It’s rare that I come across a relatively unknown author that blows me away. However, having read the first book by Moire Criomtainn, Tale on a Parchment, I can only bow and say ‘I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”
I like to think I pack in a lot of great historical detail in my work, without bogging the story down and yet maintaining that vital verisimilitude that most historical fiction authors crave. However, Ms. Criomtainn blows me away in that regard. Her first book was a delightful journey, using an archaeological discovery as a passage into the ancient Irish past. I’m certain the sequel will be just as fascinating and lush.
Here is my interview with the author:
a trilogy in seventh century Ireland and Wales
Promise on a Parchment, Book II
Book III in progress
- Where do you get your ideas?
There are two kinds of ideas: the first is the larger, overarching project idea, where you can see the bigger picture and have some sense of where you want it to go, and then the second kind are the smaller details. The first kind, the bigger idea, comes to me somewhat intuitively, but based on previous general knowledge. Having had an interest in Ireland and Wales in the pre-Christian and early Christian periods for a long time now, and having done a lot of research on them, I can see where certain people or historical events might fit together nicely. The smaller details come to me as I go along. For example, am I going to write two brothers for Dewi into the story or just one? Is Tara going to have an affair with Christopher? Is Macha blonde or auburn?
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Definitely energizes me. I have to force myself to take breaks from the computer screen. I could write 18 hours a day if I did not need to eat and do laundry and other things!
- I think I would die if I wrote 18 hours a day! What is your writing process like?
I always make a sort of outline first. I might already know some events or people or locations that I want to write into the story, but am not sure where to place them at first. So I begin to “sketch” a basic story line, and as I go along, I “try on” different events, people, locations or other details in different parts of the story. Eventually this gets divided into draft chapters, and then I start working on it chapter by chapter. Sometimes I might think of something that really needs to be in the book several chapters ahead…..so I will open the document for a chapter maybe 5 or 6 chapters ahead and type in a note to myself to make sure I add that thing. Sometimes it can be very simple, and other times it can be several lines long. In other words, I never let any idea go astray….they all get written down and accounted for. Even in the final proofreading of a chapter or the entire book, I take notes on what is missing or what needs to be changed or moved. After the proofreading, I go back and make those other changes. Writing IS an interactive process…you go back and forth, all the time. We all think the finished product is almost the same as the first draft, but that’s not the case most of the time.
- What does literary success look like to you?
To have entertained the reader, to have given the reader some food for thought, and to have provided them with some real historical background. Regarding the latter, that’s why I provide footnotes – to let the reader know as they go along that certain things in the story line were not invented by me, but were actual events or people. I was very amused with the details of Ceindrych’s first husband: all true!
- I adore footnotes, but I’m terrible in making my own. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a piece?
I research as I go along, because I already have some historical knowledge. Sometimes I might spend a whole afternoon looking at maps, or looking up various historical figures including saints, until I find what I need to fit neatly into the story. For example, I had to read about several different rulers before finding what I wanted in King Oswald. There are also layers of research: for some things I need to look more deeply than others. Much of my research is done on line, but several times a year I use the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. There I can double check some information I got on line but did not feel confident about. When I go there during term time, the library is open until 10pm, and I often am there until that time. Being in the library for 10 or 12 hours would be normal for me. In fact, something I found there was crucial for the final chapter in Book III, and I otherwise would not have been able to get my hands on it. So behind much of the details in my books are hours and hours of reading on peripheral topics. If you dig enough in historical reports and chronicles, you don’t need to invent a lot: history provides it for you.
- Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I would not call them secrets, but there certainly are layers of meaning which I do not reveal openly.
Moire Criomtainn lives in the Irish countryside, very near to the territory once called Tethba, a place which is featured in her writing. Surrounded by friends and of course, her hounds, she has often visited the very places mentioned in her novels. With a keen interest in history and a love of historical research, she weaves real historical events, people and places into the fiction she writes in order to make history come alive for her readers and provide a sense of authenticity.
Book II of her Crossing the Seas of Time trilogy (Promise on a Parchment) is to be released on Amazon, and Book I of the trilogy (Tale on a Parchment) will be relaunched along with it in the first week of April 2018. Taking place in seventh century Ireland and Wales, it is an old monk’s account of a remarkable woman named Macha, born as an “old soul” and eventually answering the call to carry out what she was born to do. A substory taking place in the twenty-first century ties into Macha’s story, and reaches across the centuries to tie the two stories together.
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