It’s no secret that The Sword-Edged Blonde, the first Eddie LaCrosse novel (and my first novel, period), was inspired in part by the Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon.” I was twelve when the song was released, and since I grew up in the era of rock-oriented FM radio, I heard it a lot. And it never failed to captivate me. Remember, this was the time of John Denver, the Captain and Tennille and the first stirrings of disco-era Bee Gees. In that crowd, “Rhiannon” was the perfect storm of things to get a teenage nerd’s attention: a mysterious lyric (based on Celtic lore, about which a small-town Southern boy like me was totally ignorant), a guitar lick that sounded like an invocation to sorcery, and a singer who embodied (again, to a small-town Southern boy) California sophistication, sexuality and, okay, magic. If ever a song cast a legitimate spell, this one did on me.
For over twenty years, as I wrestled various drafts of the novel and searched for just the right way to tell the story, this song was my touchstone. I might have ignored the manuscript for months, but if “Rhiannon” came on the radio it caused a whole new surge of inspiration. In the song, in Stevie Nicks’ voice and Lindsey Buckingham’s haunting arrangement, I heard the magic I sought. I wanted my book, in other words, to feel like the song.
Stevie Nicks’ painting of Rhiannon.
That lasted a lot longer than it probably should have. As I’ve learned since then, every story should have its own unique feel, regardless of its inspiration. And truthfully, once I made the decision to stop trying to write the next Tolkein or Terry Brooks epic, that unique feel presented itself. Discovering Eddie LaCrosse’s voice took me away from all the influences that had overwhelmed me, and while there are echoes of them (the noir writers I admire, for instance, loom large over this first book in particular), there’s also something unique. For better or worse, good or bad, I feel it doesn’t sound like anyone else’s writing.
So that’s a happy ending, right?
Well, sort of. But there’s a trope in fantasy that says all magic has a cost. And apparently the magic that let me finally get the book right also cost me my fascination with the song. Because now when I hear it, I feel…nothing.
I still like the song, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks. My iPod bears this out. But the act of completing The Sword-Edged Blonde inadvertently exorcised the sense of magic that always overwhelmed me when I heard it. Perhaps this was a good thing; but I can’t help thinking the loss of any magic should, at some level, be mourned.
So RIP, “Rhiannon.” You have become, finally, a song taken by the wind.