I visited Oxford late last year, and unexpectedly found myself in my writer’s head again as I toured Christ Church College, a place now famous because it was used as a location to film some of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts scenes.
Christ Church College inspired two film sets familiar to Potter fans. In The Sorcerer’s Stone, the kids are ferried to Hogwarts and then ascend astone staircase that leads into the Great Hall. Christ Church’s high-ceilinged dining hall was a model for the one seen throughout the films (with the weightless candles and flaming braziers).
Excerpt from Rick Steves’ Europe. Click here to read more of the above page.
It was an inspirational place, but what really fascinated me was the idea of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, sitting in that room on many nights and letting his imagination run wild.
Who is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson?
Perhaps you’d know him better by his pen name: Lewis Carrol, the man who wrote the well known story of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Dodgson began his time at Christ Church studying mathematics, but stayed on as a teacher. It was there he met Alice, the daughter of the Head of the College. Alice and her two sisters loved hearing Dodgson tell them stories where he would change elements from their everyday world into weird and wonderful beings. Like these –
Think back to your childhood reading of Alice…Doesn’t that remind you of something?
As I absorbed the magnificence of this place, I could see how these weird decorative items could have fueled Carrol’s/Dodgson’s imagination. I could almost see him sitting in that great room, biding his time at polite formal meals and amusing himself with his imagination and the objects that surrounded him.
A large portrait of Henry VIII hung above the elevated platform at the end of the room. Is it possible that looking at this image in his youth produced the Queen of Hearts screaming, “Off with his head!”?
As I stood in that magnificent hall, I envied Dodgson his imagination. I’ve been a daydreamer all my life, and I do attribute my ability to dream up stories in part to this, but I know I’m not capable of creating phantasmagorical characters like Dodgson did.
My inspiration for Absent Children was far more mundane, and yet, very important to me. As a midwife, I desperately wanted to find a way to show women how wonderful birth can be, that it is not this trial we have to endure, not something to fear, but something that can be a truly beautiful and empowering experience involving the body, mind and spirit. I was inspired by the woman I cared for in my home birth business, and by other women who had traumatic births in hospitals.
Books on the subject of pregnancy and birth abound, but what I discovered was that most young parents, skipped the details about normal birth so they could find out what happens if they have an epidural, or a Cesarean. I had no desire to add to the already abundant availability of those books.
So I chose fiction, and created a story with characters the reader could get attached to, threw those character’s lives into turmoil, added a pregnancy to the mix and then made them battle out about how and where the baby will be born.
I want Absent Children to do well in America, because if it does, the rest of the world will hear about it. I want women around the world to have a better understanding about why some women choose to have their babies at home, and in my wildest dreams, I’d like to think it would open up discussion on the issue, get women talking about their rights in birth, and empower them to use their numbers to demand changes in hospitals, so that every woman can expect to be treated with respect when she gives birth, no matter where or how she chooses to do it.
From feedback I’ve received, I’ve succeeded in making the reader think more about the way we give birth in our society. Dare I dream that it will also have that affect on many more when it goes on sale?