Tuesday 6 August 2013

Legacies – Katherine Roberts

Legacy – n. sum or money or article bequeathed; material or immaterial thing handed down by predecessor.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things we leave behind us, where we leave them and why. In my fantasy quartet for young readers, King Arthur leaves Excalibur in an enchanted lake after his mortally-wounded body is taken to Avalon, as well as three other magical objects scattered about the world of men. That's possibly why Templar chose to call my series The Pendragon Legacy. As heir to the Pendragon throne, his daughter Rhianna is also part of the legacy Arthur leaves behind - since she's all that stands between the glory of Camelot and her evil cousin Mordred, who seeks to destroy everything the king and his noble knights created.

"Which book is your favourite?"
Some books contain magic as strong as that of the four Lights, hit the bestseller lists and are made into films for everyone to enjoy - but all books, however humble, are legacies bequeathed to the world by their authors. I often refer to my books as my children, since they each take about nine months to grow from the seed of an idea to a fully-fledged manuscript ready for editing, and every child is special to its parents and deserves just as much love and care, no matter how well it performs in the world. Also, it’s a good answer to the question young readers like to ask: “Which of your books is your favourite?” because I can say “It’s like asking a mother to choose between her children,” and they understand right away what I’m talking about.

But having just added the final full stop to the proofread of the final book in the Pendragon Legacy quartet, I felt the need to leave something extra to mark its completion (and obviously a girl has to do something while she waits for the film deals to roll in).

My study when I started the Pendragon Legacy series, with my unicorn muse overseeing things from the chimney breast.

Released from deadlines for the time being (except for this blog post – Ms Hoffman is very strict with us!), I’m tackling the redecoration of the chimney breast in my study, where water ran down the wall when my roof started leaking last winter. In the constant rainstorms we had, there was not much I could do at the time except turn my back on the unsightly mess and clamber up into the loft every morning to squeeze out the rags I’d stuffed in the roof, until I could persuade someone to come out and fix it. But now it’s stopped raining at last, so my thoughts turn once again to legacies.

Desperate measures were needed.
The fact my chimney breast needs redecorating is partly due to the Pendragon Legacy books, which I was so busy writing at the time that I failed to notice how bad the chimney leak had become, until desperate measures were needed. So off came the poster of my unicorn-muse, who had valiantly hidden the worst of the leak for a while with his magical horn. Off came the red-painted woodchip wallpaper that used to scare potential house buyers away, in more or less one satisfying sheet - there are some advantages to having water running down your wall all winter! Off came half the paint underneath as well, leaving the patchy wall with its filled-in fireplace, legacy of a previous owner who clearly didn’t want the fuss of a real fire. And off came some of the ceiling too, ending up all over me.

Confronted by my bare wall (with patched ceiling)...
At this point, covered in plaster dust and confronted by my bare wall, I paused, reminded of when my parents got around to stripping the old wallpaper in their dining room just before they sold their old house. It was the first time they’d redecorated that room since we'd moved into the place when I was seven. Behind several layers of wallpaper, they discovered graffiti dating back to 1932. The house was built in the 1920’s, so that might even have been the first time it was papered. The original decorator – and also later ones, following the tradition – had signed the wall. The latest date we found on the wall was 1967, which suggests the décor was refreshed just before my parents bought the house, and survived until 2010 when they downsized. I didn't have my camera with me at the time so I haven't got a picture to show you, but I did persuade my dad to sign the wall as well before the new wallpaper went up.

... I couldn't resist drawing a dragon.
Although my current house was built in 1936, my chimney breast had collected no graffiti - until now! I couldn’t resist drawing a dragon and adding my own signature to show that The Pendragon Legacy series was responsible for the redecoration. What future owners will make of this when they strip off the new paper I'm about to paste over it, I don’t know! But it seemed an appropriate legacy to leave behind.

Have you ever left a legacy in a house, and if so where?


You can meet Rhianna in the first Pendragon Legacy book Sword of Light, and she's an old enough "book-child" now to have made her way on to the Tower Hamlets shortlist.
Find out more about the Pendragon Legacy series at http://www.katherineroberts.co.uk 


Susan Price said...

I usually leave a trail of debris behind me - but I've never deliberately left anything behind to say I'd been there. - I hope the rain holds off down there in Devon. It's been thrashing down here in the Midlands, in between flashes of lightening and great booms of thunder.

Joan Lennon said...

Years back we had to replace a floor and part of the process was a layer of plywood sheets, an excellent blank canvas which the boys and I covered in drawings of trains and mountains and, er, things that will probably puzzle future archaeologists considerably. I haven't thought about it in ages - thanks for nudging my memory!

Katherine Roberts said...

Sue, yep - it is raining again down here now! (I scheduled this post a few days ago...)

Joan, your floor sounds wonderful! A shame to cover it all up, but the drawings will be preserved that way... maybe it'll be like one of those Roman mosaics, a future tourist attraction?

adele said...

What a lovely post! Love your legacy for the people who'll come after you..

Stroppy Author said...

I remember my father drawing a demon on the wall before papering it - and I remember being delighted when the demon was uncovered, years later.
When we had a new floor laid in the current house, the girls and I all lay on it and had our outlines drawn on the concrete (like dead body outlines!).

And in the wet concrete under the floor under the roller-rink at the top of our garden, we all put our footprints. I had to 'jummp' Small Bint as she was too light to make an impression.

Katherine Roberts said...

Ohhh, spooky one... not sure I'd have been able to sleep knowing a demon lurked under the wallpaper!

Wet concrete is very tempting, isn't it? The council recently renewed some kerbstones near here, rather randomly - i.e. one new kerbstone, half a street of old cracked ones, then another new one. Someone wrote "why?" in the concrete used to set the stone outside their house...

Ruan Peat said...

When redoing my parents kitchen and taking out the fab but dated breakfast bar they found a lunch box sealed with lunch still in it from the builders, this was in the early 1990's and the house was finished in 1970! No one would open the box, they just binned it all!