What’s the s-TOR-y? A scene from Watchers appears in the Olympics Opening Ceremony!

One of the key scenes of the rural England centerpiece of Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony is said to be that of Glastonbury Tor with a tree emerging where the iconic tower now stands.

Glastonbury Tor is a well-known landmark of the British countryside, a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years. But the Tor is famous not just for the hill itself, but for the striking silhouette of St. Michael’s Tower on its peak. This is the image that everyone is familiar with. The Olympic Opening Ceremony, however, apparently will feature the Tor with the tower replaced by a fully-grown tree: an image that has never been seen before, or has it?

Actually, a magical tree emerging on Glastonbury Tor is exactly the key closing scene of the 2011 young adult fantasy novel Watchers by Essi Tolling.

According to this report in the Daily Mail:

The set will include a recreation of the Glastonbury Thor [sic] and an enormous fake tree, which will appear in the first scene, entitled ‘green and pleasant land’

Illustration from Watchers – Glastonbury Tor by Meraylah Allwood

In addition, the book opens with London in the grip of an emergency evacuation brought on by a fake flood warning made believable by heavy downpours coming from man-made rain clouds!

Also according to the Daily Mail: “Boyle, who directed the multi-Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, said the aim of the ceremony was to create ‘a picture of ourselves as a nation’, and to ensure it is authentic there will even be giant fake clouds which will pour with rain.”  Read more

Like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, Watchers blends fact with fiction and uncovers dark secrets and hidden histories that have huge contemporary relevance. The magical history of the British countryside features prominently in the story.

Without giving too much away for those of you who have not yet read the book, here is the paragraph that describes the event:

“Up thrust the tree in a mass of flickering silver and grey. At first its slender trunk grew inside the walls of the tower, but as it got taller its branches pushed outwards, cracking the tower to pieces. The top stones fell first, cascading away down the Tor. Then the rest gave way until even the foundation stones, deep-set and strong, fractured and crumbled to dust.

“In an instant the tower had gone and there in its place stood a majestic tree.” (Watchers p. 528)

Tolling would not be drawn further on the significance of the tree’s appearance on the famous landmark. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise for the thousands of readers who are buying the book, but it’s fair to say that the scene where a tree grows on the Tor is pivotal to the plot, not just for book one but for the whole series.”

Maybe Danny Boyle or someone working with him read Watchers and was inspired by elements of the story or perhaps it’s just a case of wonderful synchronicity. In either case we are delighted, as it affirms that the great response we are getting from readers may be in part because the book is capturing a new and emerging zeitgeist; one which is leaning towards beauty, nature and the desire for unity in the face of world policies that seem hell bent on destruction, control and decay.

Essi Tolling comments: “To say it is Glastonbury Tor and then replace the tower with a tree is interesting to say the least.  Why not use just a regular hill and tree surrounded by England’s green and pleasant fields? Maybe Danny Boyle is tapping in to a deeper mystery; the same mystery that inspired me to take up the pen in an effort to expose hidden truths? I would be fascinated to find out!”

Watchers, the first book in the Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys series, was published in 2011 and is available in most Waterstone’s bookstores and from amazon, as well as from several outlets in Glastonbury and Avebury. Book two The Hidden Hand will be released in spring 2013.

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A big thank you to Waterstone’s!

Our author Essi Tolling has been having fun these past few weeks visiting branches of Waterstones.

It’s a real pleasure to spend time in these lovely stores and we cannot compliment the staff at Waterstone’s highly enough. What a warm, welcoming and book loving team they are! It’s so refreshing to meet people who so obviously love what they do and who display such a knowledgeable and keen interest in all the books they stock.

Thank you also to the lovely Sarah Tippelt from Waterstone’s Dorking, who unfortunately we didn’t get a picture of on the day.

Here are a few more photos from our latest signings:

Essi Tolling (right) with Simon Monfredi, Waterstone's Cribbs Causeway
Essi Tolling (right) with Bethan England, Waterstone's Abergavenny

 

Essi Tolling (right) with Angela Timmins, Waterstone's Hereford

Essi Tolling: Book Signings & Store Visits 2012

Essi Tolling will be visiting these branches of UK Waterstone’s bookshops.
Come and visit to chat, have books signed or maybe even catch a reading..

March 10th Waterstone’s Dorking 11am-3pm
March 18th Waterstone’s Cribbs Causeway 11am-3pm
March 23rd Waterstone’s Abergavenny 11am -3pm
March 24th Waterstone’s Hereford 11am-3pm
April 14th Waterstone’s Newport 11am-3pm
April 28th Waterstone’s Ipswich 11am-3pm
May 5th  Waterstone’s Plymouth  11am – 3pm
May 12th Waterstone’s Abergavenny  11am – 3pm
May 27th Cribbs Causeway  11am, – 3pm
June 2nd Waterstone’s Southampton   11am – 3pm
June 9th Waterstone’s  Swindon  11am – 2pm
August 18th Waterstone’s Wells   11am – 3pm
August 25th Waterstone’s Camberley   11am – 3pm
Sept 1st  Waterstone’s Haywards Heath 11am-3pm
October 6th  Waterstone’s  Swansea 11am – 3pm
October 20th Waterstone’s Salisbury 11am – 3pm
October 27th Waterstone’s Woking 11am – 3pm
November 3rd Waterstones Trowbridge   11am – 3pm
November 10th Waterstone’s Bristol 11am – 3pm

 

We will update this list as and when additional dates are confirmed…

Interview with Essi Tolling

A response to some of the questions sent in by readers of Watchers…

Q: What is the inspiration behind this series of books?

A: There’s a long answer and a short one to that question. I love stories is the short answer. Always have. One of my lasting memories from when I was a young boy is of my parents reading to us – especially on those dark winter eveningss in front of a crackling log fire. I loved hearing about the characters, trying to guess what they would do next and where the plot would take them. Hopefully the Tilly Greenway series will have the same effect for readers now. It’s not a regular fantasy-epic, because the plot is based around a lot of hidden secrets which are revealed over time. There are “Who dunnit?” questions, “Where is it?” questions and of course “How on Earth can they get out of THAT?” questions! It’s as much a thriller as it is a fantasy, which is a fun combination to write.

Beyond that, my main inspiration behind the series is my love of nature, history and myth. I’m rarely happier than when I’m tramping around the countryside and I especially like to visit places that have some association with ancient myths and legends. I suppose we’re back to story-telling again, because the stories that run through the land are deep and resonate strongly with me. Trees have their tales to tell, as do stones and plants. Imagine what a four hundred year old oak tree has seen in its life. Or a Yew, which might have been alive for thousands of years. Stories and messages are all around us. I like to listen and learn and hopefully re-tell them in a way that people enjoy.

Q: How many books will there be?

A: More than 2 and fewer than 6. There are also two further novels which are linked to the Tilly series, but separate to it.

Q: What is the storyline?

A: In essence, it is a straightforward quest. Time is running out for planet Earth and Tilly and Zack have to find a number of mysterious keys if they are to save it. They’re up against stiff odds. A sinister secret society has plans for the human race (in Book 1 this is to microchip the whole population with mu-brains). On top of that, there is a group of shadow-entities called The Others who feed off humans although they can’t be seen. Then there is the possibility that a number of alien creatures are living on Earth too. Oh, and a bunch of genetically-engineered mutants are let loose too. So, the kids have their work cut out if they’re going to succeed. But they do have helpers. I’ll leave it to the readers to find out who they might be.

Q: Who would enjoy this book?

Pretty much everyone I hope! I’d say the books are for teenagers upwards, but I recently had some letters from a group of eleven year old children who had all read “Watchers” and loved it, so it seems it’s a real cross-over novel. I’d like to think that readers who like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books would enjoy it, but I also think adult readers who like a Da Vinci Code-type conspiracy thriller will have fun with it too. The series is really not like anything else, so the proof will be in the pudding!

Readers who enjoy Grail Quests will certainly like the series. So will people who like riddles. In fact, there are a number of hidden codes within the books, waiting for people to discover them..

Illustration from Watchers by Meraylah Allwood

 

Q: Are you a full time writer?

No, although I do write almost every day. I teach a specific practice that helps people to lower their brain-wave activity into what’s known as the alpha-state. This is actually linked in with the Tilly stories, because it’s in the alpha-state that we dream and the books are all about dreams, visions, prophecies from the past etc. We can only dream when our brains are in the alpha-bandwidth (approximately 7-14 Hertz). It’s interesting to me that we all operate solely in alpha until we’re five years old, all mammals are in alpha all the time – and the Schumann Resonance (the Earth’s vibration) falls within the alpha bandwidth too. It’s in this state that people’s of old cultures not only dream, but communicate with each other too. Australian aboriginals, South African bushmen and so on – as well as true shamans – can all access a place where time and distance mean nothing. You could call it being psychic – or you could just say it’s a natural gift we all have, it’s just that most of us westerners have forgotten it. Modern day remote viewers almost certainly access it.

What happens in dreams fascinates me. As readers will find out, Tilly has the ability to dream into the future…she just doesn’t know how to use that ability at the beginning of the story.

Q: Can you talk a little about the process of writing and what inspires you?

A:My writing process is maybe a little different to most writers. I practice going into the alpha-state and then choose a scene from the story and let it unfold. I’ll experience the scene from each character’s point of view – a bit like an actor playing all the roles – and I don’t try to force them to react in any particular way. They’re alive (for me) so I give them free rein to say and do what they like!  Of course, I have an idea of where I want it to go, but I’m flexible with it. If something unforeseen comes along, I see that as a real inspiration. The other day, the plot took a twist that I really wasn’t expecting, when an unknown character walked in and did something which had a big impact. I then had to shuffle a number of other bits of plotline around to accomodate this new turn of events!

That’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing. Yes, I know what the ultimate end of the story is (I’ve written the last pages already) and I know what is coming in between, but I let the story take on its own life, trusting that it will lead me where it wishes to go. It’s a bit like taking a journey in a car. You can have the journey as well-planned as you like, but you never know EXACTLY what you’ll see out of the window, or who you might meet at the service station when you stop for petrol. And you can never see exactly what’s beyond the horizon, or even the next bend!

What inspires me is mainly is my love of nature, but I also have a strong feeling that we’re at a time of great challenge right now. There is so much on television that is so negative and I’d like to think that the Tilly series has a part to play in balancing that with a message of hope. That’s the serious backdrop to the story. But mainly, it’s a good old rigmarole with plenty of twists and turns. Oh, and I can guarantee that no one will be able to guess the ending!

Listen to Essi reading extracts from Watchers here

To find out more about Essi visit his blog here