Forget her not
Signe Pike’s 2018 debut novel, The Lost Queen, is fast-paced, clever and dripping with magic. The first in a trilogy, the novel is the untold story of Languoreth, a sixth-century Scottish queen who is the twin sister of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin. The writing process seriously wore out Pike — especially when she knew she had to pen a sequel in fairly quick succession.
How’d she do it?
“I just shut everything out,” said Pike. “Whenever I write I pretend that no one is going to read it.” She admits she would become paralyzed with fear if she considered how people would react to her novels. Fortunately, Pike has finished her second novel — no fear stopping her now — and it hits bookstands on Sept. 15.
The Forgotten Kingdom picks up where The Lost Queen left off, except this time Pike had a little more freedom to tell the stories of other characters. “With book one, it had to be pulled from Languoreth’s perspective; it was an introduction to her world,” said Pike. In The Forgotten Kingdom Pike writes from the perspective of several main characters, including Languoreth’s twin brother, Lailoken, and Languoreth’s daughter, Angharad.
Like so many writers — especially those immersed in the worlds they create — Pike let her characters take her whichever directions they wished. “Angharad just showed up and was clinging to the side of the cliff — I had no idea where her journey was going to take her,” said Pike.
Angharad, like her uncle Lailoken, is a Wisdom Keeper, a role that remains a relic of “the Old Way,” a way of life that has yet to be disturbed by a new interrupter on the scene: Christianity. The Forgotten Kingdom, like The Lost Queen, explores the role of early religions and the rapid spread of Christianity and how both affected political alliances, ultimately leading to innumerable battles and wars in the sixth-century.
“People assume the book is fantasy because I show elements of pre-Christian religion,” said Pike. “I’m trying to dispel the idea that just because you’re writing about non-Christianity doesn’t mean it’s not historic. An important thing to remember about this society is that all people during this time believed in the power of curses and ill luck. Even Christians believed God was found in rivers.”
Whether Pike is writing from a Wisdom Keeper or Christian’s perspective, her prose is quick on its feet, begging you to keep reading, joining the characters on their journeys to learn about themselves and the changing world where they live. There are passionate lovers, evil enemies and quite a few powerful women. And, like so many novels set in medieval times, The Forgotten Kingdom is anchored in the rhetoric of glorious battles, both lost and won.
An excerpt from the book reads, “Now the sons carried the feud their fathers begot; they attacked and we countered. Blood flowed on both sides.”
No blood was shed in Pike’s journey to complete her second novel, but she said the task was all-consuming. “Book two was so intense — a 500-page book in less than 24 months,” said Pike. “For a while afterwards I was just wrecked. I had to heal. It’s a very strange feeling when you push your body to that point.”
Fortunately for Pike, her publisher has given her more time to write the third book in the trilogy. “Authors and publishers can be wary of too much time in between books, but I have more faith in my readers,” said Pike. She’s starting with baby steps for this third book, researching now and maybe setting pen to page in Ocotober. She’s been reading other people’s work, too, to spend time in worlds she hasn’t had to create.
“I’m starting to get interested and curious again,” said Pike. “There are people I’ve stumbled across in my research. I was trying to find out who was in charge in Edinburgh and I found a name. That’s what gets me going, doing the detective work.”
Join Pike during a virtual book launch, in collaboration with Buxton Books, on Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. If you purchase a book during the event you’ll be entered to win cool Lost Queen-associated gifts, from a scarf featuring Lost Queen text to bookmarks to face masks with Lost Queen quotes.