Silverhair the Wanderer

Guide and Commentary

Silverhair the Wanderer was initially planned as a story that would link the story of Jehan, Faris and Caolin to the quest for the Jewels. In the twenty years it takes the infant Julian to grow up, Westria remains more or less on hold, but the surviving characters change a great deal. In particular, from an idealistic boy, Farin has to change into the trail-worn and embittered figure he is in The Earthstone. Caolin, who at the end of Lady of Darkness is devastated in mind and body, has to become a sorcerer whose powers are even greater than they were before.

Structurally, to cover a twenty year period in 90,000 words presents a challenge. I addressed it by dividing Silverhair’s career into three phases, and hitting the highlights of each. So in effect the novel is a series of connected short stories, one of which, now Chapter Six and Seven, was originally published as “The Willa” in a small magazine published by Charles DeLint.

Writing this book allowed me to use some of what I learned while field testing curriculum for Native Americans on reservations in Arizona and Nevada. A memorable road trip to Westercon in Portland with my sister-in-law, Tracy Blackstone, and our children gave me a view of Normontaine, including Crater Lake and the Sorcerer’s Isle.

But above all, Silverhair the Wanderer allowed me to celebrate my love for harp music. When I started writing about Westria in the seventies, the Celtic harp was a thing of legend. Certainly no one I knew had ever seen one. However in 1978 I found an old friend, Sharon Devlin, manning a harp-booth at the Renaissance Faire. Jay Witcher, a former aeronautics engineer, was building folk harps in the ancient style. I had to have one , and when it arrived, I began to teach myself to play. It, as well as its big brother I ordered years later, is still in good condition today–you can see a picture on the “About the Author” page.

I will never be a great harper, but over the years I have played that harp in many strange places and it has brought me great joy. Among other benefits, learning to play enabled me to give Silverhair a real harp, although most of his magic, is, alas, a fantasy.