If it were possible to ask every fiction writer on the planet: Do any of your experiences find a way into your stories? I think the answer would be an undoubtable, yes!
I should qualify that with examples from my work. A reviewer of Beyond The Pyre recently said, “I love strong female characters, and this book was full of them.” Wonderful praise and that caused me to step back and look at my past.
Grandmothers, Mum and three sisters had a powerful impact on my early life and one thing they taught me was that, ‘women can do.’ It sat well with me that’s the way it was. Working for British Aerospace for five years after leaving school, I found myself in a department where women outnumbered men, four to one. What a wonderful experience.
Men on the shop-floor bragged about how they could set-up apprentices to carry out slightly humiliating tasks. Women never humiliated but when a colleague called Mary offered to collect drinks from the vending machine one day, I asked for ‘tea without.’ That’s tea, no sugar to the non-initiated. Mary gave me a cup containing a tea bag. Those women delivered lessons and pranks daily and some of these were extremely explicit. I learned how to control my blushes but not the tears when I left for foreign shores.
My first ever flight from Manchester to Tel Aviv was a thrill although after an hour I rocked along with the prayers of the man next to me. He didn’t pause once to speak during the flight. Clinging to his siddha with white knuckles until the plane came to a halt in Tel Aviv. Closing the book he gave me a broad smile and greeting, ‘shalom, welcome to Israel.’ Returning his smile, I paled when I saw the plane was surrounded by men with machine guns. The kind man reassured me that this was routine. Well, maybe to him!
After the sights of Tel Aviv and blasé about armed soldiers, I boarded a bus to the north and sat next to a soldier giving his M16 close inspection. I must have been staring because he grinned and told me he was just making sure it was loaded. My expression asked the question. ‘This isn’t an armour plated bus, I guess you could say me and my buddies,’ indicating a few other soldiers, ‘are the armour plating.’
At this point a doctor might have prescribed beta-blockers, I seriously wondered about getting my old job back. Still, the world outside looked fascinating in a tower block sort of way until the driver headed up the coast toward the ruins of Caesarea. Now I was excited, all that history, my hero David Bowie had nothing on this. Some of the Caesars had their dinner here and Saint Paul spent two years in prison somewhere among the rubble.
It got better when we took a break in Nazareth. Really? This is where Jesus grew up and even though I was a firm non-religious kind of guy. It was impossible not to feel something special going on among the visitor element of the bus. The wonder continued at Tiberius, the sea of Galilee, following the river Jordan. . .
I will not go in to what it was like to live and work on a kibbutz. That would be a book in itself. But, I will mention a few connections. Returning first to female power. Two fearless hitchhiking Aussies showed a driver an eight inch long screwdriver when he allowed his hand to slip from the gearstick several times.
‘Do that again sunshine and I’ll stick this where the sun don’t shine!’ I don’t condone violence but it did the trick, and he still dropped them at their destination.
I talked about bomb shelters during an interview with Crazy Mind so no revisits here. Occasionally, things got through the defences. Late one night, two armed men left Lebanon on hang-gliders from the Syrian Golan heights and landed in our orchards. Well, those belonging to the kibbutz. No harm done, except to them I guess. Yet they were the lucky ones.
A Palestinian man knocked on a residence door at a moshav (farming commune). If a visitor knocks and is met with a ‘yes,’ it was customary to enter. Etiquette didn’t allow that for Palestinians so, worried that a threat stood outside, the farmer fired his rifle through the closed door and killed the man. That farmer had been my boss a week earlier. The same man forbade me to socialise with the Palestinians who worked on the commune. They were one of the most wonderful groups of people I had ever met. There were other volunteers at the Moshav and like the kibbutz, they came from all over the planet. Getting to know them was exciting, enlightening and sharing stories of the following three does no justice.
Occasionally stereotypes had to be challenged. Take English Peter as case in point, with his very English gentleman’s accent and sensibilities. He saw himself as a representative of the queen and offered England as the green and pleasant land of imagined bygone days. Notice I said England. Attired in pressed trousers, shirt with cravat and tweed jacket he picked peppers alongside us in a desert climate over 30 Celsius yet the jacket never came off. This was no act and the non-British loved him. The British groaned, ‘we are not all like Peter.’
A lively and attractive Danish Bacon showed us some of the beauty in humanity through her patience and understanding. Real name Mia who inherited her nickname because of her irregular suntan. Everybody loved Mia. Being close to her on a dark night was like walking in the light of a full moon. We wanted to share her light, especially John from Manchester. Many treated him as odd and a person to ridicule because of his black leather shoes, matching socks and shorts. He had a heart very much like Mia’s to those who bothered to connect and he hid his autism well.
In the bomb shelter in the north at kibbutz Kfar Blum. At the moshav in the Negev desert, I discovered the universal love we share and my part in something much bigger than myself. That was hugely amplified on a bus trip in December 1980 after radio presenter announced the death of John Lennon in Hebrew. I understood the sentiment, the entire bus did, the atmosphere was palpable. ‘Imagine all the people . . . ‘
This is where the spiritual connections in Beyond The Pyre fermented. I wrote poetry at the time but had not considered writing a novel; my understandings needed time to grow.
When Catharine and Ben go to their French home in Carcassonne, they meet a woman who looks just like Catharine, with whom she shares an instant affinity. Catharine’s spirit guide, Michael, connects her to ancient Carcassonne and the spirit of Elionor, whose thirteenth-century life entwines with Catharine’s modern one.
Ben is concerned, but a journey of his own leads him to realise that not only Elionor’s and Catharine’s lives are interlinked, but his own and those of a whole group of people they know in the present world.
A terrifying encounter with two false friends from the past – centuries past – and meetings with their age-old selves pull Ben and Catharine into the ancient crusades against the Cathar faith, to unearth a long-hidden secret. Can they defeat the evil twins, Les Deux, rewrite history and save their present, or will history repeat itself, 800 years in the future?
Beyond The Pyre was Published by Austin Macauley on June 30th 2017 and is available in multiple formats from Amazon and many other booksellers. You can follow Steve and learn more about him through his blog. He will also be touring local radio and bookstores in North West England in late November and early 2018; watch blog posts for details. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.
About the author
Steve Costello is a timeless creative being with a beautiful partner and six children. He writes:”My past is rich with experiences that inform now and I believe that everything has a Positive, Dynamic Solution. I follow my path in Peace with Love and Happiness and I wish that to all who cross my path.”
Also by Steve Costello
It is written in the stars. . .
Four children will help a herd of special horses to return from our world to Horando, their land of magic and peace.
Banished, Carter and his allies want to rule Horando. Carter kidnaps the horses from their homeland and escapes to our world through a cave that opens every eight years. He imprisons the horses in a paddock with just enough food and water to keep them alive.
The children live in the foothills of a mountain range with their parents and baby sister. Saffron, the eldest of the children has a passion for horses and yearns to care for them. Standing on the paddock fence watching them, she is sure that she hears the stallion speak first to one of the mares and then to her. Speaking directly to her mind, he tells her that she and her siblings are to help them get back to Horando where he and his herd are a crucial part of the Horando community.
Saffron’s two younger brothers and sister discover that they too have a role to play and soon find themselves working toward the goal of reaching Horando. They have two weeks to learn all they need to know. If they are not successful, peace will not return, good magic will fail and Carter and his evil allies will rule.
There are three worlds in this story. The earth as we know it today, a world between earth and Horando where fairies live and of course Horando, where if the balance is correct a beautiful utopia exists.
Well-known fairy tale characters such as, a Christmas Tree Fairy and a leprechaun, complete with a pot of gold with unicorns, dragons, and some characters perhaps never met before join the quest for peace. A challenging journey where the children must learn how to use the magic that they didn’t know they had against the terrible magic that their enemies unleash.
Through action-packed, humorous and sometimes emotional scenes, golden friendships are forged and surprises pop-up like spring flowers.