About three years ago, I was deeply occupied with the writing of Lion's
Blood. I came to feel that the basic concept behind it was almost outrageously
controversial, and that I would be able to use every ounce of creativity I
could muster to increase verisimilitude, to overcome a reader's natural
tendency to say "It's only a book, its only a book..." which would
severely compromise my goals for the project. It occurred to me that one way
to do this would be the deeping on the slave culture, to give the reader the
sense that they had existed before the book began, and would continue to live
after the covers were closed. What if, I thought, I could create some Irish
slave songs: spirituals, work songs, etc., that would carry their culture and
express their emotions in a way similar to the way such songs did in the
I had been introduced to Heather Alexander by a mutual friend, Sonia Lyris,
and thought that Heather might be absolutely idealshe was talented, a
dynamite performer, a songwriter, and we had made, I thought, a good personal
connection. This was essential, because Lion's Blood is an incredibly personal
project, and I needed someone I could trust.
I sat Heather down at Portland Orycon in, I think November of 1999, and
described the project, asking her if she might be interested in writing two or
three songs for me. Little did I guess what I would unleash!! As she began to
produce songs and demos of songs, and let me listen to early tapes, I realized
that I had triggered something extraordinary, and was completely blown away by
her willingness to embrace my alternate reality whole-heartedly. Because of
the way I write, I was able to offer Heather a very early draft of the book
long before the work was completed. As a result, I could actually listen to
her music AS I was writing the final text!
Beyond any doubt, this contributed to the quality of the work. Having my
own sound track was phenomenal, and an experience few writers have had.
One of the reasons this was important was the fact that so many of the
characters were not of my own ethnicity, and I demanded of myself an
acceptance of their humanity that surpassed anything I had seen white writers
doing with black charactersI'd be damned if I'd succumb to the very
emotional/cultural trap so many otherwise exemplary authors had fallen into.
Heather and her family read early drafts, came back with comments and
suggestions, and were an ideal audience.
Wonderful as listening to INSH'ALLAH: THE MUSIC OF LION'S BLOOD has been,
even more gratifying have been the times when Heather and I performed on stage
together: she and her band Uffington Horse performing while I read sections of
the book related to the song. Just last weekend we did this in Pasco,
Washington for a packed audience, and got a standing ovation.
Heavens. What a thrill! I am incredibly grateful for Heather's care and
talent, and the fact that she was willing to contribute to the most important
project of my life. I don't really think I can put into words how wonderful I
think her work is: but luckily, Heather's music speaks for itself.
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher.
This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...