Heartlight is a remarkable work that I look forward to re-reading each year. I was so excited to write about it on my blog and honored when author, T.A. Barron, responded to these questions:
1) Heartlight is a beautiful word used to describe a person’s inner light. Is there a particular source that inspired this word?
The word "heartlight" came to me while I was cross-country skiing near my home in Colorado. I'd been working on the book for some time, hoping that it would kick off my writing career (or at least do better than my first attempt at a novel, which got rejected by more than 30 publishers!). I knew the basic story well enough to know that what I wanted for the title was the word for the very special kind of light that Kate and her beloved grandfather discover – a kind of light akin to the light from stars, but also different, with the power to transport anyone instantly to the farthest reaches of the universe. As you can tell, that word would be a metaphor for the soul. And I also felt that it should have, somewhere inside it, the word "light".
While I was cross-country skiing, I came to a sloping meadow where the snow crystals had just the right shape to refract the afternoon sun like thousands of prisms. All around me were rainbows – millions of them. Even the slightest turn of my head made places erupt with brilliant colors. Reds, lavenders, greens, and yellows blazed everywhere. It was one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen in nature. Suddenly, from my subconscious mind, came the word "heartlight". Right away, I knew this would be the name of that special kind of light…as well as the title for my first published novel.
2) Does the form of heartlight differ from person to person?
While the essential form of heartlight is the same for everyone, there are infinite variations. Heartlight can have different intensities for different people, as well as varied brightness or dimness throughout life. And heartlight embraces the full range of colors. Some people have heartlights that trend more to the cooler hues of blue and purple, while others emphasize the fiery reds and oranges. (My own heartlight, I'm guessing, is most radiant where the blues and greens meet, in those wondrous turquoise hues.)
3) The Heartlight Saga was your first series that spanned over many times, reached far places in the galaxy, and even allowed readers to truly experience the wonders of The Ancient One (sequel to Heartlight). You have since gone on to write works such as the epic Atlantis Saga, the Merlin Saga, The Hero’s Trail, Tree Girl, and many more. Is there a particular emotion or thought that comes to mind when you look back to your first published work?
The main emotion I felt in those days was an amazing combination of exhilaration and exhaustion. Those two feelings, reflecting the great joy as well as the hard labor of writing, have continued as I've created all my books.
One of the most surprising things I learned in writing that first trilogy, now called The Heartlight Saga, was how a fictional character can truly come to life for the writer. When I started Heartlight, I had no idea that this intrepid young woman Kate would also take me on other adventures. But when the book was finished, I had come to know her so well that I couldn't bear to leave her. I wanted to find out what happened to her next. So I asked her, and she said, "Take me back in time. To a Native American tribe in deep trouble, whose fate is tied to the life of a single redwood tree, the only living thing old enough to connect them to the future." And so The Ancient One was born. Similarly, Kate's third adventure in the Heartlight Saga, called The Merlin Effect, takes her to the coast of Baja California. There, she and her father search for a mysterious sunken treasure ship whose fate is somehow tied to the ancient wizard Merlin.
I also learned how important an underlying idea is to every story – and how that idea can change the shape of the story itself. In Heartlight, Kate learns that, even as young and small as she is, she can make a difference -- maybe even change the course of the stars. In The Ancient One, she discovers that all things are connected, sometimes in surprising ways, across time and culture and even species. In The Merlin Effect, she realizes that the power of her own free will, her ability to make choices, is as potent as a lost treasure out of the days of King Arthur.
One more thing I learned: the importance of research. To write Heartlight, I needed to learn a lot about the life cycle of stars, the nature of light, and the marvelous morpho butterfly. For The Ancient One, I researched nine different tribes who lived in the Pacific Northwest five hundred years ago. In addition, I needed to understand the smells, sounds, and ecological interconnections of an ancient grove of redwoods. The Merlin Effect required learning about the legend of Merlin. Spanish galleons of the 16th century, the physics of whirlpools, and - best of all - the gray whales. Not to mention the motions and sounds of waves, the rhythms of tide pools, and the screeching of gulls.
To learn more about Mr. Barron’s works, take a look at: tabarron.com
or follow Mr. Barron on social media