Sunday, 22 May 2016

Thoughts on a dreary Sunday morning

Sunday morning and I’m sitting under the veranda listening to rain tap dancing on the roof.  Flicking lazily through the latest edition of a writing magazine, I come across an article on successful marketing and I can’t help thinking about my own rapidly sinking sales figures.  I must find ways to raise the profile of my books.

The article suggests spending a frightening amount of time on social media sites, submitting book reviews, (to who I wonder?), arranging promotions, compiling databases, writing regular newsletters to send to anyone willing to read them.  The list of ‘good ideas’ goes on. 
When, I think do I get time to write the next novel?

The article continues with success stories written by authors who it seems have been advertising guru’s in previous lives or have had careers in publishing or some other such organisation.

The day is becoming as miserable as my mood and I regret stumbling across this article.  Turning the page I see colourful adverts that are full of promises but in reality are designed to maximise the profits of the service providers.

Sinking deeper into despondency I decide to cheer myself up with a chocolate biscuit and a cup of coffee but I notice that birds are gathering in the trees at the bottom of my garden.  They come together a spontaneous community, creatures searching for shelter as they wait silently for the weather to improve, then suddenly a dove begins to coo, it's the sound of hope, a sign sent to encourage me to direct my thoughts more positively.

My list of ‘good ideas’ is almost complete and flicking through the remaining pages the rain stops and the birds go mad with relief.   All I have to do it seems is to follow the directions from my list of marketing strategies and like the smiling faces on the pages of my magazine I too can become a bestselling author.

So I’m let to believe!   

Friday, 20 May 2016

The druids and The Torc Trilogy

Druids are members of the educated, professional class among the Celtic peoples of Gaul, Britain and Ireland.  The druid class included law speakers, poets, doctors and other learned professions but were best known as religious leaders.

Very little is known about ancient druids.  They left no written accounts of themselves and the only evidence are a few descriptions left by Greek, Roman and various scattered authors and artists.

Archaeological evidence has been uncovered pertaining to the religious practices of the Iron Age people but not a single artifact or image has been unearthed that can undoubtedly be connected with the ancient druids.

Druids play a large role in the books from The Torc Trilogy; I like to think they form the physical link between the modern world and the past.  They have power and dominate various chapters and I liked the way I could play with the mysticism surrounding them then portray them as vulnerable human beings.  The power struggle between them and the Phoenix Legion is evident throughout my three novels and the persecution to which they are subjected is reminiscent of the Nazi control over ethnic peoples in Europe during the 1940s.

A lot of the story in my books takes place underground.  This is an idea of what a druid ceremony might look like in the depths of the earth.

I wanted to use the elements of distrust and constant antagonism between the druids and the Phoenix Legion as a kind of power race; whoever got there first would be the victor.  The druids suffered greatly at the hands of the Phoenix Legion who used the theory of divide and conquer. I also used this to help add mystery to my plot, I was hoping that the reader would not be aware of which druids to trust and which ones to avoid.

Often the druids would conduct a ceremony in a sacred grove.

The druids and the Phoenix Legion were unlikely allies, but both parties were aware of how powerful the other was and by uniting they could became a much stronger force.

Another image of a sacred grove.  Orlagh would have experienced scenes like this when on her Dream Quest.

I was working on the theory that eventually the Phoenix Legion would come to despise the druids and regard them as some kind of ethnic minority, so in each novel the tension between them builds until eventually a victor must emerge.  

Sacred stones also featured in my books as a link between the spirit world and modern day.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Interview with Jerry Knowles

Interview with Jerome Knowles.

Mr Knowles, do you mind if I start by asking you, how did you meet Dr Gairne?

Please call me Jerry and no, I don’t mind at all. 
Orlagh and I met just over a year ago.  She was giving a talk one evening at the museum on Life in Celtic Ireland or something like that and when it was finished, I took the opportunity to chat with her.  I enjoyed her talk and I certainly enjoyed her company.  We hit it off from the start and our relationship has developed from there.

You are a student at Trinity College here in Dublin.  Can you tell me a little more about your area of study?

I am a student of history but what I do is a little different.  I specialise in Neo-Pagan faiths such as Wicca, Neo-Druidism, Germanic Neo-Paganism and Slavic Neo-Paganism just to name a few.  My area of study includes Polytheism, Animism and Pantheism, but there are others.  These are mostly ancient ethnic religions as found in historical folklore sources.  One of my favourite quotes is by JRR Tolkein; ‘the distortion of Germanic mythology by the Nazi regime, Hitler’s corruption of that noble northern spirit,’ which I used as a title for one of my papers.

Wow, that is an unusual area of study.  Why did you choose this subject?

I have to admit that it’s quite a specialised subject.  It stems from my interest in ancient religions and once I began to dig deeper I discovered that my questions outnumbered the answers. 
There is no set curriculum.  I have to attend a number of lectures then research around the subjects.  My essays have to satisfy both my tutors and the awarding body.  It is quite a unique course but the guidelines are very strict.

 I’m sure we could go discussing this fascinating subject all evening but unfortunately we have to move on.  From your accent, you are obviously an Englishman.  Where in England do you come from and why did you choose to study in Dublin?

I’m a Man of Kent and proud of it; that means I was born east of the River Medway.  We have a thing about that where I come from, you should look it up.
There are of course some very good universities in London, but I wanted to move away from home and London was not far enough.  I did a little research and narrowed my choice to Edinburgh or Dublin, the frozen north or the emerald isle?  The choice was not an easy one to make, but I ended up in Dublin and as it turns out, I made the right choice.

You come from a family of historians.  Tell me a little about that.

My father teaches history in a secondary school, but it was my great grandfather Sir Geoffrey Knowles who was the family historian.  He became quite well known after the discovery of the Belgae Torc in 1912.  Of course, he didn’t do it all alone, his archaeological partner was Sir Cecil Mountjoy and their benefactor Lord Sevington-Smythe.  Unfortunately, both men died in strange circumstances during the dig.  Some say that the whole project was cursed, a bit like when Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen.  The Belgae Torc was a significant find, but the terrible tragedies did nothing to dampen public interest in British history.

It was indeed an exciting time for British history.  Being an historian yourself, does this affect your relationship with Dr Gairne?

Our fields of experience are very different and we do at times find ourselves at loggerheads.  Our academic disagreements can be rather intense.  You see, Orlagh is very passionate about her work and her beliefs are not always shall we say rational.  She likes to believe in animal allies and she swears that she has experienced a dream quest, but I’m afraid that I don’t share some of her ideas.  You might say that we agree to disagree.  At times, we have had some amazing discussions and we regularly bounce ideas off each other.  She is an amazing source of information and this can be invaluable.

 Where do you see yourself going in the short term?

By this time next year, I should have completed my studies.  I don’t intend to become settled in a cosy research post at a university and I’m certainly not yet ready to teach.  I have one or two options developing but we will just have to wait and see.

Do you intend to return to England once you have completed your studies?

I can’t see myself going home, not just yet anyway.  I love it here in Ireland and intend to stick around for the foreseeable future.

Do you mind my asking; does your future include Dr Orlagh Gairne?

I very much hope so.

Would you care to elaborate?

No.  (Said with a cheeky grin).

Thank you to Jerome Knowles for talking with me so honestly. 
Katherine Kinsella in conjunction with the Peoples Independent Irish News.
May 2016

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Interview with Dr Orlagh Gairne

Interview with Dr Orlagh Gairne, head of archaeology at the National Museum of Ireland.

     You live in a beautiful Georgian house on the outskirts of Dublin.  Have you always lived there?

I moved into my house when I returned to Ireland from university.  I was very lucky to get a place there, as I was not technically a student.  In those days, it was converted into student lets but my grandmother knew the landlord so that’s how I got a place to live.
The building was not looked after very well but I did the best I could with my flat.  It seemed such a shame to let the grand old building go into decline so my grandmother persuaded the .landlord to sell it to her and gradually over the next few years the students moved out we restored the house back to its original condition.  My grandmother was marvelous; she had an eye for detail and left nothing untouched, even the decoration and furniture is as it should be.  I’m so lucky to have inherited it when she died, I simply adore living there.  

It must be like living in a time capsule.  Do you like that period in history?

I love the elegance of the Georgian period, but even though the house is true to the time, it does have modern conveniences.  The plumbing for example, there are a few more bathrooms and the kitchen is completely modern.  It has of course been done sympathetically and even these modern rooms have the feel of the period.  We managed to create that with clever decoration and lighting.  All of the other rooms are as they should be with decor and furniture to match. 

Have you always lived in the city?

When I was a child, I lived in Sandycove in Dun Laoghaire.  My grandmother brought me up; my parents were both academics and travelled a lot, their work took them to the United States of America, it was no life for a child.

Do you regret the fact that your parents were not there for you?

Not, not at all.  My childhood was idyllic; I spent most of my time outdoors exploring the shore along the bay.  I discovered my first fossils there when I was about ten years old. I loved living with my grandmother; she was always there for me.  She encouraged my ambitions, she was my inspiration.

 Were you always interested in history?

Oh yes, for as long as I can remember.  My grandmother used to take me into Dublin on the DART or we’d catch a bus, they were green in those days.  Her knowledge of architecture, churches and social history was amazing.  She was full of stories and she had the ability to make history come alive.  She kept me enthralled with tales of her childhood and was always reminding me of how things used to be.  She told me of when she was a young woman working in Bewley’s on Grafton street.  All the girls who worked there had to wear a uniform; a bit like a maid and it was there she met my grandfather.  She would take me into Bewley’s for a cup of coffee and a biscuit every time we went into Dublin.  One of my most vivid memories was when she took me to the National Museum for the first time; it was an amazing experience that I shall never forget.  Most kids of my age would drag their parents to Quinnworth’s or The Fun Factory, but for me it was always the museum.  
Working here at the museum must be your dream come true.

I am the luckiest person alive; I simply adore being associated with the museum.  I think that from my very first visit I knew that one day I would become part of what we have here.  I get to work on all kinds of projects in Ireland, Britain and we have links with museums and historical groups all over Europe. 

     Did you ever want to do anything else?

I went through teenage phases just like everyone else but I always knew what I wanted to do.  I worked hard at school to get the grades I needed to secure a place at university.

You studied in London, why not Dublin? 

I wanted to move away for a while, experience life on my own, broaden my horizons so to speak and I chose London for many reasons.  I have a few cousins who live in London and there is a large Irish community so I thought I would never be homesick.  I also wanted to see a city, which boasts a population equal to that of Ireland and it was certainly something of a culture shock.  London is truly amazing, it’s a city stuffed full of historical monuments and ancient buildings, it is diverse in its population and culture and it has the most amazing buzz. 

What have you been working on recently?

I have been organising an archaeological dig, which starts in County Meath next month but first Jerry, my boyfriend and I are off on holiday.  When we get back, I’m hoping to spend a few weeks working on the dig myself.  We have a number of student archaeologists working for us at the moment and it will be good to get stuck in with them.

 Can you tell us more about this dig?

I’m afraid not, you see we have to keep these things confidential because unfortunately the moment we reveal where we are working it draws the attention of amateurs and metal detectorists.  I’m not saying that these people have no right to do what they do, often it’s their initial finds that develop into important archaeological sites.  We like to work in partnership with interested parties and I am dedicated to passing on what we learn by displaying the finds as soon as each dig is complete.

      What about your long term future, do you see any major changes on the horizon?

 I don’t think so.  There are a few projects coming up within the organisation and of course, I am involved with promoting the Belgae Torc and all the other artifacts in our collection.  I will be giving more lectures in the theatre here at the museum and there is some discussion about taking those out into the colleges and universities around the country.  There seems to be a developing interest in history in general at the moment and that is a good thing.  My grandmother always used to say, ‘look after the past and the future will take care of itself.’
Thank you to Dr Orlagh Gairne for taking time out to talk to me, Katherine Kinsella working in partnership with the Peoples Independent Irish News.  May 2016