Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Mystery of Unicorns

It didn’t take Katherine’s new publisher Templar very long to find out about me. I suppose an author’s muse is quite important, since without muses where would our poor human authors be? They would just be writing their old stories over and over again… which is only good if their last story happens to be something like Harry Potter.

Anyway, Templar wanted a biography of Katherine to go on the last page of her new book – you know, the sort of thing that makes authors appear to lead incredibly exciting lives jumping out of aeroplanes and saving the rainforest etc., accompanied by a photo that makes them look like a beautiful princess or (if they’re men) moody and interesting?

The Muse suspects half this stuff is as inventive as the words in their novels, since an author actually leads a very boring life hunched over their computer writing about people jumping out of aeroplanes and saving the rainforest - because if they were doing all of that themselves, they wouldn't have time to write about it! And, although cameras can't lie, the photo might be the result of five hours in a professional studio with added airbrushing, or taken twenty years ago when the author was still a beautiful young princess… or be of someone else entirely who didn't write the book. So rather than dig around for interesting stuff from Katherine's past and spend hours with my glittery horn airbrushing her photograph, I suggested that her publishers put in a picture of ME instead. Having seen Katherine’s (unairbrushed) photo, they were only too happy to agree.

Small problem... unicorns are much too shy to have their photographs taken – the best you’re likely to get is a fuzzy snap of our tails as we disappear into the enchanted mist. Professional photography studios and five hours of hair and make-up are obviously out. Anyway, I am a muse and take many forms, depending on the kind of book Katherine is writing at the time. (She’s blogged about me HERE if you want to see some of those forms), but none seemed quite right for my first appearance as a muse in a real book.

In their search for a suitable image, Templar sent Katherine this lovely little book they published earlier this year.

illustrated by Ian Andrew, Petra Brown and Beverlie Manson.

A whole book about me! It’s based on a file of notes found in the office of Professor Miriam Carter after her mysterious disappearance at her final lecture in 1939, when apparently she took a small sliver of unicorn horn and ground it into a fine powder using secret ingredients to make a potion. She drank the frothing potion, and… well, you'll have to get hold of the book to find out what happened next.

Let’s just say it contains many beautiful pictures of me, in many guises, from the romantic kind of unicorn on the front cover that charms maidens, to a fearsome Persian breed called the karkadann that fights to the death. I have to say there are some very unflattering pictures, too, including one of an ancient beast called an “elasmotherium”, a shaggy and fearsomely ugly ancestor of your modern rhinoceros (I ask you!)

The book also contains maps, flaps, miniature booklets, and sparkly samples of things like qilin scales - in case you're wondering, the qilin (or kirin) is a Chinese unicorn! It charts the history of the unicorn from the Garden of Eden through to Elizabethan times, when "unicorn horns" like these narwhal tusks were the prized possessions of kings and queens.

narwhals (arctic whales) with their "horns"

Professor Miriam says Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan also met unicorns (no, it wasn’t me... I wouldn’t have anything to do with bloodthirsty men like those). And did you know that, in some translations of the Bible, the unicorn was the first beast to be named by Adam? Well, naturally Eve put him up to it.

So I wonder if you can guess which picture I chose for the biography page of my author's new book? Katherine says I should put it here, but I can’t because of copyright, so you’ll have to wait until February when "Sword of Light" is published to find out!


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