Lissa: Tell me a bit about your research process. There are particular challenges in writing about a time period that isn’t well-documented.
Sandi: Thank you! What a great topic. I began researching the trilogy more than ten years ago, and I find that I am still researching as people ask me questions as Éire’s Devil King is published. For EDK specifically, I had to find whatever references I could about Tuirgeis/Turgeses/Thorgeis and his reported ravages on Éire.
The dates were very specific, as the man has a particular plan in mind as he set about to claim the High Kingship of Éire. So I plotted out dates on a map and then drew in travel options, and arranged staging grounds for his battles on the map itself. While I was doing this, had to figure out what the other characters were doing and how they were moving about, as well. For this final book of the trilogy, I spent a good portion of my research time the geography of Éire and how to hike the country as I imagine it to have been more than a thousand years ago.
I also had to do some research about sailing small craft up and down the coastlines, as well as through the shallow-draft waterways.
Writing in a time that isn’t well documented was a lot of fun, overall. Additionally, Éire at this time was a very different place before it became more entwined with England, so I had some freedom as to how I wanted my small towns to grow in terms of their villages and social customs. I used old references regarding the Brehon Laws to shape the values of my imagined towns, and laced them with references to Early Medieval Christianity as I fleshed out the environment. It was a fantastic experience for me.
Lissa: Have you ever tried any of the recipes or herbal remedies in your books?
Sandi: Actually, no. Isn’t that terrible? I use some homeopathic remedies in my home (such as honey and cinnamon paste to treat the common cold) and I do drink chamomile tea for illness and relaxation, but by and large, I don’t use the remedies.
Lissa: You and I have had a lot of great discussions during our series on the TV show Vikings. What do you find is the biggest misconception that most people have about the Northmen (besides the horned helmets, which we will not discuss.)
Sandi: No helmets, gotcha! The biggest misconception, I think, is that people often think they’re barbaric in terms of personal hygiene and social matters. Really, as you know, the Northmen were very into personal hygiene, going so far as to bring ear-cleaning kits with them when they raided.
Lissa: They were real dandies, compared to the English of the day, bathing regularly and taking a great deal of care with the dressing of their hair. I’m sure if they hadn’t been burning the village at the time, many of the English and Irish girls would have gone head over heels.
Sandi: Additionally, their social structure was quite workable on many levels, using social consent and common sense in handling conflict, as well as giving women a lot of say in how things were done.
Lissa: That’s one thing I’ve found interesting … These “barbaric” cultures often had a much more enlightened view of the status of women. They had recourse if they were ill-treated by their husbands and retained their property rights. It was something that wouldn’t be seen again in Europe for a thousand years.
I have to ask … Where do you picture Charis now? Is she still wandering the hills of her beloved island? Will there be any other stories that feature her?
Sandi: Ah … good question. Charis, as I leave her at the end of Éire’s Devil King, is still in Éire. She has to be there, you see, for her life is bound to the island. Moreso every year.
Is she still there in our 21st Century? Is that what you’re asking? I will tell you this—in my head, I do have an idea as to how her story spins out.
Lissa: You still “hear” her in your head, then. It’s the same way with my characters. They pop in every now and then and I get a glimpse of what they’re up to. Just because the story has ended doesn’t mean they’re gone.
Sandi: If it were to go exactly as it is in my head now, no, she would not still be in Ireland. But then, in her original iteration, she began life in the 5th Century, so who can say?
Lissa: Oh, the adventures she would have had! My goodness, you could probably write forever about what she’s been up to. Whatever she’s doing, I hope she’s happy. Her existence was never an easy one, I imagine.
What’s next for you? Are you going to continue in historical fiction? A new time period?
Sandi: I have a work of historical fiction in progress at this time as well as a contemporary romance. Additionally, I have a couple of shorter stories I’ve been asked to write, so I might focus on them before the novels.
The historical fiction is set in late 17th Century Colonial America, in a time and place not often fictionalized. It gets messy, there. I’ve been researching the values of the Tuscarora People, the issues of child slavery of that time and place, as well as the interesting cooperation between divergent cultures. It’s been, as always, fascinating.
Lissa: That does sound fascinating! You seem to be drawn to the clash-of-cultures theme.
Sandi: Thank you so much for hosting me!!
Lissa: You're welcome. Always a pleasure.
~~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~~
Award winning author of short Celtic fiction, Sandi Layne is the creator of the Éire's Viking Trilogy, as well as works of contemporary Christian romance.
She began by self-publishing her novels in 2000, garnering a loyal group of readers whom she continues to appreciate to this day.
Married for more than twenty years to a fantastic man, she has two sons, no pets, and a plethora of imaginary friends. Her interests range from ancient civilizations to science fiction. With degrees in English and Ministry, she also claims Theology’s crimson Masters collar which she has been known to don on rare occasions.
If you drive by her window before dawn, it is likely she’ll have a light on for you. Or at the very least, she’ll be alert on twitter. She invites you to visit her online space at http://sandyquill.com.
~~CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR~~