Issue 047 Author Interview: JL George and “Bluebell Song”

Our Issue 047 author interviews are coming to a close, but we still have a couple left up our sleeves! Today we bring you JL George’s answers to our questions about “Bluebell Song.”

LSQ: Having the characters use wax to stuff their ears to block sound reminded me of sailors avoiding the song of the sirens. How much comparison is there between the sirens and the story’s bluebells in beauty and danger? Or is there another origin?

JL: My mum (who was a librarian until she retired) was always bringing mythology books home from the library for me when I was a kid, and the story of Odysseus and the sirens was one that stuck with me, so that definitely influenced the story to some degree. In British folklore, bluebell woods are enchanted places where the fair folk trap unwary humans in their world, something which seemed rather enticing to me as a fairy-obsessed child! So the story is really a combination of the two. The fascination with something that can be both beneficial and deadly is an old one, going back to the Greek idea of the pharmakon, which is bound up with human sacrifice as well as healing and poison, so I guess there are a lot of cultural ideas floating around that I osmosed at some point and that ended up influencing the story.

LSQ: As a healer, Achan knows about herbs and medicines. It is interesting that she is relying on a different aspect of healing – music and vision. Is the difference of healing what makes the healing so potent? Or is it more what your MC needs to give up?

JL: Music can be incredibly life-affirming, and I’m sure it’s saved my life on occasions when my mental health has been bad, so I guess in a way you could call it a kind of medicine. But I think it was more about the idea that magic has a cost, which is incredibly common in fantasy stories. On a smaller scale the cost might just be the ingredients for a spell, or the work that goes into performing it, but power over life and death requires something more.

LSQ: Achan is very close to her family and desperately wants to help. How much does Mira know about Achan’s ultimate aim?

JL: I think she knows she’d do just about anything to save her daughter, though maybe she hasn’t thought too much about the implications of that. Not questioning these things too deeply can be a way of protecting ourselves, after all.

LSQ: The ending leaves a little ambiguity as to the ultimate healing of Tiwan. How much of Achan is living in her daughter? What did her sacrifice buy? Also, what role will the bluebells have in the life of Tiwan in the future?

JL: Well, the ambiguity’s deliberate, and I don’t want to ruin it by telling people what to think! There’s definitely something a little eerie about Tiwan going forward, maybe some power that she didn’t always have. She seems ready to step into her mother’s shoes as a healer by the time she recovers, but you also probably wouldn’t want to cross her…