Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guest post: Skyler White

*Super big thanks to Skyler White for putting this together for us! These are gorgeous photos and I am anxious to start this book. Enjoy!

In Dreams Begin, in pictures.

In Dreams Begin” is a time travel/secret history story, written around the poet William Butler Yeats and his thirty-years-long, fruitless pursuit of the Irish freedom-fighter Maud Gonne who claimed to be part faery. From his poetry, to the occult rituals they both practiced, to the book I wrote about them and Laura Armstrong, the modern woman whose mind is stolen away on her wedding night and channeled into Maud’s body, “Dreams” has been inspired by, researched with and written in words. So I thought today it might be fun to go visual.
Because my goal was to write my fiction inside the facts without popping them open at the seams, my first task was the meticulous plotting of when and where the actual historical figures had been. Even though I took them out of the manuscript, every scene in the book is set on a specific date and in a definite place. The words of “Dreams” will have to suffice to illustrate the “when,” but I went to Ireland, England and France to photograph the “where,” so here’s a largely language-free recapitulation of the first half of “In Dreams Begin.”


The Yeats Family home. 3 Blenheim Road, Bedford Park.

Chapter One: Ida waits “in the barren London suburb of Bedford Park with its no-longer fashionable Aesthetic Movement houses and winter-starved gardens.”


The Reading Room of the British Museum (I didn’t take this picture; the reading room was closed for renovation when I visited, but I stood just outside it. And I bought a book of postcards.)

Chapter Two: Ida meets Yeats here, where “even the Kama Sutra in translation [was] locked away. Forbidden to women, of course, its simple, mysterious proximity still contributed to the deep erotic song in the silent air. How much was likewise hidden here? Every forbidden secret, in its original Sanskrit or antique Latin, every true answer waited somewhere on the open shelves ringing her, or in the catacombs and archives underneath.”
(Actually, considering the way I had written about the room, I guess it makes a sort of sense that it was closed to me. ;0)


Will Yeats’s symbol cards (bottom row, center) in the National Library
(I didn’t actually take this photo either, as cameras aren’t allowed in the exhibit, but I sat on the floor in front of this particular display for close to an hour taking detailed notes on the cards that were so important to Yeats, although he never made mention of the little leather case he carried them in. I loved “discovering” it, and being separated by only glass from things his hands and eyes had lingered over often and long.)

Chapter Three: Will uses the cards to force Laura to recognize who she is, and that she has another life in a different time in addition to the one she has then with him. “The vibrantly painted shapes on the uneven, heavy cardstock look crudely cut out and pasted on. He turns over each symbol the way you’d pull a brush through hair, strength and tenderness in the gesture. He loves these designs and patterns beyond their individual beauty and grace. They resonate for him. They pack years of meaning into such a small pace, time into material, and whisper, as he turns them over, one-by-one in his beautiful hands would it would take even poetry hours of language to say.”


Glasnevin Mausoleum, (distance shot not taken by me) and detail shot (taken of me by my daughter)
I couldn’t find a family name on this structure, but it was too wonderful not to use. There’s even a below-ground door that opens onto a lower level behind it.

Chapter Four: Ida hides in her family’s mausoleum to watch the funeral procession of Parnell. “From her damp hiding place, Ida allowed herself a rusty smile at the elegant layers of cruelty. Parnell’s heart had done him in, but the funeral wreaths said “killed by priests,” as if the people knew any mouth that has the power to bless can curse just as well. But Ida knew neither his heart nor their priests, but Beauty alone killed Ireland’s uncrowned king. And now his people came carrying his body toward her to Glasnevin Cemetery, Glas Naíon, “stream of the infants.” And Maud, whose beauty had cursed her infant son just as surely, came with them.”


Crypt of Georges Silvère, Maud’s infant son, buried in Samois-Sur-Seine, France.

Chapter Five: Maud and her married French lover met here on Halloween night, 1893, hoping to reincarnate their son (and that’s history, by the way). I imagined Ida there as well. “The tomb’s rich, under-earth smell of graveworms and mushrooms crept over Ida. Maud had been too frightened of tonight to eat, but when they entertained together, Cook would serve duck in whiskey sauce, or salmon with morels.
The candles blazed like a birthday cake, dancing in the drafts admitted through the glassless windows and the open grate in the door. Possibly too from the colder metal doors in the cold stone floor. Maud sat on the provisions box, wordlessly taking her wine like the poison or medicine it was.”


Castle Island, Lough Key, Roscommon, Ireland

Chapter Six: Visiting the future president of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, here for a few days in the spring of 1895, Will Yeats became obsessed with renting this strange “island almost all castle” as a sanctuary for his new generation of Irish heroes, men and women creating a New Ireland through the arts, politics and ritual magic. “They had boated out onto a larger lake that afternoon, with Mr. Yeats and Dr. Hyde, to an island almost entirely covered by an abandoned castle. Ida had wandered the barren rooms like a restless ghost while Will dreamed of an Irish Renaissance, and Maud of revolution. And Douglas Hyde fished. Each floating his own freedom.”


Interior: Castle Island, Lough Key, Roscommon, Ireland

Chapter Seven: Will returns to the castle at night with Laura, and makes love to her for the first time. “I follow him through the dense, overgrown yards between the bare rock edge of the island and the castle’s looming walls. I don’t want a tour of the ridiculous, turreted structure. The whole thing is embarrassing and a little bit dangerous, but he leads me through the empty castle, up spiraling wooden stairs and onto a wide balcony on the second floor.”

There are more pictures from my research trip on my blog here, and a story about what it took to get the picture of Georges’s little crypt here. Also, I had so much fun with this, that I may do the second half on my website once the madness of launch week dies down, so pop by soon!

Skyler White is the bestselling author of dark fantasy novels ‘and Falling, Fly’ (Berkley, March 2010) and ‘In Dreams Begin’ (Berkley, November 2010). She lives in Austin, TX. Visit her on the web at

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