– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘The Children Of Lir’ blogtour, organised by Fraser’s Fun House.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
Marion Grace Woolley writes dark fiction and historical fantasy from her home in Kigali. When she’s not writing her own material, she edits technical reports, ghostwrites biographies, and is attempting to build the first piano in Rwanda.
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Word/page count: 119,000 words/467 pages
Publication Date: August 15th 2019
A curse that lasted 900 years, a legend that lasted forever.
From the Iron Age of Ireland to the dawn of Christianity, this epic retelling traverses the realms of magic and sorcery. From the fort of Fionnachaidh to the watery wastes of Sruth na Maoile, it tells of the downfall of an ancient race and the children caught in its wake.
Grieving for the loss of his wife, King Lir marries her younger sister, Aoife. Jealous of her husband’s children she calls on the power of the Aos Sí and their Phantom Queen, making a bargain that will cost her life.
The children, turned to swans, are cast out upon the waves in an adventure that sees empires rise and fall as centuries pass. Eventually, they must choose between the world they once knew and a future they do not understand.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’ve always loved writing stories. I’d make them up even in primary school, but spelling and grammar took a lot longer to master. I was very into MUDs, which are online text-based adventures, and that really helped to feed my interest. A friend showed me how to start building them and it was a real kick to see people walking around a world I’d created and interacting with the characters. It helped me to understand the importance of description and dialogue.
I was about twenty-seven when I wrote my first novel, Lucid. I was a volunteer Sign Language researcher in Rwanda at the time. I didn’t have a television or a radio, and books were hard to come by, so I had a lot of spare time in the evenings and few distractions. I wrote it to see whether I could make the word count as I’d never written anything that long before. I caught the bug and haven’t looked back since.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I have very fond memories of the Puddle Lane series, which were children’s books with text on one side and a picture on the other. Under the picture was a sentence from the text in large print. My dad would make me read the sentence before he would continue with the rest of the story, so they really helped me learn to read.
Later, I loved Fighting Fantasy books, Point Horror – anything a little bit dark. Then graduated onto Stephen King and Terry Pratchett in my teens. I used to love going book shopping with my parents, just looking at the covers, reading the backs and taking in the smell of a new book.
Nowadays, I read very eclectically. I like factual books like Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads, as I like to learn about human development. I also like writers such as Nii Parkes, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Madeline Miller, and quirky stuff like Jorge Luis Borges. If it’s a good story, I’ll pick it up.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I’m at a stage now where I teach English and creative writing, so I feel fairly confident in my own abilities, but there are definitely writers who have inspired me and who I greatly admire. Stephen King’s On Writing is obviously up there as an excellent guide to writing, and Joel Stickley’s 101 Ways to Write Badly Well, which takes examples of bad writing to the extreme and is very comical, so you remember the lessons because you’re laughing so much.
I hugely admire the style of authors like Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Arundhati Roy. There’s a really lyrical quality to their writing which reads like poetry. They make it look so easy, but there’s a fine line between poetic and verbose. Reading them is a masterclass in how to do it well.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I think I’d avoid my own characters. Most of them are the kind of people you would go to lunch with and end up as the main course.
It might be entertaining to attend a feast at Pratchett’s Unseen University, but being a woman, I’m not sure I’d be welcome. I think Yhatzee Crowshaw’s Diablerie would be a fascinating, if extremely chaotic, dinner guest. The house might not be standing afterwards. So, I think I’d opt for tea with Howl and Sophie at Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Afterwards, I’d like to play with the magic door.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I’m not really a creature of habit. I don’t have any writing routines, but once I’ve finished a novel, I like to take a hard copy somewhere nice and edit it in the garden of a restaurant with a coffee. I was travelling with a friend after finishing The Children of Lir and did the hard edit in Kibuye, on the shores of Lake Kivu in western Rwanda. It’s an utterly stunning location with lush, green islands and spectacular sunsets. You see the lamps of the fishing boats in the evening, and the fishermen singing as they bring in the catch. It was the perfect setting to finish up a legend about the sea.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
Ideas tend to come to me either through travelling or from history, folklore and interesting things that I’ve read. My first published novel was called Angorichina, which was about a place in South Australia that I stayed for a night. It was a backpackers’ hostel that had once been a TB sanatorium. The Children of Lir is based on a story I first read on a trip to southern Ireland with my family. It’s hard to say where ideas come from. I think you fall in love with many things throughout your life, but not all of those passions have enough gusto to go for ninety to a hundred-thousand words. Often a book is a conglomeration of ideas that all sort of compliment each other and fall into place. When you’re interested in something, you want to share that enthusiasm and put it into words.
My characters are usually a patchwork of experiences and emotions taken from many sources. I don’t base them specifically on any one person that I know. When you write fiction, I think you have to let go of the world around you, otherwise you start dragging it into your stories and the real world shapes what you say. It places judgements and preconceptions on your writing, and I think readers notice that.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I’m an unequivocal pantser. I very rarely plan anything. The downside of that is that you don’t always know if you’ve got a viable story when you start, but a good story tends to tell itself. You navigate your way through it. I like to be surprised by where the story goes. I’ve always found it difficult to pace endings because, once I know what the ending is, I’m ready tolet go. Sometimes I have very clear scenes in my head that I know I want to get in there somewhere, but I don’t always find an appropriate place, or, by the time I get there, the scene has changed. I think it’s good to set off along a path, but if you’re too focused on what’s in front of you, sometimes you miss the most interesting detours.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Boring as it sounds, grammar is your best friend. Content’s great, but grammar gives your story pace. None of us manage it all of the time, but you’re aiming to be so smooth your reader doesn’t realise they’re reading. Language is a type of magic for making people see things, creating worlds in their heads, so you need to learn to cast the spell. When you get it right, the images become more vivid than print on paper.
That aside, read lots. Don’t just read for pleasure, but read to learn how other people write. What makes it good? Practice different styles of writing. Push outside your comfort zone and genre. Pastiche is a great way to deconstruct language and add to your skills.
Finally, write about the things you’re fascinated by. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert in the subject, you can learn. You have Wiki, YouTube, books and a world of experts just an e-mail away. The details are important, but fill them in as you go. Don’t let them hold you back from a good story.
What are your future plans as an author?
Just to keep writing. I’ve recently finished a manuscript about post-mortem photography, split between Victorian England and the present day. I have another planned about ancient Sumer. So long as I keep having ideas, I’ll keep putting them to paper.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
Sure. Here’s a little taster from Aoife. She’s one of the key characters of the ancient legend, the wicked stepmother who turned her children to swans. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but this is the first time we meet her at the Feast of Age:
Lir had arrived. Sidh-ar-Femhin was awash with the fact.
“Did you see his son holding their banner high? He could barely announce himself,” one drunk slurred through a mouthful of mead.
“There’s nothing of him to announce,” another joined in. “His clothes hang from him and his hair looks moon-stained. I reckon he was summoned, for he did not look glad to be here.”
My head was swimming with soma, the sparks of the fire spoke to me in riddles and rhyme.
“He’s come,” they whispered, their voices crackling like burnt twigs. “He’s here, he’s come.”
I swept them away with one hand and reclined, losing myself in the soft strings of the cláirseach. I did not wish to think on Lir, for his face held many reflections of my past. In his children I saw my sister’s face, and in their voices I heard her sing. It reminded me how alone I was. How alone I had always been. As the youngest of Oilell’s daughters, my heart had been left behind upon the shores of Aran. Aobh and Ailbhe were strong, but I was not. I cowered every day of our early years. A shadow in the glowing flame of Bodb’s constant light. Every time Queen Medb touched me it felt like ice and I shivered. My sisters tell me I was too young to remember our mother, but some senses transcend memory: her touch, her kisses, her scent.
Sometimes she would come to me in dreams, or in the visions of the dark juice which quenched my thirst for escape. I lived for the rituals and the holy days when we emptied the blood of animals upon the land and sucked down the sacred potions which allowed us to leave our bodies, to race with the hares and the wild horses, to sink beneath the sea with the selkies, the merrows and the slow-moving monsters of the deep.
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Marion Grace Woolley.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!