My guest today is Rebecca Cohen, whose latest release – Life on the Land – concerns subjects very close to my heart.
Over to you, Rebecca!
Oh, biology, how I love thee. And Welsh Myths, I’ve got a thing for you too. Many years ago, I studied biology at university (more specifically microbiology/virology and later biochemical engineering), and ever since I’ve had a love of life on a microscopic level. In my latest release, Life in the Land, my hero’s (Bobby Sawyer) superpowers are the result of the magic in his family’s farmland, and I got to combine mythology and biological science to build my world.
The keen-eyed reader will spot references to Welsh mythology. One reference is to Amaethon, and that the Sawyer family refers to a local hillock as Amaethon’s Altar. Amaethon is the god of agriculture, and is described as being the reason for the Battle of the Trees or Cad Goddeu, which is something else I sneaked into the story. Bobby is relieved that during his lifetime they won’t need to fulfill blood rites to the agricultures god, and I use these little references to infer that these myths are where magic comes from to feed Bobby’s powers. It’s no coincidence that one of the most important things on the farm is an ancient oak tree.
Bobby’s particular gifts allow him to manipulate plants, and I had great fun with him being able to hear the conversation of rude carrots and cheeky spouts. But what I really enjoyed was getting down to the cellular level, playing in the world our naked eye can’t see. Trilling chloroplasts, anyone?
What I had hoped for with Life in the Land was to combine myth and science, two things that are often thought of as mutually exclusive. But I happen to think they make perfect bed fellows.
Short Excerpt from Land in the Land
Bobby let himself be pulled toward the trunk, the roots curling around his body in a firm embrace. Nestled next to the tree trunk, he swore he could hear drumming from its core. He laid his head against the bark and closed his eyes.
Every cell of the tree thrummed with the same pulse. Behind his eyelids, Bobby could see the microscopic world inside the tree. Layer upon layer of water-laden cells made up the trunk’s innards, all jostled together as a noisy factory of life. His mind climbed the trunk and followed the path as it diverged to the left and ran across the branches. The way ahead narrowed, and he arrived into an explosion of green, the leaves humming happily. Tiny explosions fizzed and crackled as the chloroplasts trilled and sang, busy converting water into energy using the meager rays of the weak morning sun. It was beautiful. He could barely breathe as he watched, mute in amazement.
The tree’s roots began to loosen their grip, and his eyelids fluttered open.
The world before him looked fresh and new. Every detail was vivid and clear, from the petals on the drooping dandelions to the spikes of the hawthorn hedges. His long fingers wormed their way into the soil that the oak’s roots had disrupted. Bobby could taste the goodness, the nitrates and the minerals tripping over his tongue. The tightness that had sat in his chest for weeks began to unwind, and a warmth spread through his veins, radiating out from his breastbone, down his arms, and through his fingers. Slowly, Bobby withdrew his hands from the soil, and he could hardly believe his own eyes as the lines on his palm began to glow, lit up in gold. He turned his hands over to see the same golden color swim under his fingernails.
Links for Life in the Land:
Author Bio and Links:
Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.