Hello, and welcome to the next stop on the Torn blog tour! Please welcome the lovely David Massey, and his great guest post about Torn before the edits. It's pretty interesting, and even though I'm still yet to read Torn (I'll get round to it soon, I promise!), it's made me really interested in reading it. So, enjoy!
I think some people reading TORN for the first time will wonder why I have decided to use Scandanavian names for two of the main characters, Elinor and Heidi. The answer is simple. The initial inspiration for the book came from the Norse legend of Valkyries – goddesses who would visit the battlefield and take fallen warriors to fight for the gods in Valhalla. I wanted to have a novel based in Afghanistan which felt very real but which also had a central character – a medic who found herself being transformed into a Valkyrie – just like her colleague, Heidi had on a previous tour of duty. Elinor would discover she was a Valkyrie just like Heidi and the girl – able to be shot but without suffering any damage.
Here’s a scene from an early draft where Heidi proves to Elinor that she can’t be injured as she is a Valkyrie:
‘Stop playing with my head Heidi – that’s not even possible,’ I counter angrily, wondering if there is somewhere else I could bunk down. Maybe it is time to talk to McQueen.
‘I don’t mean in the physical sense,’ she is on her feet now, pacing. I hardly notice her hand slip to one of her leg pockets as she rounds on me. ‘Look, I’m sorry,’ she says through clenched teeth, ‘but this is the only way you’re ever going to believe what I have to tell you...’
Before I can register what she is doing, Heidi’s arm whips around and a cold, steel blade slices through my ribs so fast I barely register any pain. The shock of the impact shudders through my chest and all I can do is to watch in slow motion as the blade withdraws from my side with the zing of metal on bone and blood spurts from the wound like a fountain. In the same sweeping motion, Heidi throws the blade behind her as if it burns her hand and she stands there, just watching me. Her face is pale, ghostly.
I grasp at the wound in disbelief. My heart thuds in my ears and I think the darkness is going to claim me. I open my mouth to shout for help before I faint but Heidi grabs my head and clamps her hand over my face.
Heidi shakes her head.
‘Why the hell did you do that?’ I gasp weakly into her palm, dropping to my knees and gripping the wound. Lancing pain whips through me like electricity as I fall.
She just whispers, her breath hot in my ear, ‘because we’re sisters...’ and her eyes lower to my side.
We stay like that for a moment - frozen in a weird embrace. I am too shocked to do anything. Warm blood oozes between my fingers like treacle. The wound burns beneath my fingers.
‘Take your hand away,’ she orders quietly, retreating to her bed once more.
I gasp, ‘but I need pressure... get help – please...’
She just laughs and says more forcefully, ‘take it away.’
When she sees that I am not moving she retrieves her knife, strides over to me and slashes my bloody tunic away from the wound to expose my side. Then she hacks the sticky material off in two sweeping blows and pulls my hands away from it.
There is not a mark on my side. Not even a scratch. But my blood is everywhere. It is still dripping from my palms, drying to a brittle crust on the ends of my fingers.
I remember the Afghan girl and Heidi’s leg injury and stagger to my feet examining my torso like it is the first time I have ever seen it. Then I can’t help but remember all those grazed knees at school, the cuts and bruises in training. ‘I don’t understand.’ My panicked breathing begins to steady, ‘how can this happen..? This has never happened before,’
Heidi is not fazed. She grunts dismissively ‘ever been on the front line before?’
I do not reply.
‘I didn’t think so.’
‘So your leg...’ I pace to the wall and back squeezing my side and examining it closely, half expecting the flesh to just fall away.
‘You’re a Valkyrie. The Afghan girl is a Valkyrie.’
After meeting with Barry (the Publisher at Chicken House) and Imogen (my editor) we decided that this was a step too far and plumped for keeping just the mysterious Afghan girl – Aroush – as the supernatural element. So now all that remain are hints – like Heidi’s torn trousers even though she is not injured (on page 122) and the goat. That’s right – the goat. In the Valkyrie legend, Freya sometimes appears as a goat. Oh yes – there are a few others, but you’ll have to spot those yourself.