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Q: What interests you so much about Arthurian Britain? Why did you choose that period in history to write about?
A: I have always enjoyed puzzles. Early Britain as told from the Celtic point of view first piqued my interest while reading a novel in high school about the Roman invasion. Later, Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy from the 1970’s, helped me to discover the historical side of the Arthurian legend. Curiosity got the upper hand and I kept reading, first some of the books mentioned in the Author’s Notes in one of Stewart’s books, then branching out from there. I have been studying this for twenty years and the fascination does not show any sign of stopping. Because so little is known about Dark Age Britain, the attempt to enlighten readers with a clearer and more unique perspective of it is a tremendous but rewarding challenge. This was Britain before there was an England, Scotland or Wales. It was comprised of around fifty tiny kingdoms, fighting amongst each other probably as much as they fought invaders. What better environment from which to create stories?
And as a sideline, in the process of continuing research, I have also discovered my ancestry is Celtic – Welsh and Scottish – which spurs me on even more.
Q: How historically accurate do you try to be in your books? Are your characters, aside from those we all are familiar with, based upon legend or history, or have you simply invented them?
A: I have tried to be as close to reality and historically accurate as possible in the background. The characters taken from the legend are suspected to be historical figures, although many of them have not been absolutely proven, which is why they remain in the realm of legend. Myrddin (Merlin) is especially enigmatic and it is conjectured that he is a composite of three historical figures. Arthur himself, who actually isn’t born yet by the end of In the Shadow of Dragons, has never been proven as an historical figure. Others, like Ambrosius, Uther, Ceredig of Strathclyde, and Octa the Saxon leader, most probably were real. The lead characters of Marcus and Claerwen, and their family are fictional.
Q: Though your books are not ‘fantasy’ in the most traditional sense, there are elements of the fantastic in them. How much leeway do you allow yourself as an author to develop the magical skills of your characters? Do you have a standard with regard to how far you are willing to stretch reality when it comes to magic and the supernatural?
A: The ‘fantasy’ element is limited to ‘fire in the head,’ a form of second sight. I cast it as a part of pagan spirituality, a ‘gift from the gods,’ so to speak. Although Christianity was slowly creeping into society in those times, Druidry still existed in remote places like where the main characters come from. I want the books to have a spiritual feel more than a ‘high fantasy’ feel. Otherwise, the books are generally conceived and written as historical fiction.
Q: Would you describe your books as character driven, driven by historical fact or legend, or plot driven?
A: Character driven is by far the best description, although the other factors are certainly there as well. The plot is fitted out within the framework of what history we do know of Dark Age Britain and the legend, but the characters drive the action with their wants, needs, tempers, loves, hates, excess emotional baggage, and so on.