Mountains, Myths and Rolls of Wallpaper by Sarah Mussi

Writing.ie | Magazine | Children & Young Adult
sarah mussi

Here Be Dragons Book One of the Snowdonia Chronicles is my latest novel and my first go at a trilogy. Set on the snowy slopes of Mount Snowdon over one Christmas holiday, Here Be Dragons follows the story of Ellie, a feisty teenager, who finds out dark secrets hide beneath the mountain she has lived on for most of her life.

The inspiration for this story came to me when I was sitting at the summit of Mount Snowdon in the café, having a cup of tea! Perhaps it was all the exertion, perhaps it was the rush of adrenaline of having finally made it to the peak, maybe it was all the fantastic scenery so charged with myth and mystery, or maybe it was those great big, fat, red furry dragons that were on sale everywhere. But as I sat down to drink my much looked-forward-to cup of tea, I suddenly started thinking about dragons and mountains and mysteries. And the story seemed to come together in my head. I hastily started scribbling it down onto a scrap of paper, and the first words of Here Be Dragons appeared –magically…

I thought about dragons and started asking myself what if… what if the fabled dragon that these furry toys celebrate really existed? What if somebody on the mountain discovered it? I cast around in my mind for more ideas. More background about dragons, something that might give me a teenage angle (I love writing for teenagers.) But all I could come up with was the legend of St George and the Dragon. At first I dismissed that entirely. However, I’ve always wanted to write a story based in myth and legend, so I bought myself a piece of cake, and told myself there must be some powerful storytelling in the legend of St George and the Dragon otherwise it would not have survived for so long and inspired so many things. I decided there and then, as I finished my cake – this inspiration, received on the summit of Mount Snowden must not go to waste. And I made a promise to the mountain that it wouldn’t.

But if I was going to write a story based on the legends surrounding St George and the Dragon, and weave into it the legends surrounding the mythical dragons that live under Mount Snowdon and the Red Dragon of Wales then I had better modernise the story. And I needed some characters too.

In fact I needed a protagonist. So I got out my phone (God bless the mobile) and typed into Google images ‘St George and the Dragon’. There was a wealth of images of age-old pictures – but most of them featured a rather passive looking girl, a sword waving hero and a large and not-too-fierce looking Dragon.

But I was not to be put off! Three main characters is a good number to weave a narrative around.

But looking at those red fluffy toy dragons for sale in the tourist shops in Wales and their not-too-fierce counterpart on Google, I decided immediately that the Dragon would need a complete makeover. The passive looking girl in a long dress was going to need one too. No self-respecting teenage girl would want to look like that. And as for the sword waving hero; I decided that it was time to do away with male chauvinistic roles and St George had better be turned into a sidekick.

It was time to let the girl take the lead and be the hero. And Eureka! I had the genesis of a story: a fabulous setting, a cast of characters and a well of ancient myth and legend to draw upon too.

I love myths and legends, and I love mountains. I grew up on the Cotswold Hills. Not as big as the mountains in North Wales, but still very acceptable. I grew up loving the stories of Narnia and Middle Earth – so I owed it to mountains and magic to keep my promise to Mt Snowdon and put everything I loved to good use in a new story.

And I was able to pour a lot of my childhood experiences into Here Be Dragons . As a child I created imaginative worlds with my sister. When it was too wet to go outside, we told each other stories. These stories often involved discovering magical kingdoms. As a child I tried to write them down, but found that it was a bit too boring, plus you had to worry about spelling and handwriting! So I drew pictures instead.

Remembering this, I started storyboarding Here Be Dragons and found that I could tap straight back into that storytelling flow. I noticed that the ideas I had about Ellie (the re-wardrobed girl) all came in visual images. So I sketched these down onto the back of a roll of old wallpaper – at length, I had a sort of Bayeux tapestry storyline all drawn out and ready to go, before I’d ever put finger to keyboard.

And thus, I kept my promise to Mount Snowdon and also found a new way of accessing my creative imagination! Now I storyboard all of my plots, before I start writing. And I never stop asking: What if…, and looking around me. There is inspiration everywhere – in the real world, in art, deep in the past and in the mysteries and myths that are all around us.

All it takes is a mobile, some cake and a roll of wallpaper – and a little bit of imagination.

(c) Sarah Mussi

About Here Be Dragons 

Ellie Morgan wants a boy who’s all hers. Just for once, it would be nice to meet someone that Sheila (the cow) hadn’t got her claws in to.

A remote farmhouse on Mount Snowdon is hardly the ideal setting for meeting anyone unless, of course, you count her best friend George or creepy Darren (which Ellie doesn’t). But when a boy, glimpsed through the mist and snow, lures her up to the Devil’s Bridge, Ellie realises the place she knows so well still has its secrets …

The stronger her feelings for this strange boy become, the more she is in danger: a battle as old as Snowdon itself has been raging for centuries and now Ellie’s caught in the middle.

Something has left its lair.

It’s out there stalking her.

Who ever said true love was easy?

Here Be Dragons is in bookshops now or pick up your copy online here!

Sarah Mussi is a multi-award winning author of children’s and YA fiction. Her first novel The Door of No Return won the Glen Dimplex & Irish Writers’ Children’s Book Award and was shortlisted for the Branford Boase, amongst others. Her second novel The Last of the Warrior Kings was shortlisted for the Lewisham Book Award and inspired a London themed walk. Her thriller Siege was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal (2014) and won the BBUKYA award for contemporary YA fiction and received many short-listings. Her novel Riot won the Lancashire Book of the Year Award 2015. Bomb, 2015, was listed in The Guardian New Best Kids Books 2015 list. Sarah grew up in the Cotswolds, went to school in Cheltenham and graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Winchester and an MA from the Royal College of Art. Sarah teaches English in Lewisham and offers author school visits. Her latest novel Here Be Dragons, Sept 2015, a romantic thriller set on Snowdon, featuring the timeless myths of Snowdonia, King Arthur and the Mabinogion,has already been showcased in the People’s Book Prize.

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