I admit to having been a total kill-joy last Monday, writing about Lent on St. Patrick’s Day.
This week’s post will make up for that.
Even though St. Paddy’s Day isn’t a significant event in my life (likely because usually I’m in the throes of Lent at the time), the mystique of Ireland was a powerful inspiration for me in the early days of my novel-in-progress.
Not because the story itself has anything to do with Ireland (it’s set in medieval England), but instead due to some of the books I was reading and music I was listening to at the time: two fabulous works whose recommendation is a far more pleasant St. Patrick’s Day greeting (however overdue) than my blathering on about giving up indulgences and society falling apart.
Inspired by books set in Ireland
The Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier
The Sevenwaters Trilogy, written by Australian author Juliet Marillier, is a lyrical, mythic, dynastic family saga of the clan from Sevenwaters in their struggle to preserve the Old Ways and fulfill an ancient prophecy of the Tuatha Dé Danann (the Fair Folk).
The series begins with Daughter of the Forest, which is a fairytale-like retelling of the Celtic “Swans” myth – the story in which a young woman’s six older brothers are magically transformed into swans.
In order to change them back, she must weave six shirts out of nettle – which is physically painful to work with – while not once uttering a word during the long years it takes her to complete this task.
Son of the Shadows, the second book of the series is one of three books that has most directly influenced my WIP. It is narrated in a less fairytale-like tone, but tells an equally compelling story about a mysterious mercenary known as the Painted Man, and a woman whose birth – and especially whose powers – were not foreseen in any of her mother’s visions.
Most of the inspiration I obtained from this book pertained to its villain. Not so villainous per se, but rather had suffered having great responsibilities thrust upon at a young age, and grew up lacking the emotional strength to cope with the various reversals he’s suffered, he was a strong influence for my WIP’s antagonist.
The trilogy concludes with Child of the Prophecy, which chronicles the desperate actions of a woman born of a forbidden love, and sees the ancient Tuatha Dé Danann prophecy brought to its bittersweet and somewhat startling fruition.
Inspired by Irish music
Two Horizons by Moya Brennan
Anybody who enjoys new age music has likely heard of Enya, and perhaps even Clannad, the late 80s/early 90s Celtic group formed by the Brennan and Duggan families (Enya’s siblings and uncles) wherein Enya got her first start as a professional musician.
But have you heard of Moya Brennan? Moya – Enya’s older sister – was the lead singer of Clannad, and is a talented solo artist in her own right.
Like Enya (Eithne), Moya has adopted an English phonetic spelling of her name (Máire), both for ease of pronunciation among non-Irish speakers, and to distinguish between her earlier solo releases, which were a bit more Inspirational/Christian than her later material.
Two Horizons, Moya’s first new age album, was my favourite CD of 2003, and remains one of my favourite albums to listen to while writing.
It’s a concept disc and suite of recurrent musical themes that tells the evocative story of the search for the lost harp of Tara – an inner quest of the imagination that transports the listener through the ages as the harp repeatedly changes hands and travels to new and exotic lands inhabited by people living mythic lives.
The album blends modern instruments and traditional Irish ones like the Uilleann pipes, the bodhran, the fiddle, the Irish whistle, and of course, the harp.
Every track is spectacular, but standouts include the rhythmic, upbeat Bright Star, the mid-tempo, yearning ballad Change My World, the eerie, melancholic dirge Ancient Town, the wistful yet triumphant ballad, Two Horizons, and my favourite, the stirring, upbeat love song Falling, in which, while in a castle, staring at an old portrait of an Irish nobleman pictured with the harp, Moya sings,
Captured by your eyes
I can see the other side….
Still standing in your world
Still playing farewell in vain
Calling out to my hero
Calling out just to hear your name.
I can’t recommend either The Sevenwaters Trilogy or Two Horizons enough for anyone who’s either a fan of Irish mythology or is looking for to bring a touch of fantasy, beauty, and enchantment to their entertainment.
Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day!
What books or music (set in any country, of any genre) have inspired your WIP, or something you’ve previously written? Let me know in the comments.