My Love, My Heart, My Singer
A walk through Abréal
with Danielle Shipley
Author, Danielle Shipley, gave me a fascinating interview with her character, Heartsinger.
Ms. Shipley tells the story, “Reality as We Know It,” in the fantasy anthology, The Toll of Another Bell. Two companions leave a tortured life in a dream world to make a new life in the “real” world of London. The world Ms. Shipley invents is not a dull one. Abréal is a land of true dreams, where all thoughts come to life by force of will. Cruel judges rule the world, and dictate a fate to Heartsinger that is worse than death. He and his best friend spend a month, after arriving in our world, just discovering how much they need each other.
Maybe it’s better to say that Heartsinger spends a month discovering that he is loved. I am especially fond of Heartsinger – aka “Singer” – not only because he is a musician, but because his very existence shakes me to the core. Like so many artists, Singer is morose with self abasement. He has loved and lost, yes, but he is loved fiercely by the best friend of his childhood. No love seems capable of shaking his sadness, which is palpable. But instead of grotesque self-pity, every word of Singer’s resounds with beauty alone.
Shortly after arriving in our world, Heartsinger found that he could play the violin. Likely, he can play anything he wishes, or sing it, for this is how he was created. Music flows from him like a river that runs to the ocean. My friend Danielle introduced me to Singer at King’s Crossing in London, while I was waiting on a bench for train. He was playing his violin there, and I must say that he stopped everyone who passed him. By the time he took a break, he had built up a considerable following. I was lucky enough to get a few words with him, which I have recorded here for you to read.
You will have to forgive me, but I fell over heels in love with him in the meantime. It was inescapable.
Me; You sound like you have been playing forever. Where did you learn the violin?
Singer: Though his eyes darken, he keeps his voice level. “My father. He is a musician accomplished in many instruments, and wished me to follow in his footsteps as much as might be. I should like to think music is the most we have in common.”
Me: Your music is heartbreaking. What inspires you?
Singer: “Oh, any and all things. It’s said that much of what makes a Singer is an ear that can pick out the music in everything. Erm,” he coughs, “a regional saying, that. I doubt it’s much in use, in this land. Most often, though, I’ll draw from the music inside my own heart. And if my heart’s music breaks yours . . . well, it’s not without reason.”
Me: Did I hear you say that you come from a different land? Where was it, and what was it like?
Singer: A smile plays at his lips. “I suppose there’s little harm in telling you. You’ll not believe it anyway. Like most magical places, it’s not easily accessed from here, particularly when you’re awake. The Abréal is a world of dreams, and sometimes of nightmares, depending on what you will into reality. You can do anything. Be anything – and I more or less have been. I had a marvelous life there, once,” he says wistfully. “Then, when that was denied me, a marvelous death. Only ever for a few hours a day, though, more’s the pity.”
Me: Did you say that you used to die every day? What was that like?
Singer: “Quite dreadful sometimes, to be honest. Think of the worst possible way there is to die, and I’ll probably have suffered something like it, at least once. My ends were rarely quick or gentle, but it didn’t matter, for on the other side of it all, my dearest mother awaited.” He hugs the violin close, his gaze gone faraway. “Even the Abréal couldn’t return her to me,” he says quietly. “But it could send me to her side and back.
Me: That sounds incredible, and I’m having a hard time believing it. But just assuming it’s all the truth, how did you get here?
Singer: He flicks the dark hair from his face, the movement speaking of scorn. “The Judges. Governors of the Abréal. It was they that conjured me into the world, and they that cast me out again; their alleged motive both times, the hope that it would be to my greater good. I’m not over-impressed with their success rate, thus far.”
Me: Are you here in London alone?
Singer: “No, the Judges aren’t that cruel.” He plucks at his violin’s strings, his brows drawn taut. “They’re crueler. They banished another along with me. We were best friends, as children. If you asked him, he’d say we still are. He’s an optimist, that way.” His smile is knife-sharp. “We’ll see how long it takes as my real-world flatmate to cure him of that.”
Me: Do you ever wish you could go back to this place you called the Abréal?
Singer: “As it was when I left it? No, not in earnest. As it was before my spirit broke? Only with every beat of my heart.”
Me: What was it like to get what you wanted, just by thinking it?
Singer: “Convenient, for a start. I didn’t even realize how much so, until I went from there to here. But it could be far more than just dreaming up mundane necessities and everyday little luxuries. There was an art to it. I could play my reality like a violin. Play it warmer, just to make the cool splash in a sparkling lake all the more refreshing. Play it higher, the farther to fall in a dive that sweeps into flight on a dragon’s wings. Play it slower, stretching out every second of the happiest hour you’ll ever know. Oh, beautiful world, how did you fall so far from paradise?”
Me: This world is more, shall we say, “permanent” than your other one. What do you think death means here?
Singer: He frowns. “I expect it is much like my mother’s death. A final departure. A point of no return, no matter how much those yet living wish it otherwise. Certainly not a step to be taken thoughtlessly. Unless death in this world likewise leads to my mother, I’m in no hurry to beg for it of the powers that be.”
Me: If you could “think” yourself into another creature in any world, what would you like to be next?
Singer: “Hmm,” he muses. “What haven’t I yet tried? Perhaps, if I could choose but one more, I would become a drop of water. I’d see just about the whole of your world, in time, traveling as liquid and vapor and ice. I’d always exist somewhere, some way, giving life to the thirsty or death in a flood. You could look straight through me and into a rainbow. And who knows?” He stands and, tucking his instrument under his chin once more, begins to bow a new tune. “With such a life as that, I might forget to be unhappy.”
Danielle E. Shipley
Danielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself. Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: Packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them.
She’s also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble. When she’s not living the highs and lows of writing, publishing, and all that authorial jazz, she’s probably blogging about it at EverOnWord.wordpress.com.