Set in the wilds of western Connacht where the Otherworld stands as near as the next border and the Faerie Folk and the Dead are as likely to walk the land as are living mortals, Speak Of A Wolf brings to life the heroism and suffering, passion and romance, folklore and myth of sixteenth-century Ireland.
When I was very small, my mother, while undertaking home decorating projects and household chores, would play and sing along to her collection of Clancy Brothers, Irish Rovers and Chieftains LPs. In the car she would sing these same songs while driving. When I was seven, she and my father took a long trip to Ireland. My younger sister and I stayed with my mother’s enthusiastically Irish sister, Mary.
Aunt Mary, too, sang whenever we rode in the car, and she had an even greater repertoire songs than my mother. My aunt had been to Ireland many times, and from her I learned something of my family’s history. She had adopted their staunch republicanism as her own and spoke proudly of my grandfather’s involvement, as a very young man, in the Easter Rebellion and the subsequent Civil War.
Fearing reprisal for his somewhat mysterious activities, my grandfather emigrated to America where he met and married my grandmother. Amazingly they had both come from the same part of Ireland—neighboring tiny villages in Erris, Mayo. Although their families had been known to one another, my grandparents met for the first time three thousand miles from home.
The songs and stories of my kin resonated with me as they had for thousands of years with the people of Ireland and the Irish Diaspora. As with my ancestors, the love of music and storytelling grew strong in my heart. I tackled with relish all creative writing assignments in school, and after college I began my first novel, a work of fantasy. I received a number of encouraging comments from agents to whom I submitted, but this early book did not find a home, being too broad in scope and in need of trimming.
Another project had been simmering in the back of my mind for many years—a family saga set in Erris, Mayo. As a young reader, I had loved The Daughters of England series by Eleanor Hibbert writing as Phillippa Carr, and also the sweeping, generational sagas of James Michner and James Clavell. I wanted to tell the story of Ireland through the eyes of a fictional family from Erris, Mayo. This family would become enmeshed in Ireland’s history, participating in events both great and small. I envisioned a series of novels, each encompassing about fifty years. But I was daunted by the scope of such an endeavor and prospect of the research required.
I heard about NaNoWriMo from several friends who had decided to participate. The idea of the forced rapid pace of writing appealed to me. I suspected the secret to accomplishing my goal was to initially suppress my inner editor and just get the words on the page. It worked.
During my first draft, I found it useful to divide the story up into more manageable bits. I decided I wanted the finished novel to be 400 to 500 pages long. With that in mind, I settled on 40 chapters, plus a prologue and epilogue and tackled these sections individually, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the story as a whole. Probably the most helpful (for me) thing I did was to visualize the novel’s ending and final scene very early in the writing process.
While developing my characters, I realized Ireland’s story was too complex to be told from just one family’s perspective. I learned the Irish people were often divided into three categories by historians: the ancient Gaelic Irish Clans, the Norman Irish who invaded Ireland during the reign of England’s Henry II and who were subsequently to greater or lesser degree Gaelicized, and the Plantation or Anglo Irish who began to settle in Ireland during Tudor reign and who maintained much closer ties with English government and culture than had their predecessors. To these three groups I added a fourth: the Travelling People. The origins of the Travellers are disputed by historians, but I chose to give them ties to the pre-Gaelic peoples of Ireland’s ancient past.
When I had finished NaNoWriMo, I had the skeleton of a novel and clear map of the historical events I needed to research. While I can’t say the book wrote itself, having such a map gave me a beacon to follow, and two years later I had a completed novel. I learned many lessons along the way, both practical and esoteric. One of the biggest lessons was realizing the publication of my first novel represented not an ending, but a beginning. I now have to learn about promotion and marketing and a great deal more about social media. More importantly, the second instalment of the saga is clamouring for my attention as the next generation of characters demands their own stories be told.
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About the Author
Bridget Klusman was born in Detroit and currently lives in West Michigan. Her upbringing was rich in the Irish culture brought over from Erris, Mayo by her maternal grandparents. Steeped in the stories and songs of her ancestry, Bridget has since studied more about her heritage during trips back to the Old Country. Her novel, Speak of A Wolf, spans the first half of the sixteenth century in Tudor Ireland. It is the initial instalment of her Lords Of The Sunset Isles saga, a romantic historical fiction series based on and inspired by the myth, folklore, and history of the Irish. Bridget counts among the authors who have inspired her Patrick O’ Brian, Jane Austin, J.R.R. Tolkein, and William Shakespeare. When not writing, she enjoys gardening and experimenting in the kitchen with paleo dishes and homemade ciders and meads. Bridget also has a penchant for crime fiction. She has written and hosted several murder mystery dinner parties. The most recent, Murder On The Matterhorn, took place at a ski resort in Switzerland in 1963 and had parts for 28 guests. The menu featured Moscow Mules made with Bridget’s homemade ginger beer. Follow Bridget on Facebook and Twitter @ArachneArachne.