I Love Her Rebellious Spirit
Posted by Literary Titan
To Kill a King follows a spirited archaeologist trapped in Iron Age Ireland who struggles to survive a prehistoric warrior culture. What were some sources of inspiration that informed this novel’s development?
One night, I was looking through a National Geographic and discovered photographs of Old Croghan Man, a bog body dug from the Irish peat in 2003. When I read the article and saw that he was 6’6”, about twenty-five years old, and likely a warrior-king who’d been deposed and ritually murdered in such a profound way, I was hooked. I had to tell his story and make his life and death meaningful. I hope I did that.
When I was finishing high school in my thirties, I took a course called Native Ancestry 11. I still remember the moment the text explained “animism” – the idea that everything—rocks, trees, soil, animals, clouds, moon, stars—has spiritual energy. “I know that! I’ve always known that.” That moment was the catalyst to my journey in Indigenous Studies. During my BA, I studied archaeology, anthropology, and North American Indigenous cultures. But the Indigenous cultures of Ireland and Scotland, particularly the Neolithic cultures, also intrigue me. These people were so tuned into nature; much more so than we are today.
I suppose Sorcha arose from that part of me. She’s a composite of me and several young women I’ve known, some of them Irish. I love her rebellious spirit and especially her flaws. I love that she asks for what she wants, doesn’t put up with abuse from men, swears her heart out, speaks her mind, and teaches Old Croghan Man to curse even though she’s been forbidden to change history by Cernunnos. I introduced Sorcha and her first experience seeing the Old Croghan Man artifact in Book 2, To Sleep with Stones. Because she’s gifted in psychometry when Sorcha touched the copper mounts on his leather armband, she envisioned the man’s face and that’s one of the reasons she became an archaeologist. When Cernunnos offers to take her anywhere in the world to any time and culture, Iron Age Ireland is the natural choice.
I’ve always wanted to travel back in time especially to the Celtic countries I write about. I find Diana Gabaldon of Outlander fame very inspiring. I love how Diana mixes genres, times, and cultures, and courageously tells the truth of her characters’ experiences. She doesn’t hold anything back and that courage inspires me to do likewise.
Singer-songwriter, Peter Gabriel, inspired the voice of Conall Ceol, my Druid bard. I’ve been listening to Peter’s archetypal lyrics and incredible voice for years but how could I describe it and the effect Peter’s singing has on me? I’m hoping Estrada did Conall and Peter justice with his comments about the “six-hundred-year-old yellow cedar tree that had been split by lightning” that he remembers when he hears Conall sing. The bard’s voice makes him want to “curl into Conall’s yellow cedar soul and steam.” I feel that way listening to Peter Gabriel most days.
Your characters are well defined and intriguing in their own ways. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Thank you for saying that. I’m an intuitive writer and don’t create my characters as much as allow them to speak, so I can’t take credit for their eccentricities. They arrive fully developed. I don’t outline or even plot the stories and never tell them what to do, so they often surprise me.
What I realized after writing this last book was that I’d been chronicling Estrada’s inner journey throughout the books. In To Charm a Killer, he’s a player until he falls in love with an Irish witch named Primrose who heals his past wounds. Unfortunately, that relationship doesn’t work out but, because of Primrose, To Sleep with Stones finds him drawn to the ideal of marriage and family, something new and foreign to him. His father disappeared when he was twelve and his mother abandoned him to his tyrannical uncle—this is why he’s so attracted to magic, myth, and freedom. In Stones, Estrada will do anything to save his friend Dylan from being hurt in prison and that loyalty to his friends is another of his ideals. In To Render a Raven, the ideal of self-sacrifice for the greater good arises. Estrada’s grown into being an amazing father but he’s still questioning what’s more important: freedom or family? Because he’s polyamorous, he loves both Michael and Sensara, his child’s mother, plus he’s still attracted to other people. But Raven ends in tragedy and we see how destroyed Estrada is in the beginning of To Kill a King.
The driving ideals behind Hollystone Coven prevail throughout the books. The value “to thine own self be true” arises with all the characters who are either LGBTQ or allies. The witches celebrate a myth of ecology, which is something our planet desperately needs today. The coven reveres nature so their rituals are all intended to heal the Earth; while their actions are geared at saving peoples’ lives. They fight evil and value honor, respect, and freedom. Sensara, doesn’t go to Iron Age Ireland with Estrada but she’s a healer and the matriarch of Hollystone Coven. Sensara demands truth and loyalty, but values forgiveness and love. That’s how she manages to stay attached to Estrada though he often makes her crazy.
What draws you to Irish folklore and what aspects were important for you to include in your story?
I was raised on faery stories and truly believed in faeries from childhood. Growing up, I spent a lot of time alone out in nature riding my horse and I’m sure I connected with all kinds of spirits. My father’s family, the Carrs, were Celts, so there may be some ancestral connection, but honestly, I feel it’s more a past life thing. When my daughter and I were driving through the west counties of Ireland in 2005, we turned to each other and said, “We’re home.” So, I have an intrinsic connection to Ireland and all that it is. Magic. The Irish faeries are the descendants of gods—the Tuatha de Danann (tribes of the Celtic Goddess Danu). They appear in Books 1 and 2. In To Kill a King, I weave in the Druidic lore.
And of course, Cernunnos is the Ancient Horned God of Celtic Myth. He first appears in Book 2 when Estrada invokes him along with the Celtic Oak King to help solve the murder and get Dylan released from prison. Cernunnos appears again in this story as the trickster god and is really the character who manipulates everything from time to people. I love his character because he’s such a tease and likes to play with the humans. Still, he sees something special in Estrada who he calls “shaman.”
This is book four in your Hollystone Mysteries. What can readers expect in book five?
Well, I can’t say too much since I don’t plan these things. However, at the end of To Kill a King, Estrada is given a timely gift by Cernunnos which creates an epic cliffhanger. Someone said I should have ended it before the cliffhanger, but how could I? Estrada needs this opportunity to right the wrongs and rid the world of evil. Doesn’t he? And, of course, the cast of characters, their motivations, hopes and dreams, change significantly at the end of book 4. I can’t say how. That would be giving it away. But Estrada’s already shown me some of what he’s planning and all I can say is, it will be epic.
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Posted on August 13, 2021, in Interviews and tagged author, author interview, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, historical fantasy, historical fiction, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, story, teen fiction, time travel, To Kill a King, Wendy Hawkin, writer, writing, young adult. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
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