Interview–Mary Gillgannon

Imagine my delight on discovering another great book about Olde England. I mean really old. Mary Gillgannon’s last book is about the Celts, one of my favorite topics, and I know many of you can’t resist a good book about the Druids.

Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

MaryI’ve been writing fiction for almost twenty years, and I’ve published twelve historical romances, mostly in the dark age and medieval time periods. I’ve also written two fantasies, The Silver Wheel, which is an historical fantasy, and a book I call “chick lit fantasy” in which my modern heroine travels to bronze age Europe.

Would you please tell us about your latest book?

The Silver Wheel tells the story of the Roman conquest of Britain from the Celtic viewpoint. As the Romans threaten to overrun Britain and conquer her people, Sirona, a young Druid-in-training in Wales, begins having visions. Desperate to discover what the gods intend for her, she joins her fellow student Cruthin in a sex magic ceremony. Their flaunting of druid rules results in both of them being banished, and Sirona sets off on a perilous journey to the north. Five years later, Sirona begins to understand what her visions mean. Determined to change the course of history, she travels to warn the Iceni queen Boudica of the danger to come. But when Boudica refuses to listen, Sirona is forced to risk her life and her immortal spirit to save her people.

What inspired you to write this novel?

TheSilverWheel2_850I originally became interested in the story of the Romans in Britain when I read about a body found preserved in a peat bog near Lindow, England. The body was of a healthy, aristocratic young man who had been strangled, bludgeoned, had his throat cut and then was pushed into the bog. Because the body dates from the time of the Roman conquest in the early first century, some researchers surmise that this man was offered as a sacrifice to petition the Celtic deities to aid the British in their battle against the invaders. Reading about this discovery immediately started all sorts of plot ideas spinning in my mind.   

What does a typical writing day look like?

My writing is mostly done in the morning. After checking email and internet stuff, I usually write for an hour or two before heading off to my job at the local public library. (A great job for a writer!) On weekends I may put more time in, but I also help my husband with his business and try to “have a life”, so I usually don’t write more than fifteen hours a week. It’s a slow but steady pace.

Can you describe your writing process?

I’m an “into the mist” writer, which means I don’t really plot. Once my characters “come to me”, I just start writing and see what happens. Scenes sort of appear to me out of the mist. If they don’t and I get stuck, I mull things over, often in the middle of the night, until I “see” the next scene.  It’s not a very efficient process, but it’s the only method that really works for me. I used to write the first draft a lot faster, but then ended up doing a lot of revising. Now I go slower and let the story happen at its own pace. If I do this, my first draft is usually pretty clean, unlike The Silver Wheel, which I wrote pretty fast but then revised five different times over ten years. It definitely was the most challenging book I’ve written.

How did you prepare to write about the book’s specific area or field of study?

I did a lot of research on the Druids and Celtic mystical belief, as well as reading the historical accounts of the time period (all written by the Romans). I’ve always been fascinated with this era and Celtic culture in general, so I enjoyed that part of it. 

How did you come up with your title?

The book was originally called When The Sky Falls because a famous Celtic chieftain was quoted as saying that he did not fear death or anything on this earth, only “the sky falling”, presumably referring to the end of the world. That perspective (and most of my first draft) just seemed too negative and pessimistic, so I changed it. The “silver wheel” refers to both the goddess Arianhrod, who is associated with the moon and the silver wheel of the night sky that affects human destiny, and also the magic Sirona uses at the end of the book to save her people.

What advice do you have for writers who have not yet been published?

The publishing world is very competitive and getting more so all the time. You have to faith in your vision, your unique voice, viewpoint and stories. That’s really the only thing that can set you apart from other writers and bring you success. You also really have to have a passion for writing, as well as tenacity and determination.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity. 

Jim Morrison was a huge influence on me as an adolescent. He was a poet as well as a singer/songwriter and his passion for words inspired me to read even more widely than I already did and to take my first steps as a writer. Morgan Llywelyn and Mary Stewart both influenced me a great deal because of the time periods and worlds they wrote about. 

If your book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

It would be dark chocolate (which I don’t personally like). It is an intense and often dark story, but also (I hope) rich and satisfying.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?  

Because of something mystical that happened to her when she was a toddler, Sirona ends up training to be a Learned One/Drui from a very early age. She is also born with a special connection to the spiritual world and magical abilities, although those gifts don’t start to manifest themselves until she reaches adolescence when the book begins. 

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

She’s a seer and has magical abilities like Merlin, a priestess like Morgaine and the savior of her people like King Arthur.

If you could host a magical dinner party, who are the six people (living or otherwise) you’d include?

The three writers who influenced I mentioned previously, plus F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marilyn Monroe (I think she had a great spirit) and William Shakespeare. Three men and three women, a nice balanced dinner party.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve almost finished the first draft of a reincarnation romance set mostly in modern Denver, but with characters who also lived in 6th century Ireland.

Learn more about Mary at http://marygillgannon.com

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About Theresa Crater

Award-winning author Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her visionary fiction. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver.
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