Updated: Jun 15
In the sixth of our Q&A features, we talk to our latest Short Fiction contributor Drew Martyn, who's behind the enchanting A Cottage in Autumn, a somewhat mythical horror piece that effortlessly evokes the beauty of the Welsh countryside. We talk about exactly this, and stray onto topics such as real ale, literature and football, alongside a discussion on the creative - yet entirely mysterious - process behind the formation of fiction.
Drew Martyn lives in the Land of Song, Druids and Rain (sadly not in that order) Wales, UK, with his wife and daughters, two ferrets and a cat. When not writing or reading, he's probably watching his beloved Chelsea play football, listening to rock or baroque music, or sampling real ales.
So, Drew - A Cottage in Autumn speaks volumes to our own adoration for the Welsh countryside. For myself, it evokes much comfort in its oft-ignored beauty. You reference the Black Mountains - Y Mynydd Du - for one. Could you tell us a little about a favourite location of yours?
Any mountain area is good for me, but (other than holiday destinations) perhaps my favourite is the road north from Ebbw Vale across an area of moorland, after which it dips steeply down, either into Llangynidr or Crickhowell, depending on which route you take. That view from the top of the moors across the River Usk valley is breathtakingly beautiful, absolutely stunning. Spoiler alert: if you haven’t been there before, it’s a view that, after a stretch of moorland, suddenly opens up in front of you, and it’s all the more impressive for the surprise. It’s a place where you can stand and see the effect of hundreds of thousands of years of geology on the landscape in one vast and sweeping scene.
Another place I love is the Neolithic burial chamber at Pentre Ifan, near Nevern in west Wales. The structure itself is interesting, made up of a giant stone – is it called a capstone? – that looks incredibly precarious perched on top of three standing stones – but as it’s been there since the Stone Age, I guess it’s not going to collapse anytime soon. Yeah, that’s interesting, but it’s the location that gets me every time. Even when it’s not shrouded in mystical mists it gives the impression it should be. It looks across the valley to the Preseli hills and is the sort of place that makes you understand why Druidic beliefs emerged, why Druids and others believed in spirits and powers inhabiting the landscape. Just awe-inspiring.
As for towns, if I never go anywhere else other than Wells in Somerset, Stratford on Avon and Cardigan, I’d still die happy.
You touch on Welsh folklore - or perhaps wider Celtic mythology - with such vivid naturalistic imagery that centralises trees and deities, a running theme in classic tales such as Pedair Cainc Y Mabinogi (Four Branches of the Mabinogi) and Cad Goddeu (Battle of the Trees). Were you inspired by any localised tales or specific pieces of folklore, or is this more of a passing resemblance?
I think when I wrote this it was more of a passing resemblance. I read The Mabinogion many years ago,