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.)