How (and Why) I Wrote These Books

To begin, as the King in Alice in Wonderland urges us to, at the Beginning:

The Circle of Ceridwen is told on a very simple level through the voice of a fifteen year old girl. The story deals with her emotional and sexual coming of age, the powerful attachments she forms to other characters, her attempts to reconcile her pagan upbringing with her later Christian training, and the conflicts of her divided personal and social loyalties.  

But Ceridwen is the mouthpiece for the unfolding of a much larger, and true, drama: the story of the survival of the Anglo-Saxon people against almost incredible odds. Circle deals with the slowly-growing consciousness that the Anglo-Saxons of Britain faced certain subjugation and cultural extinction by the attacking Danes. From this extraordinary crisis emerged not only a leader, Ælfred the Great, who could unify the remaining free Anglo-Saxon peoples and repel the Danes, but the first inkling of a truly national – English – identity.

That is what I wrote 20 years ago, in 1994, about what became Book One of The Circle of Ceridwen Saga. The Saga has grown to four volumes, and over half a million words. (There will be more. I am not done with these characters, nor they with me.)

When asked why I was interested in the topic of 9th century England, I used to say that I had always been entranced by the artefacts of the Anglo-Saxons, the swords, jewellery, poetry, combs, tools and buckets – any precious bits left to us. And I called Circle a sort of ‘cultural autobiography’. These things are still true.

But they are not what has kept me writing, not over more than 20 years of rejection from publishers, and into final (blessed) success with readers. Yes, it is my readers who sustain the writing at this point, because there are few things as sweet as knowing your work has meaning to others. 

Yet even without them I wrote on and on: Ceridwen of Kilton, The Claiming, only because I had to; with no hope for publication. It was only with Book Four, The Hall of Tyr, did I feel I was writing to any kind of true demand. I had finally brought Books One through Three out as Kindle copies and they had found an audience – an audience that asked for more. So I began Tyr, opening the novel just hours after The Claiming had ended, bringing us into Sidroc and Ceridwen’s first morning together. Nine years had elapsed in my own life since I completed The Claiming and began writing Tyr. Those nine years were washed away when I again took up the thread of the story.

Other works emerged. I spent five years researching and writing Light, Descending, my biographical novel about the great, tormented John Ruskin. Lady Godiva and I share a trait – very long hair – and I needed to imagine a truth about her Ride. A minor character in The Saga of the People of Laxardal caught my attention and became the novella The Tale of Melkorka

I write to try to re-member, to make things whole; to provide plausible answers for age-old mysteries; to explain the world to myself and myself to the world. Are there messages, coded and explicit, in my books? Yes, and yes. When I write I can give characters the Fates I think they deserve, for good or ill. I can undo what was done.

wes thu hal
be whole and hearty, in Old English


{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Sarah NightBear March 14, 2017, 10:39 pm

    Octavia, what a cultural feast you have provided me with in the Circle of Ceridwen sagas. Now am ready for book six! I have never been so enthralled with historical fiction like I have been from the moment I opened the free book-one: the cultures are alive and vivid full of human existence during both war and peace. The strong feminine characters with culture specific roles I find the most intriguing when in our current age of chaos roles and role-models both have diminished nearly to extinction. So much study and thinking went into this sage of early Dane and British contact after the Roman invasion and influence: I am totally impressed with your story weaving capabilities and extremely happy that our paths have crossed through the saga! Thank you for enriching my life with authentic story telling! And an extra thank you for the recipe book of those wonderful dishes I get to create to help keep that culture alive. I just say “wow, what an accomplishment!”

  • Lona Boudreaux March 13, 2017, 10:11 pm

    Hi Octavia,
    I never shed tears while reading a book until I read Diana Gabalden’s Outlander. Your writing has affected me the same way and I’ve shed tears for Sidroc and the love he has for Ceridwen that seems just out of reach. I just finished book 3 and happy to know Sidroc now has Ceridwen’s love. I must agree with Sandra in thinking Sidroc appears in my mind as a very sexy man. 🙂 I’ve also enjoyed reading your archives pages. I will be ordering book 4.

  • Paula December 4, 2016, 8:43 pm

    I first heard of Octavia’s books from Diana Gabalden on her recommended reads. I loved all her books and can’t wait for the 6th book!!! Soon I hope .. No pressure Octavia! I had to have back surgery (October2016) and was so excited to get these books just in time for my recuperation. I have read them all already! I am facinated with historical novels. Equally the Baltic culture and Anglo Saxon England life during the 9th is very intriguing. Well Worth reading them all!!

    • Octavia Randolph December 11, 2016, 4:12 pm

      Many thanks, Paula…hearing the Saga helps you through a challenging recovery is gratifying indeed. I’m excited about Book Six and will have it in your hands in early 2017. Thank you for wanting it!

      • Paula December 12, 2016, 4:13 am

        Thank you for your wonderful stories! Looking forward to book six!!

        • Octavia Randolph December 12, 2016, 10:48 am

          Many thanks Paula for your kind message; it means a great deal to connect with new readers. One cannot have too many good travelling companions on a journey like this! I’m working on Book Six now, and will let you know when it is released, in early 2017. I’m quite excited about it — and am so glad you are too.

  • Sandra Bowser June 5, 2016, 2:08 pm

    I was introduced to the ‘Circle of Ceridwen’ through a free offer of book one. ….not sure how I was chosen for this offer, but a free book? Certainly!! This book caught my attention almost immediately. The writing was very good – detailed, interesting descriptions, an intriguing character in Ceridwen – and a glimpse of a story and adventure that you wanted to follow. …great story. Loved the detail and authenticity of the time period. The characters are very well drawn – they are real people….

    After finishing book one, there was no doubt about me continuing. I enjoyed each book – and was continually surprised as to where the story was going. An enthralling tale has been seamlessly woven into a very real time period. The characters are real and you get to know them well enough that you lose sight of who is the enemy.

    I have read – – and re-read – – all five books. Very much looking forward to book six. I am an ‘Outlander’ fan. …a different take, but the writing of both is superb. ….tremendous research on the time periods, great characters and great story-telling.

    • Octavia June 5, 2016, 5:14 pm

      Sandra, I’m honoured by your words of praise, and understanding. You place me in high company and I’m grateful for it. I’m so happy we found each other, as it were. I’m at work on Book Six and hope to always deserve your time and attention! I’ll let you know when it’s released.

      • Sandra June 6, 2016, 10:33 am

        I also need to share that I am completely captivated with Sidroc. And his love and devotion for Ceridwen. He is also sexy as the dickens. ….thank you ♨️ ….. I love how his character has grown into the mature, wise, stead-fast warrior/leader he is. The tale of his path to Ceridwen is – to me – unrivaled. …guided by his love, his spirit and his belief in his gods…..

        • Octavia June 6, 2016, 10:52 am

          Your deep understanding of Sidroc is so rewarding to hear, Sandra. As is your understanding of how his beliefs have allowed him to persevere in all of his goals, regardless of the twists and turns on the road Fate has driven him down. Some readers have gotten to The Claiming and just not been able to accept either his, or Ceridwen’s actions, because they cannot place themselves in Sidroc’s place, see things through his eyes – feel things with his heart. You can. Thank you.

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