Shauna Lawless is an avid reader of Irish mythology and folklore. As an Irish woman, she loves that Irish mythology has inspired so many stories over the years, however, she wanted to explore the history and mythology of Ireland in a more authentic way. She lives in Northern Ireland with her family.
Welcome to my favourite section of the blog, interviews with the authors. Today we are accompanied by Shauna Lawless, author of the recently published by Head of Zeus Children of Gods and Fighting Men, first book in the Gael Song trilogy.
Let’s dive in!
1.- The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is your first novel, but how much time has passed since you started writing to being published? It is your first novel or just the first published?
I’ve been writing for most of my life. When I started, I was about six or seven and I wrote lots of stories about animals, very much inspired by The Animals of Farthing Wood. I wrote my first novel when I was nineteen, however, I didn’t write much in my twenties. A few short stories here and there. It wasn’t until I turned thirty, that I decided to make more time for it. This wasn’t much to start with, just an hour every other evening when my husband put the children to bed, but I kept going. I wrote a novel that didn’t find an agent, and then I started on The Children of Gods and Fighting Men – and it was published when I had just turned 38. That’s eight years of writing ‘seriously’ before my book was published.
2.- As people might be interested in how you get traditionally published, could you tell us more about the process (more referring to the query process)?
It is difficult and can be quite draining. Be prepared for that – and keep the ‘submitting process’ as separate from the ‘writing process’ as possible, otherwise, you can find it taking away from the joy of creating new stories. My key tip is to find agents who represent your genre. Have a look at novels that you love (and that are similar) to see who represents those authors. You can usually find this in the acknowledgement section of the book.
3.- Correct me if I’m wrong, but in principle, The Gael Song will be a trilogy, does writing subsequent books feels easier?
Yes, it is a trilogy. The worldbuilding is set up in book 1 – and the characters are established, so in some senses, subsequent books are easier. However, it’s always a challenge to keep the story engaging and moving whilst ensuring that the characterisation is correct.
4.- CoGaFM is situated in a really convulsed historical moment, what could you tell us about it? What made you choose it?
This is an era of Irish history where the Viking invasions have been a huge issue for Ireland, however, the Viking families have settled in the ports of Dublin and Wexford and begun to marry into the Irish royal families. And so, it’s a time of two cultures coming together and seeking to use each other for their own advancement. This also creates economic change in Ireland as the southern kings suddenly become wealthy, more so than the northern kings who have held the High Kingship of Ireland for hundreds of years. So really, a time of upheaval, with some very famous historical characters. For me, conflict is always great to have in a story, and this period of history has so much of it.
5.- Story is focused around two women, and written in two different first-person PoV, which challenges did this bring to you?
Ah yes, some people have commented on using 1st person POV’s for two characters. It’s not overly common as usually first person is used for books that only have one main character. Therefore, the main challenge was making sure that Gormflaith and Fódla were very different, so that their voices and world were unique to each other, even though they both live in Ireland. 1st Person POV is a very powerful voice to use, especially for characters that scheme as much as Gormflaith. You, the reader, can see her schemes, whereas other characters she interacts with do not.
6.- Could you tell us more about the mythology that inspired the relicts mentioned?
The Mythological Cycle of Irish mythology is where most of my inspiration came from. If you read those legends, it tells us of how the Tuatha Dé Danann came to Ireland and the wars they fought with their Fomorian rivals. If you wanted to read one story, The Second Battle of Moytura would have the most relevance.
7.- Gifts are an important part of the magic in this book, how does it work? It’s the same for both sides?
Ha, well, this again is based on the Mythological Cycle – and I don’t want to give too much away because we find out more about them in the second book. But essentially, each member of the Tuatha Dé Danann has a ‘gift’ of which there are nine. These are druid, witch, healer, prophet, cupbearer, harpist, warrior, and weapon-maker. And then there was one member of the Tuatha Dé Danann called Lugh – and he possessed all the gifts. The Fomorians’ gift is only ever fire magic.
8.- What can we expect from Shauna Lawless in the future?
I have finished book 2 in The Gael Song series called The Words of Kings and Prophets. I am currently writing book 3! After that… who knows… but I could certainly stay in this world for a while longer!