A curse that lasted 900 years, a legend that lasted forever.
From the Iron Age of Ireland to the dawn of Christianity, this epic retelling traverses the realms of magic and sorcery. From the fort of Fionnachaidh to the watery wastes of Sruth na Maoile, it tells of the downfall of an ancient race and the children caught in its wake.
Grieving for the loss of his wife, King Lir marries her younger sister, Aoife. Jealous of her husband’s children she calls on the power of the Aos Sí and their Phantom Queen, making a bargain that will cost her life.
The children, turned to swans, are cast out upon the waves in an adventure that sees empires rise and fall as centuries pass. Eventually, they must choose between the world they once knew and a future they do not understand.
Did or do you like to read comic books/grapic novels? Which ones?
Hello Els, I don’t so much anymore, but when I was growing up my friends and I would stop by the village shop on the way home to get the latest issue of the Beano and the Dandy, then sit eating sweets and reading them. I think I still have some back issues somewhere.
Nowadays, I’ve thrown myself into Audible, because I can listen in the shower, whilst cooking and doing other things. But there are definitely a couple that stand out for me. One is Red Rosa by Kate Evans, a graphic novelisation of the life of Rosa Luxemburg, which was extremely well done. I also like anything dark and a bit quirky, so Neil Gaiman’s Mr. Punch was delicious.
Whom did you inherit your love for books/reading from?
My parents. Both my mum and dad love books and I grew up surrounded by them. Mum had a lot of books on art and handcrafts, and a few big, illustrated collections of fairytales. Dad loves mysteries and thrillers. Some of my fondest memories are of visiting Dillons, which was the main bookshop before Waterstones took over the world, and picking out Point Horror and Fighting Fantasy books. He invested a lot of time in teaching me to read, and they both told me bedtime stories every night. I think parents are a huge influence on a child’s love of reading. It’s that special time you spend at the end of the day, going on an adventure together.
When you need a murder victim or someone you can diagnose with a serious disease or someone who is involved in a fatal accident do you sometimes picture someone nasty you have met in real life and think ‘got you”?
Hah. That’s a really great question.
Actually, no. For me, writing is escapism, so I try to leave real-life people at the door. It’s tempting at times, but all of my characters are really an amalgamation of lots of emotions and experiences, rather than drawn from one source. They’re the most interesting parts of many people. As I mentioned, I’m drawn to the dark side in fiction, so often take the role of the evil-doer, as with Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran. The people I kill off are as likely to be sweet and innocent as they are to deserve it. Often, my baddies are less moral than anyone I’ve ever met.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Usually they just come to me, but if I’m writing something historical or about another country, I try to find names with meanings that suit the character. With The Children of Lir, those names are already there, laid down in Irish legend, so I don’t need to think about it much. Other characters, such as Sheyda in Rosy Hours, means lovesick, which she was. Or Afsar, crown, which she desperately hoped to gain.
On rare occasions, when I’ve been very stuck, I’ve scanned through my spam folder on e-mail. You find some really interesting names in there and can mix and match.
Do write other things beside books (and shoppinglists 😉 )?
I do. When I’m not writing my own stuff, I edit and write technical reports for international development agencies. Things like reports into global immunisation, the refugee crisis, solar energy, and national strategic plans. It’s a very broad range. I’ve recently been working on e-courses as diverse as water management and gender-based violence.
I’m also a ghostwriter, and I have helped write biographies and edit other people’s life stories and novels.
Ideally, I’d like to write fiction all day, but non-fiction and technical writing help pay the bills.
If your movie or series would be made from your books, would you be happy with the ‘based on’ version or would you rather like they showed it exactly the way you created it?
I think it depends entirely on who’s making it and how well you get on. If you have to give somebody line-by-line directions, then they haven’t understood it. Coming from a drama school background, I strongly believe in the power of collaboration in enhancing art. What you write can be good, but what you create together can be great. Stories, once born, need to make their own way in the world. No two readers ever read exactly the same story, so I don’t think you can expect an adaptation to represent the exact words you wrote. It’s better that it encapsulates the spirit of the work.
There are some books I’ve enjoyed more as films and series, others where I thought the book was better, and some that I love equally as both a book or a film, but for different reasons. David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is a good example of that. The book is astonishing in the way it’s written, but you couldn’t convey the literary parts of it in film. Similarly, you can’t hear the Cloud Atlas Sextet from between the pages of the book.
You’ve got to have a bit of creative license when switching between mediums, and you just hope that license adds to the experience.
Who would you like/have liked to interview?
I think I’ll go with Aimé Césaire. He was a poet from Martinique, much in the vein of Edward Lear. I dipped into an English translation at a friend’s house once and thought it was fabulous. To give an example from Investiture: flight of cays of manchineels of pebbles of a stream ballista intimacy of the breath. Everything’s completely disjointed, yet beautiful. I suppose I’d like to see if he actually spoke that way. Sort of like you expect Dr. Seuss to open a dinner party with, “I will not eat green eggs and ham!” I’m sure he didn’t, but I’d love to know where all that imagery came from.
Do you have certain people you contact while doing research to pick their brains? What are they specialized in?
Very much so. I rely on my friends a lot, they all have talents I can tap, people who have worked in medicine, the legal system, who speak different languages. My friend Ruairí is Irish and speaks Gaeilge fluently, which came in handy with The Children of Lir.
When I don’t know someone personally, I try to contact academics and enthusiasts in the field. Many are very busy, and when you mention fiction, you don’t always get a response, but sometimes they really come through. I’ve just finished a novel about post-mortem photography, which was tricky as I knew nothing about photographic processes when I started. A gentleman called Mike Robinson from Century Darkroom was extremely generous with his time and answered so many questions.
For me, it is important to try to get the details right. To create a story that didn’t happen, but might have done.
Is there someone you sometimes discuss a dilemma with?
Whoever I happen to be drinking with.
Again, my friends mostly, though not that often. I think it’s sometimes hard to convey a dilemma you’ve spent twenty or fifty-thousand words building up to, without sending someone to sleep recounting the intricacies of it. The answer is usually at the back of my mind somewhere, and if it isn’t, perhaps it shouldn’t be written. I think not talking about dilemmas, and doing something completely different, is sometimes a faster way of finding a solution than dwelling on it and talking yourself round in circles. You take on responsibility as an author for working out how to tell the story.
What is more important to you: a rating in stars with no comments or a reviewer who explains what the comments they give are based on (without spoilers of course)
Reviews are a tricky subject. I try not to place too much weight on them either way. I once had a glowing review from someone who loved one of my books, but within the review there were a lot of mistakes about what happened, who things happened to and even when the book was set. To the point I started to wonder whether they’d actually read the same book. But it was five-star, so made me feel good.
Then I found one really unpleasant review written in Russian. I didn’t realise what it was until I put it through Google Translate. It was extremely full-on, and should have felt quite devastating, but when I do read negative reviews, I always ask myself two questions: 1. who is writing this, whose opinion is it, and 2. is it meant with kindness?
The opinion of family and friends means a lot, because it’s personal, and I respect their opinion. Coming from people I don’t know, I respect the negative if it’s an honest opinion and it’s offered with kindness rather than malice. I think too many new writers take to heart reviews they really shouldn’t. Not everybody will like your book, but if they drop you a line just to tell you how bad they thought it was, is it worth my time reading? You’ve got to be a little protective of yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t write anything again.
To give a long-winded answer to your question, I think reviews are more for other readers, to inform them whether this is a book they might like or not. As an author, the book is written, I can’t change it. If I could, I couldn’t change it to please everyone, because everyone has different tastes. So, a detailed review is probably more helpful to other readers than simply a star rating.
Thank you, Marion Grace Woolley and Fraser’s Fun House.
About the author
Marion Grace Woolley writes dark fiction and historical fantasy from her home in Kigali. When she’s not writing her own material, she edits technical reports, ghostwrites biographies, and is attempting to build the first piano in Rwanda.