Jane Dougherty was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in Oct. 2014, and has returned now with co-author, Ali Isaac, to tell us about a very special publication that is available just in time for Valentine’s Day!
This is what it’s all about:
Long ago in a green island surrounded by protective mists, a people lived among the relics of a bygone age of which they knew nothing, not being archaeologists, but around whom they created a mythology. They were a volatile people, easily moved to love or war, and motivated by a strict sense of honour. They had women warriors and handsome lovers, wicked queens and cruel kings, precious heroines and flawed heroes. Magic was in the air, beneath the ground, and in the waves of the sea, and hyperbole was the stuff of stories. They were the Irish, and these are a few retellings of some of their beautiful stories.
That’s all very lovely, I hear you say, but what decided us to get involved in retelling stories that, well, had already been told? We should probably explain.
Jane: I was brought up on the old Irish stories and noticed from an early age that there were the Leprechaun and the old priest type stories, and there were the Fionn Mac Cumaill and the Niall of the Nine Hostages type of stories. The former were all very well for the under nines, but they were so obviously stories, of a certain folksy historical interest, but not to be taken seriously. The mythological story cycles were a different matter entirely. These were real people doing real things. You could tell the stories were true because often the protagonists did the most unexpected and unlikely things. Just like in real life.
Just like in real life there are many versions of these stories, and one suspects the Church to be largely responsible for airbrushing out the exploits of some of the more shameless women, and sticking saints and priests in where they had no business being. As someone who loves getting to the roots of things, words, myths, ancient histories, it was a challenge but also a labour of love, peeling back the layers of propaganda and other rococo additions, to retell the stories of the real people who were our ancestors.
Ali: I had been thinking for a while that I’d really like to write a book of short stories based on tales from Irish mythology. In fact, I’d already integrated quite a few into my Conor Kelly series. When I met Jane via her blog, I discovered that she too had been writing along a similar vein. We shared the same interest in the old stories of Ireland, and had both fallen in love with the characters and their passionate, tragic lives. It just seemed natural that we would work together on a joint venture, and out of that, Grá mo Chroí, ‘Love of my Heart’ was born.
Why did we choose love stories? Good question! I had never written a love story in my life. But these were the stories we naturally gravitated to; perhaps we identified in some way with their tragic heroines, their obsessive devotion and heart-rending loss, and their valiant warrior-lovers. Perhaps we were chosen by them to tell their stories to a world which has all but forgotten them. With Valentine’s Day looming, focusing on love rather than battles and magic seemed like the right thing to do.
Here is a short excerpt from the first story in the collection, The Tragedy of Bailé and Aillinn
Bailé, the soft-spoken, left Emain Macha in the north to meet Aillinn, his betrothed. Rare was such a wedding host, and uncommonly joyful. For the king of Ulster’s only son and the daughter of the king of Leinster had made a love match. Even the sun shone bright on Bailé’s journey, the hounds danced and milled about the horses’ legs, fancy bridle bits sang silver songs in the wind, and the company was filled with joy.
Bailé left behind his own lands of Ulster, the blue lochs and gorse-yellow hills where the eagles cried. Before him, beyond the purple peaks of home, lay the low, wooded hills and the rich plains of Leinster. He saw his Aillinn in the contours of the hills, in the white plumage of the swans on the river. She was soft as new grass and spring foals, wild as the March wind, and generous as the blackbird singing to the world. His heart was full of joy that soon they would be wed and their union would bind together her rich beauty of soft hills and birdsong, and his wild majesty of the eagle and the red deer.
And if you want to know anything more about the two of us:
Jane can be found on her blog, on her FaceBook author page, or Twitter. You can find out more about her on Goodreads, and all her books are available on Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk.
You will find Ali pottering about most days on her blog, Facebook author page, or Twitter. Alternatively, you can email her at: ali (at) aliisaacstoryteller.com. Her books are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.