Today's interview is with Traci Harding, bestselling author of twenty novels. I received this one just after its publication and finished it very quickly. As you'll see from the interview, it is the author's twentieth book, but was the story that started the entire series of books.
How fascinating to learn that the chairs of this novel are kind of inspired by Enid Blyton's Wishing Chair! Well, why not? The shaggy Shetland unicorn that appears in my own novel, Wolfborn, started off in an episode of Lost In Space!
Immortal Bind is a reincarnation story with chairs in it. Two young people, an English artist called Jon and an Australian fashion designer, Sara, each receive an antique chair with a gem in it from the same shop in London, one of those fantasy fiction shops that have disappeared when you try to find them again. Falling asleep in these chairs takes each of them back to previous lives in which they were lovers, but made mistakes that meant they had to come back for another go. There is a villain who is there every time; as a result time is running out even in the present day, and they must fix things before disaster. Only problem is, in this lifetime they haven't met and live on opposite sides of the world...
Let's start with the simplest question - how did you get the idea for The Immortal Bind?
As I wrote this book as a script twenty-five years ago, it’s a little hard to recall what actually sparked the idea, but it was most likely my friends discussing how much they loved reading The Magic Wishing Chair as children, and how they wished there was an adult version. I hadn’t read the book. But the concept of a wishing chair or two, mixed with my passion for history and all things esoteric, merged to create this enchanting tale. I always felt it an honour to have been mused with this story, and it was a delight to revisit and explore in more depth after so many years.
For somebody like me, who has never read any of your books before, is this anything like previous books you have written?
The Immortal Bind was the precursor to all my published works - it became the template upon which all my future tales would be moulded. It was the first story in which my unique fusion of history, fantasy, mythology and all things metaphysical, came together to create an epic scenario spanning time and space.
Just after I wrote this tale, I read a book called The Education of Oversoul Seven by Jane Roberts. Through that story I came to understand the concept of ‘simultaneous time’, and once time-travel was introduced into my style repertoire, my first published novel The Ancient Future was born. This book spawned four trilogies and a soon-to-be prequel. I have also written another stand alone series, but my readers can always expect to be whisked away to join a great bunch of characters on an adventure beyond imagining. So, in short, yes. If you love this tale, there are nineteen other novels filled with adventures that span from the most ancient of cultures, into the future, other universes, dimensions and altered states of consciousness.
I see it started off as a film script - can you give us a few details of what sounds like a fascinating story about the writing of it?
I was working for a film studio in North Sydney when I first penned this tale - I was actually working for the studio manager, but I got that job as he’d optioned a previous script I’d written. I formed a production company with a group of friends all working in the industry at that time and we had huge expectations of making this movie. At that time the script had a couple of different time periods to those featured in the story now. Working with another producer many years later, the tale was redrafted, some of the time periods changed and the story deepened, yet I still felt the ending of the script was never quite right.
What changes in the story did you have to make to turn this from a film script into a novel?
The thing with writing a script is that many of the details of the story are explained with visuals and performances. But when it came to writing this tale as a book I realised, one of the main aspects of the story - The Chairs - had never been fully explored. They had been but a visual tool for the film, but to the book they are integral characters, with a history and karma of their own. Where had they come from? What was the source of their amazing power? Once I began to explore these questions, many more layers of plot - in all the different time periods - unravelled and I was finally able to uncover and achieve the conclusion that these characters so richly deserve.
You seem to have a passion for India and things Indian - is this right? If so, how did you become interested in it?
My passion is time-travel and all ancient cultures. India was my mother’s passion and her final resting place. This particular story had always been my mother’s favourite and I feel it was her spiritual influence that guided this tale towards India, where I did finally discover the answers to the questions now driving this story.
India does have a truly illustrious spiritual history., that is what drew Helena Blavatsky (one of my spiritual heroines) to set up a branch of the Theosophical Society there. As the motherland of Hinduism and Buddhism, India is the birthplace of some of the most enlightened philosophies of our age.
In the original script the Indian past-life sequence had been set in 1940’s Chicago, which, although it was a fun romp for the characters, wasn’t really advancing the story. In the end I realised, how could I possibly write a book about reincarnation and karma and not have it lead back to the origins of that belief?
This is a novel about reincarnation. I liked Sara and Jon very much, but I couldn't help feeling that their historic selves were a bit different in personality. What did you have in mind here?
The whole point of karma and reincarnation, is to aid a soul through the life and death cycles of Samara, to develop and walk the path of dharma towards enlightenment. The advantage Jon and Sara have over their past life incarnations, is the ability to learn from past life mistakes and avoid the pitfalls of self delusion and destruction.
You covered a few historical eras in this novel. How much research did you have to do for these - and can you share some of your favourite resources with us?
Massive, massive amounts! LOL
I actually took a picture of some the books I used to research this one - please insert here :-)
The Middle Ages Unlocked, which is a more recent release by Gillian Polack and Katrin Kania, I found particularly helpful for researching customs and laws in eleventh century England.**
The witch hunts in Scotland, I got to research while I was there and if you ever get the chance to do the midnight ‘Witchery Tour’ in Edinburgh, I highly recommend it.
A paper I referenced from ACADEMIA - "Story of First “Jyotirlinga” of India - Shrine of Shiva at Somnath and Mahmud Ghazni’s failure to loot the treasure of Somnath" and "Stratagem of Gujarat’s Jainminister of Bhim Deva-Vimal Shah", by Bipin Shah, was very helpful when it came to the ancient history of the Temple of Somnath at exactly time period I was looking at.
Other research for this novel covered lilac diamonds, the ancient Devi-dasa dancers, pirates and the slave trade, Hindu mythology, Vikings and their customs, history and dress of four different time periods - my list of references is endless!
If someone did decide to film this after all, no expenses spared, who would be your ideal cast?
I had this story all cast in my head many years ago and I’ll always see those actors as the characters. Still, it was our intension to have at least the four main characters - Sara, Jon, Simon and Liz as a young Australian ensemble cast, and I’d still like to see that happen. To my mind it was the Old Woman who’d be the big international star like Maggie Smith or Shirley MacLaine.
It seems rather ironic to me that this tale that formed my writing foundation, should finally find its way into print as my twentieth novel. The Mayans believed in twenty year cycles and this certainly feels like a huge full circle moment for me. Perhaps now, in these days of big budget, super effects films, the time is ripe for this epic tale to finally make it to the big screen.
Thank you for visiting The Great Raven!
My pleasure entirely. Thank you for the invite :-)
** The Middle Ages Unlocked is available on iBooks and on Amazon, in both print and ebook, here. https://www.amazon.com/Middle-Ages-Unlocked-Medieval-1050-1300-ebook/dp/B00ZPFE6BY
You can find The Immortal Bind in ebook or in print, at the HarperCollins web site or in all good bookstores.