Some books you just have a spiritual connection with.
You know what I mean? I’m sure that if I ask you which book you’ve had a heart relationship with, you could immediately pull to mind a title or two (or twelve).
I was recently going through a period of pretty high anxiety, and really needed a story that I could just sink into. One that felt a little slower-paced. A little magical. A journey, more than an adventure.
Welcome to Megge of Bury Down by Rebecca Kightlinger.
Rebecca Kightlinger is a spell weaver. She has to be. Allow me to explain. First of all, every chapter was therapeutic. I was easily transported into each setting, each scene, each circumstance. You guys, I’m not even kidding. I could see everything, smell every herb, hear every conversation. I feel as though I met each of the women of Bury Down personally, and then let them set up residence in my heart-space. I didn’t read the book. I experienced it. And with each page, each escape, each passage with the women of Bury Down, I mended.
There is so much beauty in Megge of Bury Down, but there is an amazing amount of mystery. So often, I found myself thinking, “What on earth? What aren’t they telling Megge? Why is that going on? No, that did NOT just happen!” and it was stinkin’ awesome.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, I was offered the amazing opportunity to interview the author. (You know that high-pitched squeal that only dogs can hear? Totally me, while thinking up questions for Rebecca Kightlinger.) Enjoy our little chat below!
1. I hate to ask the “typical” question, but I loved this book so much and just haveto know: What was your inspiration for Megge of Bury Down?
I wish I could say that I was inspired by an idea and then made up this story. But, as all my narrators do, Megge just appeared in my mind’s eye one day as I was finishing another story, and she began telling me hers. As soon as I finished that other story (which will be one of the later books in this series), I moved on to Megge’s and have just kept writing it.
I think it was her yearning to be part of her family, and her family’s determination to help her find the courage to join them by following her own path that inspired me to keep asking, “And then what happened?”
The women of Bury Down have such deep respect for knowledge and such a desire to serve despite being outsiders in relation to those they care for, that they drew me deeper and deeper into their lives and their world. It’s been seven years now, and their story continues to unroll before me. Megge reveals something to me every day that I never could have made up, and this inspires me to keep going.
2. Are character names important to you?
Very important. Sometimes I have to come up with a name, but most of the time, I just listen and the names come out in conversation. Dora Tucker is one example. When Megge found her lying in the weeds bleeding, she ran to her mother and said, “It’s Mistress Tucker…” so that’s one name I didn’t have to come up with. Anwen, Aleydis, Murga, Gytha, Bryluen, and Hugh all had names when they showed up. At first, I thought Alf’s name was Matthew. It wasn’t until he said, “Call me Alf!” that I realized I had it wrong. Alf was absolutely this character’s real name all along!
3. Did you resonate with one character more than the others?
Probably with Morwen. I loved Morwen. She had such love for Megge, and compassion and interest in her well-being. It was Morwen who gave Megge the kind of life and work and training that would enable her to do what she needed to do when the time came. She had to run interference between Megge and her mother and bring together everyone Megge would ever need in this life. You’ll see later how much our little Morwen accomplished in this regard.
4. Is there anything that you edited outof this book?
You might have noticed that some of the names are Dutch or Germanic. Aleydis and her mother Beatrix, as well as Adaem and Arjen and his friends were all of Dutch descent. I had originally included more about that in Book One, but it was too much detail. So that will come out in Book Two!
5. What was the most difficult scene to write?
If I say, I might ruin it for some readers! Let me just say that it was the death that followed a lovely, intimate moment between the women and the girls. As it played out before me and I wrote, I could feel something was about to happen and that I was going to hate it. I kept thinking, “Oh, NO!” Grief welled up in me as I wrote just as it does every time I remember that scene.
6. For your readers who are interested in ancient medicine and mystic healing, do you have suggestions for where they should begin studying?
Librarians are probably the best resource for reliable research material. Also, any reputable book will have its sources listed in the bibliography, and researchers can refer to those.
For ancient medicine, I’d recommend the American Association for the History of Medicine, out of Johns Hopkins. And there must be a million books on ancient medicine. It depends on what you’re looking for. The history of midwifery was tough to pin down for rural Cornwall in Megge’s day, but there are a lot of sources on non-physician healers, mystical healing, herb lore, and witchcraft.
For magic and grimoires, Picatrix was enlightening, and there are many other fascinating and beautiful books of spells and incantations. A list of sources I consulted is available at https://www.burydownchronicles.com/referencesources.html
7. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/spirit animal?
Since my writing comes to me out of a place I can’t even see, I would choose the owl as my mascot. Is there anything more mysterious? The owl has enormous, luminous eyes, but it hunts at night, in the dark. It flies silently but shatters the stillness with it’s screeches. It’s gorgeous and wild and mesmerizing.
The night I arrived at Botelet Farm in Cornwall to start doing research for the historical and local details of the book, I was coming up the drive in the taxi, and an owl swooped down off a low branch and flew right over the windshield. At the time, never having been to Cornwall and not knowing anything about the place where I would be staying to research this novel, I knew something special was there. And it was. Without realizing it, I was at the site of Bury Down itself.
8. And finally, any idea when the next book might hit the shelves? (Not that I’m going to count the days or anything.) (I’m totally going to count the days.)
I know it’s not going to take as long to write as the first one did! But it’s going to take another visit to Cornwall (planned for September) to look into some details and get a better feel for the place Megge visits in the next book. It’s an incredible place out on the Northern cliffs: mystical, frightening, and ancient. A place of spirits, of union. A place of dreams.
To find out more about Rebecca Kightlinger, go here! Afterwards, buy Megge of Bury Down for yourself, your mom, your sister, your best friend, the librarian, the lady who fills your prescriptions, the woman who always says ‘hi’ at the bank and that gal you just met at work. Friends, trust me on this one. You will love it so. AND, it’s the first in the series. So, you kind of have to get it.
**A huge ‘thank you’ to Rebecca Kightlinger and Courtney Link for allowing me the privilege of reading and reviewing this book