I had it in mind to write a family saga. But I wanted it to be different from The Flowers of the Field and A Flower That’s Free; in fact I wanted it to be different from any other saga, family or otherwise, and wound up subverting the genre completely.
First of all I centred the ‘saga’ around just one character, the damaged and darkly charismatic John Ashe. Then I began in the present, with this book, and worked back.
In Swan Music, Ashe is not present in the flesh, only as the subject of a strange, half-lit portrait. The story concerns a girl, Appi, a descendant of Ashe’s, who fixates on the portrait and is influenced by the man she sees there.
Even from beyond the grave Ashe’s influence is not benign, and we know before she does that her story will not end well.
You’ll have realised titles are important to me. I’ve always been moved by the monogamous swan, that sings for the first and last time before it dies, and once I had this title, I decided that birds (not flowers) should be the motif for this trilogy.