A warm Scottish welcome to lovely Irish-American writer Pat McDermott, who successfully blends real life and myth to create a little bit of fairy magic set in modern Ireland. In her wonderful YA novel Glancing Through the Glimmer, and subsequent books, read about the US Ambassador to Ireland’s granddaughter, a young Prince, and their struggles against the powerful Fairy World. But first, Pat kindly agreed to answer the following questions. Thank you, Pat!
Tell us a little about how you became a writer.
Before I do, I’d like to thank you for inviting me to visit Flights of Imagination today, Rosemary. It’s a pleasure to be here. (You’re very welcome!)
When I was growing up, my family included some talented storytellers. My father concocted most of the bedtime stories he told to my siblings and me. His tales often kept me awake for hours, they left me so enchanted. I wanted to tell enchanting stories too. I’ve attended writing classes over the years, but my own children were nearly grown before I started putting ideas on paper seriously. I entered one of my short stories in the 74th Writer's Digest Annual Writing contest and received an Honorable Mention for children's fiction. That award gave my confidence enough of a boost to finish my first novel, A Band of Roses.
What made you write for middle grade/YA readers?
Glancing Through the Glimmer is the young adult 'prequel' to my “Band of Roses” trilogy, coming soon from MuseItUp Publishing. I’d already written the trilogy when an acquaintance suggested the YA angle. I found I loved writing about my 'Roses' characters as teenagers, and adding a touch of fairy magic made it an ideal tale for young adults of all ages.
The Scottish legend of Tam Lin and the Irish myths surrounding Finvarra, the King of the Connaught Fairies, helped inspire the story, which takes place in a modern Ireland ruled by kings descended from High King Brian Boru. What girl can resist a handsome young prince? And the story has enough adventure to keep the boys intrigued.
Your books are set around Ireland and fantasy – is there a particular reason for that?
My O’Brien grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the early 20th century. I grew up hearing the myths, the songs, and the history. My vision of Ireland was one of magical legends and ancient kings, banshees and leprechauns, rebels and outlaw heroes, yet as a second generation Irish-American, I’ll never really know what it is to be truly Irish.
My two O’Brien aunts, who are both Irish history buffs, assured me that we were descended from Irish royalty (isn’t everyone who’s Irish?). From one of their frequent trips to Ireland, they brought home a copper statue of High King Brian Boru, and I wanted to know more about him. Everything I found said how sad it was that Brian didn’t survive the Battle of Clontarf, as Ireland would be a very different place today. I began to wonder . . . what if he had survived?
Did you have to do a lot of research for this novel?
I do lots of research before I start a story, and I’ve done it often enough to know that the Irish proverb, “Seeking one thing often leads to another,” is true. I’m confident that when I conduct research, I’ll uncover lots of tidbits that will inspire unique plot twists.
Research also helps me to feel confident with my subject matter. Or as confident as one can feel when dealing with Irish fairies. For Glancing Through the Glimmer, which is based on Irish mythology, I went straight to my aunts and their spectacular collection of antique Irish books. I also did some digging into the duties of the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. My heroine, Janet, is the ambassador’s sixteen-year-old granddaughter, and I had to know where she lived, why she hated her new home so much, and how her grandparents' formal social life affected her.
Do you think reading is important for young people today, and why?
Reading is important for everyone, not only to discover new ideas, but also to help maintain mental acuity. For young people, reading can be a developmental adventure that will show them the possibilities life holds. Young readers can often find comfort meeting characters with problems similar to theirs or find an escape from the stress of growing up. My own children were voracious readers who loved to go off on impossible adventures, or experience the sheer enjoyment of learning about the people and places in our extraordinary world.
Did you read a lot when growing up – any author in particular influence you?
I did read a lot, and I enjoyed a variety of stories, from fantasy to nonfiction. I can’t say that any particular author influenced me, but Andrew Lang’s rainbow of fairy tale books delighted during my preteen years.
What is the most difficult part about starting a new book?
I find it difficult to write from scratch, especially at the start of a new scene. I worry about picking the right opening, point of view, setting, etc. Those are the times I’ll start laundry, or make a grocery list, or simply leave the house for an hour. The writing flows well once I get going on a scene, even if the characters do disagree with my plans for them. After the first draft is complete, I thoroughly enjoy revising it to get everything just right.
Do you have a favourite writing place?
My home office is my usual writing haunt. My desktop setup has everything I need, including a slide-out shelf for my tea and lots of overflowing bookcases. But my writing place of choice? I’ve visited a writing retreat in Ireland a few times, in West Cork, on the Beara Peninsula. All I can hear are cows mooing and the roar of ocean waves, and all I have to do is write and show up for meals. Yes. That’s the writing place I like best.
Do you think eBooks are the future?
I acquired a Kindle about a year ago. Great for travel, though I prefer the feel and smell of a 'real' book, especially one of those 1800s antiques that belong to my aunts. I like to think both reading options can coexist. Time will tell.
How do you promote your books and does it work?
Ah, marketing. I’ve attended book marketing seminars and did a couple of book signings, but the promotional aspect of writing bewilders me. Marketing is important, yes, but I’m happier creating stories. Right now, I’m promoting Glancing Through the Glimmer through my web site, blog, online interviews, word of mouth, and through various internet sites.
Do you find time for hobbies?
I try. Cooking is high on the list. I enjoy exploring different ethnic cuisines, and I have my own cooking blog, called Kitchen Excursions. Reading, hiking, and travel, especially to Ireland, are also enjoyable pastimes. Music is another. Decades ago, B.C. (before children), my husband and I belonged to an Irish folk band. I try to keep up with the music and love to attend concerts. Whatever I’m doing, I have some kind of music playing, usually Celtic or classical.
What are your current writing plans?
I’ve completed and submitted a YA entitled Autumn Glimmer, the sequel to Glancing Through the Glimmer, in which Liam and Janet return for a Halloween weekend they’ll never forget. Right now, I’m trying something new, an “autumn romance” set—where else?—in Ireland.
Any tips for new writers?
Oh yes. I’ll happily repeat some of the encouraging words that I’ve received myself. You’re the only one with the ultimate vision of the story you’re trying to tell. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Network with other writers. Join a writers' group, take classes and/or workshops. Never stop reading, and go out on a limb with books you wouldn’t ordinarily read. To paraphrase an Oliver Wendell Holmes quote, a mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions. Exercise those writing muscles! The more you write, the easier it is to get your vision onto a printed page. Set goals and deadlines for yourself, and meet them. Persevere in your quest to become a published author. And most of all, enjoy the ride!
Great answers, Pat – thank you for sharing such wisdom. And now let's hear about Pat's lovely novel.
Glancing Through the Glimmer Blurb
In the modern Kingdom of Ireland, few mortals believe in the fairy folk. Without that belief, the fairies are dying. Finvarra, the King of the Fairies, would rather dance than worry—but he must have a mortal dancing partner.
When Janet Gleason’s grandfather becomes the new U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, the sixteen-year-old orphan must leave Boston and her friends behind. Janet is lonely in Dublin and unused to her grandparents’ stuffy social life. An invitation to a royal ball terrifies her. She can’t even waltz and dreads embarrassment. Finvarra’s fairy witch overhears her fervent wish to learn to dance.
Seventeen-year-old Prince Liam Boru loathes the idea of escorting another spoiled American girl to a ball. In fact, he detests most of his royal duties. He dresses down to move through Dublin unnoticed and finds himself on his royal backside when Janet crashes into him. Intrigued, he asks to see her again, and she willingly agrees. Unaware of each other’s identities, they arrange to meet. When they do, the fairies steal Janet away.
Liam’s attempts to find her trigger a series of frustrating misadventures. Can he and Janet outwit a treacherous fairy king who’s been hoodwinking mortals for centuries?
In a twenty-first century Ireland ruled by the heirs of High King Brian Boru, a homesick girl meets a prince in disguise, and both run afoul of the fairies . . .
The excerpt below is set on the magnificent cliff walk in Howth, Ireland. It’s a perfect spot for Janet and Liam’s first date.
Or is it?
* * * *
The first time Liam slipped and fell, he cursed the rain-damp grass. He blamed his second tumble on his haste to catch up with Janet. What on earth had possessed the girl to run off like that? She couldn’t possibly want to find music that badly.
Music only she could hear.
The third time he lost his balance, he’d swear someone had pushed him, but no one was there. He landed on his hands and knees and cursed again. He might not be a muscleman, but he was far from a clumsy dolt. A lifetime of sports and outdoor treks had surely left him fit enough to climb a scrubby little hillside.
Something strange was afoot.
I’m being ridiculous. The breeze must have kept him from hearing the music she heard. She’d likely gone after the owner of whatever was playing the tune to learn its name.
Yet the Nose of Howth seemed deserted. How odd for a sunny Sunday morning. Even if Janet had gone off seeking the source of the music, no amount of rationalizing could explain why she’d left so abruptly. The chilling sense that she was in danger had Liam’s heart thumping high in his throat.
Should he call his cousin? If Kevin was still on the pier, it would take him a while to get here. And practical Kevin would surely think Liam astray in the head.
Maybe he was, but something told him he had to find Janet, and fast. Keeping close to the ground as if he were dodging radar, he clambered monkey-like up the hill. This time he reached the top of the rise. Lumps in the landscape surrounded him, clumps of rock and rolling masses of heather and gorse that encircled the level spot where he stood. He knew the place well. Except for the curious lack of weekend hill walkers, nothing seemed amiss.
He listened hard. A seagull cried in the distance. Otherwise, all was silent. No, wait! Music drifted toward him, a plucky harp tune he might have enjoyed under different circumstances. Was that what Janet had heard?
Where was it? He turned in a circle, squinting in the sunlight, scanning, straining to hear. When he returned to the spot where he’d started, a jolt of fear set his pulse racing.
A round stone hut had appeared on the highest part of the clearing. Its low thatched roof rose to a ridiculously high point. It resembled a roundhouse, the sort of dwelling that belonged in a prehistoric ring fort.
Or a fairy fort.
Liam swallowed hard. He’d seen replicas of such huts in Ireland’s folk parks. He’d also viewed ruins of the original ring forts, all that remained of the structures built by the mysterious peoples who’d lived and died in Ireland thousands of years ago.
Where had this one come from? Why was it on the Nose of Howth? Liam had never seen it before, nor had he heard of any gimmicky tourism plans for the cliff walk. Of course, he didn’t know everything. Convincing himself that he’d failed to see the hut at first because the sun had blinded him, he ventured toward the structure.
He spotted a doorway and relaxed. Janet was there, speaking to a woman wearing a period costume, medieval or older. That’s what it was, he thought: tourism come to tarnish Howth. How could Uncle Peadar have allowed such nonsense?
Liam called Janet’s name again, but neither she nor the woman showed any sign that they’d heard him. The wind must have carried his voice away. He stalked toward the roundhouse. As he approached, the costumed woman placed a necklace over Janet’s head.
The roundhouse flickered, faded, and reappeared. Alarmed, Liam stopped. This was no tourist gimmick. As his thoughts scrambled for an explanation, the woman grabbed Janet’s arm and pulled her into the hut.
“Janet, no!” His ferocious roar proved useless. Unbelievably, the roundhouse began to dissolve. No longer doubting his horrified senses, he dove at the hut and charged through the disappearing door.
The world around him melted away.
Born and educated in Boston, Massachusetts, Pat McDermott is the author of a series of romantic action/adventure stories set in an Ireland that might have been. Glancing Through the Glimmer, her first Young Adult novel, is a prequel to her “Band of Roses” trilogy, coming in 2012 from MuseItUp Publishing. Pat is a member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project, Seacoast Writers’ Association, Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. She lives and writes in New Hampshire.