Across the water, beyond the lowlands of Skye, we could see the sharp ridges of the Cuillin
mountains. It looked so extreme you couldn't imagine anybody living out there. The light behind
the mountains was blue like midday sky, making the rock black.
"It looks like Mordor," Wendy said. I hadn't realised until then that she'd even finished
Lord of the Rings. It made me sad to think that we'd stopped talking about what we were
reading and thinking about. All we'd talked about in recent weeks was ourselves.
"Mordor?" Linda said. "I don't like the sound of that."
From The Winter Inside (London: Serpents Tail, 2000), by Christopher Kenworthy
In 1998, I sold my first novel to Serpent's Tail, and I wanted to call it Summer In Mordor.
The reason being that, as the above excerpt shows, the characters come to think of one of the
locations as being like Mordor. This reflects the unexpectedly frightening scenes that subsequently
occur there. My publishers hated the title, because they said it was misleading, and being naïve
I waived my right to keep it. Everybody knows Mordor, and the paradox in that title would be enough to
make readers want to know more. The publishers said people would think it was fantasy, even though I
designed a cover that was clearly non-fantasy (a car driving through Mordor). We changed the title to
The Winter Inside, but the frequent references to Lord of the Rings remain, and they work
to imply moments of intimacy, and also to foreshadow doom. Given that the novel is about problems that
can be caused by the emotional fantasies we create, it's inclusion is essential.
In The Winter Inside, the characters travel to vast landscapes, but there is always claustrophobia
and a sense of ancient wounds. Despite being in a modern setting, these sensations are similar to those from
Lord of the Rings.
Also, it's said in Lord of the Rings that if you step outside your door, the road is like a
river that will sweep you away. Many people interpret that as a "stay at home" policy, a way of avoiding
anything other than parochial culture. I see it in another way. I think it means that if you feed and
nurture certain emotions, they can carry you to places you never thought possible.
Lord of the Rings was the first book I read that made me want to be a writer. I loved the scale of Tolkien's imagination. My dreams have always been on this scale, with massive landscapes and quests.
As you get older, you find some problems with Lord of the Rings, not least the comparative lack of interesting female characters, but it remains a joy to read. Lots of writers that I deeply respect would see the book burned, but it still resonates with my imagination, and I refuse to condemn it.
Tolkien had a deep love of language, and he wrote beautiful sentences as well as creating beautiful images. There are few writers who manage that, these days. If Tolkien has had any influence on me, I think it's that my images are strong, and that I care about the sound and beauty of a sentence.
Born in Britain in 1968, Christopher Kenworthy now lives in Australia. In the early nineties,
Kenworthy was the editor and publisher of Barrington Books. In 1998 he directed a short film
based on his short story Breathing Under Water. His short-story collection
Will You Hold Me? was published in 1996 by The Do-Not Press.
The Winter Inside is his first novel. A second, Pilotage, is forthcoming from Serpent's Tail in 2001.