Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Photographic inspirations for 'Kite Spirit'

In the 'No Rules Handbook For Writers' by Lisa Goldman (Oberon Books 2012) in which Lisa interviewed me about my process of writing 'Artichoke Hearts' I was fascinated to read other authors talking about their creative research process. The wonderful writer Philip Ridley talks about how important photography is for his creative development of story. In an interview with Linda Goodman he explains...

'I've been taking photographs since I was about fifteen. I always walk around with a camera on me. I use the camera as a kind of sketch book . I take photographs of anything that catches my eye. there's no direction or plan to it; the texture of some brickwork, a crowd of people, an interesting cloud...'

In the build up of launching 'Jasmine Skies' my second novel I shared with readers a collage of photographs of Kolkata that I kept by my desk as I wrote. Now as 'Kite Spirit' is about to be launched I have been taking the inspirational photos off my writing wall and placing them in my scrap book. As I look at them all laid out I can see how much they have inspired ideas, descriptions of landscape and moments in the story. I thought I would share some of them with you.

'Kite Spirit' is a book about flying and falling and learning to fly again. Here is Cat the Circus Artist on her way up to the Cloud Swing. Cat inspired the character of Annalisa Pain in 'Kite Spirit'. This photograph was taken at The Circus Space in London where Kite trains in my story.

Who doesn't dream of flying?
Photography by Barry Lewis

This wonderful image taken by Barry Lewis  (from the Circus Theatre workshop of  'The Arrival' scripted by me and Co-Produced by Tamasha  Theatre Company and Circus Space) inspired the notion of  Kite's 'Falling Day'

As I write I have a colour in mind for each of my books.. and the moss green in this photo is the colour I held in my mind as I wrote 'Kite Spirit'.

View from Mardale down to the cottage that my character Agnes Landseer lives in.  I looked at this photo many times before I spotted the can in the tree trunk.  I wonder if any of my characters could have left it there?   

''Kite Spirit'  is dedicated to the landscape in The Lake District where my mum and her family grew up. As I sat here last year I wondered just as Seth does in 'Kite Spirit' if my ancestors had walked the same path. 

Under the panels of glass gushed the waterfall that seemed to mirror light backwards and forward off the building. She supposed that’s why it was called Mirror Falls. The name was fitting, Kite thought as she glanced around the glass building; the mirror that Dawn and Kite had so often been reflected in together had fallen, shattered into a million pieces.
Kite looked down through the glass stepping stones, and on the third panel she took a step backwards on to the firm stone. Under this transparent panel, one step away from her, the sheep carcass was clearly visible. She stared at the water rushing through the skeleton. With or without the grim carcass there would never be anything peaceful about this place because it would always be moving beneath her feet.

'Seth pressed the button to slide back the living-room roof, then sauntered over to the window. If anything, the owl print showed up even clearer against the backdrop of the deepening fiery sky'

'Kite came to a rock large enough to sit on, climbed up and stared into a deep pool of water. Tiny golden fish gathered in its mossy depths, glistening in the sun, like millions of coloured pixels. Then suddenly they were shoaling together, gathering into a shape she recognized as Dawn’s face. The image of her friend was so accurate Kite felt she could reach out and touch her fine auburn hair as it floated under the water. Her face shone white and clear, and she smiled her gentle smile at Kite with her soft hazel eyes that reflected colours off the moss beneath her. Kite held her breath. Her heart raced with pure joy to see Dawn again so close, and this must be what Dawn wanted too, to find a way of explaining what had happened. She reached out to her, down into the water, and the hundreds of tiny fish scattered in every direction, making her stumble backwards as a long shadow fell across the empty pool.'

Garth picked one stone off the little dam and held his hand out to Kite as if to say, your turn.
They removed a stone each until the tiniest ripple of water began to flow between the remaining carefully placed stones.

The whole garden swayed as flower heads dislodged themselves, flew through the air and finally settled on the ground like confetti. The tiny blue door was open and bashed noisily against its post. Bardsey barked and sprang ahead of them as he spied Agnes, her grey hair flying in the wind. She was cradling something in her arms like a baby.

The Carrec Arms was a limewashed stone building positioned in the middle of a hamlet of tiny cottages. On an ancient stone lintel above the pub’s low doorway was the date (1606) in Roman numerals. Seth ducked and went through. Inside there was only a single room, with a bar at the far end. Even the colours of the place, bathed in soft amber light, seemed to soothe. There was nothing bright or dazzling or new here. The beams were dark oak, all gnarled and knotted. Copper and silver pennies had been wedged into the gaps between the beams. 

Agnes led the way down the pebble path, through the gate and out towards the barn. As she opened the enormous solid wooden door she stumbled backwards and Kite placed a steadying hand on her back. The wind streamed in, wafting hay and straw into a dust storm. It took all of Kite’s strength to push the great door closed behind them.

Seth looked up and tapped the newspaper – the Cumbrian and Westmorland Herald. ‘I’ve been reading all about your commission from the National Trust!’ He smiled at them both. ‘Seems like Garth’s garths are going to be all over the walkways of the Lakes! It says here your work is . . .’ Seth put on his best Radio 4 accent, ‘“A meditation on the erosion of time . . .”’
‘Really! I didn’t know that!’ Garth laughed, then picked up the paper and read it for himself. ‘Makes me 
sound good! 

Kite stared up at the familiar uninterrupted blue sky and wished for a great wind to scud across, bringing 

racing clouds of grey and charcoal. 

Garth was standing on the snowy station waiting for her. Bardsey sat faithfully beside him. It was comical how their heads scanned the platform in the same direction, searching for her. Garth was wearing a serious-looking padded Parker. He looked taller and broader in the shoulders and back, but maybe it was down to the layers he was wearing against the cold. Kite threw on the over sized sheepskin jacket that Seth had allowed her to pinch off him. As soon as she stepped off the train she was greeted by a loud bark and Bardsey bounded towards her, leaping at her as if he’d been waiting all this time for her to come back. Kite laughed and brushed the snow from her clothes.

There are more photos in my 'Kite Spirit' album, but I hope that you will enjoy picturing them in your mind's eyes as you read the book...

All excerpts are taken from 'Kite Spirit' by Sita Brahmachari  published by Macmillan Children's Books on 25th April 2013.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Dreaming of Flying

In my third novel ' Kite Spirit' (to be published by Macmillan Children's Books on April 25th) my heroine Kite gets tired of her dad's irritating habit of trying to interpret her dreams.

Paul Day's sculpture 'The Meeting Place' (detail from dream like frieze) in King Cross St Pancras

Since I was a small child I have always dreamed of flying. Sometimes I still wake with the impression that I could spread my arms and soar through the sky. Anyone who has ever dreamed of flying will know that the sensation can carry through into the day and keep you feeling buoyant and light in spirit.

Contemplating 'Kite Spirit.' Research trip to The Lake District last summer

It's been a hard cold winter and it looks as if the snow is about to fall again, but the energetic little birds in my garden are doing a shout out for Spring and I'm all ears.

This Spring, it seems, is all about flying. The piece of Circus Theatre I have scripted and co-created with Kristine Landon-Smith of Tamasha Theatre Company and my novel 'Kite Spirit' are to find their wings at the same time. The serendipity of these flights gave me the idea to share with you some of the inspirations behind the book 'Kite Spirit' and play 'The Arrival'.

The character of Kite, my London girl in 'Kite Spirit' whose greatest wish is to learn to fly on the cloud swing at Circus Space (who are presenting 'The Arrival with Tamasha Theatre Company), came from watching one of the circus artists as Kristine work shopped 'The Arrival.' As I followed her flight I felt the same visceral emotion as I had experienced as a child when dreaming of flying and I knew that I would like to create a flying character in one of my books... that character has now been born as sixteen year old Kite who in my novel has to face a fall of tragic proportions in her young life, and learn how to fly again.

Just as it often takes time to interpret what a dream of flying or falling might mean I find it difficult to understand what has drawn me to my subjects until they are almost complete. Now as play and book emerge it is clear that both are inspired by the work of other artists. In the case of 'The Arrival' the extraordinary sepia images in Shaun Tan's graphic novel is at the core of the production, and in 'Kite Spirit' the work of sculptors such as Antony Gormley and landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy have had a great impact on my characters and story.

An ancient wall of the kind my young sculptor character Garth might aspire to build.

During the course of developing 'The Arrival'  Kristine and I had the privilege to meet Shaun Tan and talk about his work and our Circus Theatre Production. He spoke of his fascination for architecture and I was struck by his ability to swoop in on domestic detail (like packing a suitcase or tasting strange fruit) then to pan out to explore the epic flights of humans leaving their homelands and reinventing themselves in an abstract alien land. Landscape is important in all three of my novels and it is the landscape of the Lake District where I lived as a child that has summoned me in 'Kite Spirit' drawing me back to the landscape of my early childhood just as Dele 'The man in the hat' in  'The Arrival' is transported through 'memory's portal' to his own early life in his village in Africa.

As I, like Seth the dream interpreter in 'Kite Spirit' attempt to make sense of the journey of my own work and inspirations I now begin to see how artists inspire artists... how witnessing the building of a cantilever house 'The Balancing Barn' in Suffolk can inspire the contemporary fictional haunted house - 'Mirror Falls' that hangs off a mountain in the Lake District in ' Kite Spirit'... How a cloud swing artist at Circus Space has inspired the character of Kite and how conversation about architecture with Shaun Tan can inspire the exploration of the impact of landscape on lives from a house in Finsbury Park where we have set 'The Arrival' to the fresh waters of the mountain tarn in 'Kite Spirit.' My character's dreams of flying and the inspiration of circus artists and visual artists connect the two works in ways that I am only just beginning to piece together myself, just as Garth pieces together his sculptures in 'Kite Spirit' slate by slate.

It takes time for work to grow and mull and now as these two stories are preparing to set out in the world I feel my spirits rising at the thought of them setting off on their journeys. No wonder the birds in my garden are setting up such a commotion. They have plenty of kilometers to cover this spring on tour with 'The Arrival' and afterwards heading up North for the summer to my mother's homeland in the Lake District; following Kite on her emotional odyssey of learning to fly again. If only the birds could speak... what stories would they tell of their long migratory journeys? Then again 'the ancient owl of the city' in 'The Arrival' and the Dawn owl in 'Kite Spirit' may well be calling to us from other worlds...

Tamasha and Circus Space Present:
The Arrival is on a National Tour March 21st - 13 April 2013
'An epic tale of migration told through an extraordinary weaving together of theatre, circus and music'
For booking details:

Here is a taster of the last workshop.

'Kite Spirit' is to be published by Macmillan Children's Books on April 25th 2013. For more details keep checking on:

know. Don't ask me how, but at this moment, I know that Dawn is gone...
Kite's dreams have always been of flying ... until the Falling Day 
Reeling after the suicide of her best friend, a grief  stricken Kite leaves exams, facebook memorial frenzy and her London life behind to spend the summer at 'Mirror Falls' - a remote glass house hanging off a mountain. 
But the endless blue sky lonely days and haunted nights offer no escape. The picture book beauty of the countryside feels fake to Kite as potent feelings of bitterness, anger, guilt and heartbreak dam up inside her. Is it wishful thinking that she senses Dawn's spirit drawing closer? 
If only she could speak to Dawn, see her face, just once more to understand why...

At crisis point Kite meets local sculptor Garth and piece by piece she begins to unravel her tangled web of emotions. Talking to a stranger is easier somehow...


Manchester Reading Festival

I love this YouTube clip of authors at the Manchester Reading Festival last year talking about their various ways into writing. (Featuring Juliet Clare Bell, Carrie Burnell, Alex Winters, Tom Palmer, Sita Brahmachari, V Campbell, Theatreworks Arts Lab and Oldham Theatre Workshop) shot by Salford University students Michaela Roy and Brittany MacRae It includes my sari folding story about identity and history and what authors bring of 'self' to our writing.