‘The Doe and the Dragon’ is now available in print, direct from Rogue Phoenix Press.
Sunday, 19 June 2011
I was going to provide some of my thoughts on the creation of The Wood. My ideas, though, are reflected in the character of my heroine, Kathleen Mahoney. What better, then, for Kath to explain the background to the book in an interview a few days before the book opens? (Kath is also my heroine in The Shoot, a prequel to Wood.)
She sits on an ordinary settee in an ordinary flat. Only a scattering of books drop any hint that she is one of Ireland’s moist gifted young historians. Green eyes regard me with uncertainty; long black hair is pulled around her, as if acting as a subconscious barrier between us.
One of Kath’s friends, with her hair dyed a trendy white, pushes a coffee into my hands. “I’m Philippa. Pippa. I’m Kath’s best mate. I’m here to tell you what a brilliant historian she is, because Kath is too modest to blow her own trumpet.”
There is a strained silence, so I begin by asking Kath when she first realised she had a flair for Celtic history.
She shrugs. “I don’t think I ever thought I had a gift or a flair. I always assumed the reason I seemed to do well in history lessons was because I liked the subject and worked hard.”
“See! I told you she was modest,” Pippa broke in.
“But you must have known you were good when you got your degree and then your doctorate.”
“Effortlessly,” Pippa added. Her blue eyes are sparkling.
Kath fingers her mug and sips coffee before answering. “I suppose, as the citations mounted, I began to realise people were interested in my opinion.”
“And what is your opinion?”
She shrugs again. “My opinion is much the same as anyone else’s, I suppose. The Celts had so many different beliefs, but they were completely different to anything anyone takes seriously in this day and age.”
I drink some coffee while I wait for Kath to continue.
“It’s generally accepted that druids were in the upper reaches of society, and were close to the kings. Like the church and the medieval monarchy. And like Egyptian priests and pharaohs.” She leans forward with her eyes wide and passionate. “The beliefs all seem to make sense in a logical way, if you take away our scientific understanding. But, of course no-one will ever have seen any of the gods or spirits or monsters they believed in.”
“I suppose not,” I said.
“So, it makes sense that the druids fuelled superstition by claiming to have experienced these things themselves. I can’t prove it, of course, but that’s what I reckon happened.”
“And she’s had all the academic world sitting up and taking notice,” Pippa adds.
Kath tightens her hair around her. I’m certain she’s starting to blush. Embarrassment, I suppose. She does seem to be modest.
I said, “Anyway, you’re having your thesis published, and you’ve been invited to publicise it.”
“Yeah. Nine of us have been invited on an overnight live role playing adventure, celebrating the Celtic myths. We’re going to walk through a wood, and pretend we’re living in a place where the myths are real.”
“If you need eight others, who else is going?”
“I am!” Pippa exclaims. “Although roughing overnight in a pretend fantasy world it isn’t really my thing. I’d rather be shopping.”
Kath grins and flicks her eyes to the ceiling. “My professor, Max is going, too.”
“He’s more into Celts than spending money.” Pippa tuts. “I wonder if they’ll have a visitor centre with Celtic jewellery.”
“And Aaron’s going. He’s one of my undergraduates, but he does a lot of my research on the side.”
“Only ‘cos he fancies you, Kath.” Pippa gives a suggestive wink. “There are loads of us going. The organisers said we have to have a party of nine. It’s a sacred number that’ll keep us safe.”
“What happens if someone drops out and you don’t have nine?”
Pippa laughs. “I suppose without the magic of nine to help us, we’d all die unspeakably horrible deaths.”
(This interview originally appeared on my web site.)
Saturday, 4 June 2011
When people find out I’m a novelist, the first question I usually get asked is, “What do you write?”
When I say Celtic fantasy/horror, the second question I get asked is, “Why?”
Well, that’s a long story…
I’ve always liked horror, even as a kid. That’s partly because it was difficult to get hold of – as a child I was (probably rightly) shielded from much that was unpleasant. On the other hand, having it forbidden raised my curiosity and as a teenager I read as much horror as I could, and when I was 18 hired horror videos.
Having read and watched horror I learned something of how it works - in terms of plot structure and the like – so it made sense to write in the genre. I’m not keen on mad serial killers no mater how well done (for example Halloween), and much prefer supernatural horror.
I’ve read some fantasy and quite liked it, and I’m happy to bring some fantasy themes into my work. I get frustrated by the lack of ‘realism’ in fantasy fiction though - fantasy worlds in fiction seem unreasonably comfortable. I want to show the constant battles against disease and starvation people faced, and to include the unpleasant deaths available instead of assuming everyone breaths their last peacefully in their sleep, or with a short, swift, instantaneous arrow to the heart.
In short, I think fantasy lacks the ‘bite’ that draws me to horror.
It’s myths, though, that particularly interest me. I studied the post-Roman Celts at university, and I read some of their legends. Celtic myths and legends made an immediate impact on me, and having lived in Wales I’ve got to know some of their settings intimately. The stories have some obvious fantasy elements, too. Having decided on supernatural horror as my subject matter, it wasn’t a surprise that I turned to the Celts and their fantasy-themed stories for inspiration.
So, that’s how I came to concentrate on Celtic fantasy/horror.