Balancing Irish Myth and History in The Children of Gods and Fighting Men, by Shauna Lawless
By Daisy Ward, Victoria Bromley and Sarah Lydon
Shauna Lawless took time out of her busy schedule to chat about her fantastical debut novel, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men. We discussed her careful combination of Irish myth and history, her exciting experience launching her first novel, and she divulged what we can expect from her next.
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is a dynamic historical fantasy set in 10th century Ireland. It acts to intertwine Irish history and marvellous folklore and follows feuding clans as they fight over control of the country. The novel includes gripping realism, dangerous and magical gifts, as well as powerful female characters. It is a gripping book from beginning to end and entangles you in a beautifully complex world, as well as committing to the characters and their navigation of a land where men believe they hold the power. There are many themes woven throughout the text, which build upon its realism, such as conflicted obligation, motherhood, war and morality.
We began by discussing the balance between Irish myth and history, which adds a soulful element to the text. Shauna revealed that she felt inspired by the legend in the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology, where Oisín returns from Tír na nÓg and even though he was only there for a day, in Ireland, hundreds of years have passed. She noted that “in some versions of this tale, he steps onto Irish soil and because so much time has passed, he dies. In another version, Saint Patrick is there and tells him the magic in Ireland has now gone.” She noted that often it was monks that wrote down these legends and so a lot of them included Christian elements. This merging of myth and religion was not effective for Shauna and she felt that “it would be a good idea to explore why the magic in Ireland really faded” and to investigate this she quickly realised that “combining the myths and legends into Irish history was key.”
It was clear when reading the historical fantasy that Shauna is both a lover of and expert in Irish history and mythology. She explained that “folklore and mythology have always been a passion of mine and so I’ve years and years of experience.” We also discussed with her that even though we were certainly not an expert in mythology we found the book to be both accessible and informative. She agreed that she knew many would not know anything about Irish myth and so decided to “build it up slowly.” She also discussed that although the history may be new to readers too, the concept of warring kings isn’t, it is a shared experience that all readers know and so the historical element grounds the reader. After laying the strong foundation of history, mythology can be carefully weaved in, thereby creating a powerful combination of them both.
We then questioned Shauna on the exciting yet daunting book launch experience. As a debut novelist, we imagined the process must include a lot of work behind the scenes, as well as excitement. She replied that it has been “great” and that she “loves all of it,” despite the hard work. She went on to add that she is very grateful that people are interested in her book. During our discussion, it was clear that with a book like hers which is cross-genre, it can be a little more difficult to reach readers, but she has found success by being active on social media, writing blog posts, and doing in-store signings.
At the end of our chat, we couldn’t help but ask if she was working on anything else. Even though she has only just released her first novel, Shauna revealed that her debut is “only the first of a trilogy” and that she also has “many other books” that she wants to write in the same “world” too. The second book in the trilogy, The Words of Kings and Prophets, has been handed to her publisher already and she is “currently in the process of writing book three.”
We finished the interview with an ambiguous but exciting comment from Shauna: “Once I finish this trilogy, I’ll have to see what I want to do next. I might do more stories in this world first or may try something new. Who knows…” Well, we certainly can't wait to see what Shauna Lawless does next.