creative writing project is a complete escape into the fantasy world. Whether one is rich or poor, young or old, there always seems to be events or even the thought of future events which can cause stress and anxiety. Perhaps, it is just one of the human conditions.

Ok back to the book, the setting for this fantasy story is on an island called Nutshaven. Close to where I currently live in Helsinki there is a small island called Seurasaari (seura meaning company as in 'she was great company' and saari meaning island in Finnish.) Everyday during the writing of the story I would walk around the island in order to put myself directly into the book's setting. I would imagine the characters of the book and what they would be doing and where they would be.

As the story was drawing to an end on one particular day in autumn I was walking from my home towards Seurasaari-Nutshaven and I was in deep thought about how the adventure wa…

Who is Iku Turso?

There is a crucial moment in the story when after exuding such dominance over the reds, the greys are finally outwitted.  The riptide that runs just off the Nutshaven shoreline is given a name, Iku Turso.

For Shadowtail would have surely warned about Iku Turso, the demonic riptide that ran along these waters and made swimming impossible.
But where does this unusual name come from?

The story has some links with Finland and Iku Turso has a connection with what is known as the Kalvela.

The Kalvela was a project to write down and bring together in one set of works many of the ancient Finnish folklore stories which existed and were passed down from generation to generation. J.R.R. Tolkien was very interested in this national epic and he felt that Britain lacked such an epic and his creation of Middle Earth and all that was embodied within it was a kind of attempt to create one. 

Iku Turso is a malevolent sea monster which is mentioned in the Kalevala. Th…

What kind of a character is Skug Butcher?

Our main villain is Shadowtail but very often with sinister leaders have a sidekick and in 'The Ghost of Crow Cavern,' the sidekick is Scug Butcher.

Scug Butcher is the largest and the most brutish squirrel out of the grey invading troupe. He is no doubt thuggish and a complete bully. His physical size and the fact that he is so closely associated with the leader makes him very intimidating to his fellow greys and absolutely terrifying to the reds.

As a pup, Skug towered above the other pups of his own age and began to loom over his poor teachers at an incredibly young age. What got him so much attention at school was not his mind but his brutish strength. He did not have to be provoked to show thuggish tendencies. The only way to get him on side was to be one of his cronies but even that was a dangerous game to play as every so often his dark side would flare up, often without any provocation, and he would issue a beating to whoever was in his immediate vicinity or whoever ha…

What is the story behind the main villain, Shadowtail?

The leader of the grey invaders is a highly complicated character by the name of 'Shadowtail.' Norman came up with the name. Norman is a great lover of language and if you look into the etymology of the word 'squirrel' you will find that the word for squirrel in ancient Greek is  skioros from skia meaning shade and oura meaning tail, so if you put the two parts together and change shade to shadow then we have 'Shadowtail.' 

Shadowtail in the story is a very sinister character. He is highly intelligent and learned. He wears the finest silks and satins and he abhors bad manners. Many of the grey squirrels are quite brutish in their manners which Shadowtail despises and the question could be asked whether Shadowtail actually likes his own kind?

He is part of a conquering band of greys whose main purpose is to sail around the world and to conquer and steal resources from others. The reason they are so superior in technology when compared with the peaceful indigenous …

Where did the idea for 'The Ghost of Crow Cavern' come from?

It is funny how things just happen!  Back in 2003 I, following my heart moved from Britain to Finland . When moving to a new country there is a period where one is noticing differences from home. The difference (slightly worryingly) that struck me the hardest was that the squirrels in Finland are red and at home they are grey.

It transpired that the squirrels in England were red in the past but their numbers seriously depleted once the larger grey squirrel was introduced from North America.

If you want to know more about the real situation press the link below.

The grey squirrel is larger than their smaller cousins and in the real world it was the viruses that the reds had no natural immunity to that led to their depletion. But the wonderful thing about fiction is that it does not have to follow real world facts. I imagined skirmishes  and battles between the two types, I imagined danger and heroism and d…