15 February 2015

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Kristin Gleeson on ALONG THE FAR SHORES

This week, we're welcoming author Kristin Gleeson, whose latest title is ALONG THE FAR SHORES. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor will get a free EBOOK copy of Along the Far ShoresBe sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb. 

A 12th century Irishwoman sets out on the legendary voyage to America of Prince Madog of Wales.

Aisling, despite her best efforts has failed to become the seer her mother desired, so when her mother dies leaving her alone, she departs Ireland for Wales to be with her brother, Cormac, at the royal court at Gwynedd.  There she finds he is joining Prince Madog’s voyage to the western lands in order to escape the threatening war.  After Madog refuses to let her come with them she stows away, desperate to remain with her brother.  A terrible storm arises and she is tossed overboard by a resentful Welshman and washes up on the shores of the Gulf Coast. Caxna, a Tlingit trader and former shaman, finds her and reluctantly agrees to let her join him on a trading journey to the Mayan city of Xicallanca, and later Etowah (in modern day Georgia) in the hopes she might find Madog and her brother.  Caxna must succeed in this trading journey in order to free his clan but with Aisling along everything changes. 

**Praise for Along the Far Shores**

….Gleeson leaves us with a memorable and poignant love story and a vision of a wonderful culture, unique in my experience of literature.

Karen Charlton, author of The Heiress of Linn Hagh and Catching the Eagle

The underlying sexual tension is all the more powerful for the beautifully restrained writing, which makes the slightest touch electric; a medicinal massage becomes a moment of physical communion…. This is what Kristin Gleeson does best; portraying different cultures and showing how humanity can cross them.

Jean Gill, author of Song at Dawn and Bladesong

**Q&A with Kristin Gleeson**

What inspired you to write Along the Far Shores?

When I was a children’s librarian outside of Philadelphia years ago I was doing some much needed weeding and I came across this book that told about the legend of Prince Madog of Wales’ voyage to America in 1170.  It wasn’t a picture book, laid out in a beautifully illustrated manner; it was a nonfiction text that investigated the legend in order to substantiate its truth.

I was so intrigued I took it home and read it in a night.  I have to confess I’d never heard of the legend before this.  I’d heard of Leif Ericson’s 11th century voyage along Labrador and that area and of course I heard of the 6th century voyage of St. Brendan which again was most likely up in the northern areas of the Americas. Madog’s voyage apparently ended up in Mobile Bay, in what is now Alabama and he sailed up what is now called the Mad Dog River.  All very intriguing.

Your novel is set in the 12th Century, what is it that fascinates you about that era?

There were so many events in the 12th Century that were key in the British Isles and the Americas that enabled me to bring together Welsh, Irish and Native American cultures in a unique way. In Ireland the warring factions in the Wexford area led one deposed king to turn to Henry II for assistance which brought the first English soldiers onto Irish soil and began a pattern of increasing English settlement in Ireland.  Across in Wales, the death of the Gwynedd king led to warring factions that prompted one of the sons, Madog to set out on a voyage that landed him on the Gulf Coast of America (or so the legend states).  At that time America had its own civilizations that were in some ways more advanced than Europe.  Among them was the Mississippian Empire whose center was in Etowah.  They had trade links that reached as far as the declining Mayan Empire.   Though many people know of the Mayans and have a basic understanding of the culture, they don’t see them in the context of the European culture of the time period.   The surgery, cloth dyes, cooking; the building techniques were more primitive in England and Ireland, for example.

All your books reflect an extensive amount of research of the places but also the customs and dress of the time period. How do you approach your research?

I’ve been lucky (or deliberately selective) in that the novels I’ve written so far I’ve had some basic knowledge of the time periods and for the most part it’s a job of filling it in.  I try and do some reading into sources I find either online or through the library.  I still gravitate to the library to search out any general sources and try as much as possible to get books that are specific to a topic as well.  I was lucky to find a book all about the Mississippian culture online this time.  Living in Ireland you wouldn’t always get sources about ancient America easily.
 After some general reading and note taking for a few weeks I get the feel for the time period and the major elements. Then I start writing and find that I check things and go for specific areas of research as I write.  That helps prevent dumping too much information in and have the facts and setting as a backdrop that doesn’t dominate or overpower the story.  When I’m reading an historical fiction book that has someone making a ceramic pot in  ancient America and I want to know how it’s done I will look later to a non-fiction book rather than have the author slow down/interrupt the story to tell me.

What brought you first to writing?

As many writers will tell you, I was always writing, I guess and before that I was telling stories.  Chatting away to dolls or just living them in my head.  My mother used to do that with us too, so I guess I get it from her.  I wrote down my first chapter book when I was 11.  ‘Mr. Dealy’s Inventions’, it was called and I even illustrated it in pencil and marker.  I never finished it though, it fizzled out when I ran out of ideas. No story arc. 

Can you tell me what books you have on your bedside table?

Right now I have a pile of books from Christmas and a book certificate given to me by the book club I run in the village.  Among them are The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld, Girl in a Green Gown (about the Arnolfini portrait) by Carola Hicks and Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undsett. The last one is a book that won the Nobel prize in 1923, I think and my mother named me after it. This is a new translation that I’ve been dying to read and promised myself I would this winter.  Haven’t cracked it yet. Too many books, too little time.

Can you say anything about your next project?

Along the Far Shores is part of a series of books that are set in different time periods and were inspired by red-haired plaid clothed mummies that were discovered in the Xinxiang Province in western China.  The mummies dated back to about 1500 B.C. long before any archaeological evidence of “Celts” or what we group as Celts, though they seemed to share many of the same characteristics in their burial patterns, clothing composition and other items.
I loved the idea of it and my novel evolved as two parallel narratives, one in the ancient past that brought a small proto Tlingit group and a proto Irish/Celtic group together and the present that brought an Irish woman and a Tlingit man together.   In the many centuries in-between those periods I thought I would write other novels that told the story of similar encounters between the two groups where I could show the two cultures in different periods and the aspects of prejudices and assumptions that each time period might have. Linking all this there was a medallion passed down through the centuries and back and forth and appearing in each novel as a connection that means something strongly to one of the characters. 
The next novel which brings these elements together and shows the narrative about the original mummies and the archaeologists who discover them. It’s called Raven Brought the Light and it will be out in the spring.

Learn more about Kriston Gleeson:

Website:   www.kristingleeson.com