Have you ever really listened to an author talk about their main character? Have you noticed the spark of excitement in the telling, the hope that this person--be it historical or fictional--will please or entrance? Has a blurb or word from an author about their protagonist ever led you to reading a book and then having that "Man, I'm soooo glad I read that" feeling afterward?
This week, I'm privileged to share a blog from a fellow author and friend, Cryssa Bezos. Cryssa and I met at the last Historical Novel Society Conference in Maryland. And ironically, we share the same editor! So we naturally had a nice chat and shared a glass of wine, and I look forward to doing that again with her at future conferences. One of the things I noted in the brief time we had together was that Cryssa is "on fire" about writing. She has a boat-load of ideas for the series she's been writing and her heart is 100% in her work. Cryssa has shared a blog-piece about her main character, and I'm dying to read these books, so let's find out what she has to say about a 16th century girl from Cork, Ireland.
A Storytelling Character: Áine Callaghan of Rebel’s Knot
By Cryssa Bezos
Characters come to me in different ways. Sometimes I’ve lived with them for years before I turn them loose on a page. A few have showed up just when I’ve needed them, more or less fully formed and ready to plunge into action. Not so with Áine Callaghan. She revealed herself to me slowly along my journey from
first to final draft. This shouldn’t have surprised me, as this is in keeping with her character. Áine Callaghan of Cork is different.
Áine has always stood apart from others, and it hasn’t been easy for her. Being different, to the less imaginative, is threatening, strange and to be feared. Seventeenth-century Ireland was steeped in superstition and a belief of the Fair Folk. A woman who did not conform to traditional society was looked upon with suspicion. From a young age, Áine found herself betwixt and between. Born Catholic but raised as Protestant in a country divided by religion and politics, she never found her place. No one truly saw her until she encountered an Irish soldier, Niall O’Coneill. It was their shared tragedies and a love of old stories that knit them together.
At heart, Áine is a storyteller, and the stories, myths and legends she learned at her nan’s knee have always provided comfort. They allowed her to make sense of the violent world around her, through long years of rebellion and invasion. The mythical hero, Fionn mac Cumhaill, fighting for his land and his birthright, shared a kinship with the Irish brigades who fought the English for Ireland. A legendary warrior, Cúchulainn, single-handedly stood against an invading army, a reminder that one person could make a difference.
Telling stories was when she felt most connected with others and bound her closer to Niall.
Áine rose to her feet and imagined the misty forests of years ago, greener than new leaves and bewitched with silvery moonlight. “A long time ago, when the world of man and the Otherworld were not sealed off to each other, the Tuatha Dé Danann made Éire their home. Brightly enchanted kings and queens, they kindled the wonders of sword, spear, stone and cauldron. But with the light, there is also the dark, and not all the Tuatha Dé Danann had men’s best interests at heart.”
She threw herself into the story, tasting every word on her tongue. “Every Samhain, Aillen of the Tuatha Dé Danann would rise from the underworld to lull the men of Tara into an enchanted sleep before burning that blessed place with his hellfire. ‘Who will defend Tara from this scourge?’ the high king demanded.” Her voice rang with the authority of the ruler of Tara, and she held up her hand as though she were invoking the gods.
As though he had sprung up before her, Áine saw the hero Fionn standing before the High King of Éire, vowing to defend Tara with his very lifeblood. Only now he bore the face of Niall O’Coneill. Inspiration carried her, giving flavour to her tale. (from Rebel’s Knot)
Even though life has not been easy for Áine, she is foremost a survivor. She had the courage to escape a difficult domestic situation and seek out a new life on her own. When English marauders arrived and destroyed her new home, she managed to escape when the household was killed or taken. She used her resourcefulness to provide what she needed for food and shelter.
While Áine may have found it difficult to trust people, she easily opened her heart to animals. Before the English came, she had been a dairymaid on a prosperous estate, minding the cattle and taking care of the herd’s needs. In truth, they helped her heal her hurts and gave her purpose. A special bond grew between her and Niall’s wolfhound, Fionn, both willing to put themselves in harm’s way for each other.
With everything that Áine has gone through, tested by war and hardship, her courage defines who she is, not her tribulations. In Rebel’s Knot, she proves to have the courage to confront her demons and sever their hold over her.
• Mystical forest: Depositphotos License #82947964
• Fionn mac Cumhaill: Illustration by Stephen Reid - AllPosters.com, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Rebel's Knot Blurb
Ireland 1652: In the desperate, final days of the English invasion of Ireland . . .
A fey young woman, Áine Callaghan, is the sole survivor of an attack by English marauders. When Irish soldier Niall O'Coneill discovers his own kin slaughtered in the same massacre, he vows to hunt down the men responsible. He takes Áine under his protection and together they reach the safety of an encampment held by the Irish forces in Tipperary.
Hardly a safe haven, the camp is rife with danger and intrigue. Áine is a stranger with the old stories stirring on her tongue and rumours follow her everywhere. The English cut off support to the brigade, and a traitor undermines the Irish cause, turning Niall from hunter to hunted.
When someone from Áine's past arrives, her secrets boil to the surface—and she must slay her demons once and for all.
As the web of violence and treachery grows, Áine and Niall find solace in each other's arms—but can their love survive long-buried secrets and the darkness of vengeance?
Violence, references to sexual/physical abuse.
All About Cryssa
Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and a seventeenth century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction, a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel, Severed Knot, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chaucer Award. A third book in the standalone series, Rebel's Knot, was published November 2021.
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