I would like to tell you a little about this book, part epic, part romance, part fairy story.
Five years ago I was in the northeastern region of Japan, a few months before the devastating tsunami of 2011. In Iwate prefecture I saw young men rehearsing dances for festivals – the oni sword dances and the deer dances. Their masks and costumes were striking but the thing that made the greatest impression on me was the resonance of a vanished world, where the lives of people and animals were more closely entwined and where the supernatural was an accepted element of life.
Up until the twentieth century representations of humans in landscapes portray people as tiny compared to the vastness of forests and mountains. Standing next to one of these young men, I had a flash of seeing backwards through time and I knew a novel was going to come into existence. I wanted to try and recreate this medieval world where the human response to both nature and the spiritual world was one of awe and wonder.
That was the first germ, but there were many other elements. For a long time I have loved the great warrior tales of medieval Japan such as Tales of the Heike and Revenge of the Soga Brothers. Around the same time as I met the deer dancer I visited the place where Yoshitsune is said to have committed suicide, and on the same day read Basho’s poem, written at Hiraizumi:
Ah summer grasses,
All that remains
Of warriors’ dreams
Then, a couple of fans wrote to me and asked if I would ever go further back into the world of the Otori, and relate the life of the hero Takeyoshi who is briefly mentioned in Heaven’s Net is Wide. I’ve also had questions about the origins of the Tribe. As I began to explore and research the medieval world more fully all these strands came together into the Tale of Shikanoko, the Deer’s Child.
I hope you will enjoy everything that lies within its pages,