Best Known Works: Son of the Sun
Where You Can Find Them: Facebook
Top Writing Tip: Find something that you are passionate about, and write that. It's easier when you're excited about what you are writing about!
When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my first "story" when I was three years old. It was illustrated with stick figure drawings, and went: "Once upon a time there was a happy family with a mommy and a daddy and a big sister and a little sister and a dog. The end." I haven't stopped writing since then. It is as necessary and inherent to my being as breath.
When did you realize you were Pagan?
I had been devouring anything I could about Celtic history and Druidry for some time, like a person who has just crawled through the desert might guzzle water, filling a hole I hadn't previously realized needed filling. I made it "official" when I self-initiated on Beltaine of 1999 with a ritual of my own design. It would be years before I met another Druid in person, though I read every inch of the OBOD's website and was very active on their message boards for many years.
What were the main life experiences that led to this book?
I have been rather obsessed with the Ulster Cycle since before I even truly considered myself Pagan, when I was just beginning to learn our history. It started with Red Branch by Morgan Llewellyn and the album A Celtic Tale by Mychael and Jeff Danna. Historical fiction novels, and music as well, for me, often prompt me into further research because I want to know more (and what was muse for that writer/musician and what was "canon"). It would be an honor to me if my novel did that for someone else, especially as I wrote it from Laeg's perspective and so explanations that he would not have known, I did not detail.
Is this your first published piece?
Yes. This is the first book I've ever written that I still liked when it was done, and wanted to show to the world. The books I wrote in my teens and twenties my friends read, but after I wrote them, I felt they were awful.
How did the topic of the book come to you?
As I said earlier, I had been obsessed with the story for years, but had never really considered doing my own take on it for most of that time. It began to solidify in my mind probably after I read Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy, where she told the story with the generally now agreed upon idea that Alexander the Great was gay. I had long felt that that was the case with CuChulainn; seeing it done with Alexander inspired me to make the case with CuChulainn.
Tell us a little bit about your novel.
Son of the Sun is the story of CuChulainn, the half Dannan, half mortal son of Lugh Lamfada, as told from the perspective of Laeg macRiangabair, his charioteer (and in my version, his husband). CuChulainn and Laeg are both historical persons, but the story is over two thousand years old, and like so many of our Pagan stories, has been mythologized, propagandized, forgotten, distorted, and edited through many lenses, Pagan and Christian, scornful and romanticized. CuChulainn is the nephew to the king of Ulster, Connor macNessa, and quickly earns a reputation as a warrior hero, and becomes the king's champion. CuChulainn is described as what we might call a "berserker" in battle, but reserved and brilliant otherwise; this is generally attributed to his Otherworldly abilities, but I also believe, like modern day warriors who "berserk" on the battlefield, that there is some mental illness at play. His mother is considered touched, and it's not hard to imagine that being known as a demigod from the day you were born and being raised by a mad mother and a stepfather who might resent the God who bedded his wife, and subsequently the child that came of it, might take its toll. So I tried to be very human in some respects while also running with the Otherworldly manifestations of spirit in physical form.
Is this work published or self-published? And what was your experience?
I self-published through Amazon. There is a bit of a learning curve involved, especially as this was my first time doing it and I am a one person show, but overall the experience was good. Amazon puts out free Kindle books that detail how to format for their platform, and these were the most helpful tools for me. The most frustrating thing was catching an error, or not thinking about a difference in formatting between print and ebook, and having to go back and correct it for what felt like the ten billionth time. I finally realized I was probably never going to achieve perfection, and so I let a big glaring error slide in the end... chapter two got deleted from the table of contents. I call it the hidden track, like on a CD: on the album, just not in the liner notes.
Do you plan your stories before you begin?
Yes, now I do. With Son of the Sun, I knew the story by heart so well, I didn't need an outline as much as I needed a reminder checklist: don't forget x, then y, then z. I of course did a ton of research for details and names and such, and added in a part or two I didn't remember at all before doing said research (the whole Derbforgaille story is actually weirder than I wrote it, so I just had to include it). The structure was already in my head. With the new book, I actually started it twice and aborted both of those attempts as it was either too rambling or too compacted; I wrote an outline to pace myself and restarted and am now happy with how it's going.
Do we see some of you in your book?
Yes, I am all over this book, in different parts and in different characters. I think that's probably true of a lot of fiction writers; we have to relate to our characters first if we're to make them relatable to others. The piece that probably most people would catch was my decision to make Emer asexual. She does not bear CuChulainn any children, and the "bitter straight wife of a gay man" trope is overdone to me. Making her conveniently a lesbian didn't feel right either, as by all accounts she loved CuChulainn very much (and only grew jealous when he schtupped a Goddess, if you believe that version of the story). So a contentedly intimate but nonsexual relationship seemed right to me.
Are you a fast writer or a slow writer?
I'm probably on the slow end. My goal for the first draft of Son of the Sun was to complete it in a year and a day, and I finished it a few days after that self-imposed deadline. Then edits, and formatting, and making a cover when I am technologically challenged... and of course transposing the whole thing into a Word document, as I write first drafts on my typewriter, Amergin... all took much longer than I'd anticipated.
What one book do you wish you had written?
Just one? Egads. Can I say the whole Alexander trilogy, or perhaps the Sevenwaters trilogy by Juliet Marillier?
Who encourages or inspires you?
You can probably guess that Mary Renault inspires me; I adore her books! My friends online encourage me daily.
Where in the world would you most like a writing retreat?
Ireland (were you expecting a different answer?)!
What are your future plans for writing?
The book I am working on now is called Tales From The Northern Winds, and it is a novel about the Tuatha De Dannan. It's not a small time frame, as in the Invasion Cycle, though it does include that and reaches to present day and immediate future.
Thank you Wren, for giving us a glimpse into your process and your passion! We wish you all the best with Son of the Sun and look forward to reading your next novel!