Wednesday, January 30, 2019

King of the Blind NBtM

In 1688 a plague of smallpox swept through Ireland. Like many others, eighteen year old Turlough O’Carolan was struck down. He was one of the lucky ones to survive. However, the sickness cost him his eyesight. Within two years of being blinded he’d learned to play the harp and taken to the road as a travelling musician. In time he’d be considered the greatest of all the Irish harpers. His music is still played all around the world today.

To the end of his days he always maintained that Otherworldly beings, known in Ireland as the Shee, had granted him the gift of music and were responsible for at least some of his compositions. This is a story from a time when the veil between the worlds was thinner and belief in the mystical “Good People”, was still strong.

‘And you think you can win back her affection by becoming a great harper yourself, do you?’

‘At least she might look at me if I was a musician and dressed in a fine coat and hat.’

‘What would you give for the chance to win her back?’

Turlough didn’t have to think about the answer. ‘I’d give anything, anything at all, to be a great musician and to have Bridget Cruise look on me as she looked on David Murphy this evening.’

‘A harper’s life is hard,’ Crilly warned. ‘I know, for I myself took to the road with harp and horse in days gone by. You might leave your home and not return for years at a time. You might walk the length and breadth of Ireland in twelve months and barely scratch a living in that whole time.’

‘I would suffer any discomfort to learn the craft of music. I don’t care if I never see the McDermott lands or their fat cows and spindly goats again as long as I live.’

Crilly raised his eyebrows and put a hand on the young lad’s shoulder. ‘You don’t know what you’re saying,’ he replied sternly. ‘It’s the excitement of youth that’s guiding your tongue. So, I’ll try to imagine those words never passed your lips.’

‘I truly would not be grieved if I never laid eyes on this parish again,’ Turlough repeated. ‘I mean you no offence, squire, but I want to be as far from this estate and Bridget’s father as possible.’

Crilly squeezed the lad’s upper arm hard. ‘Do not say such a thing. Not here. Not on a hill where the Fair Folk might hear you. Not on a moonless night when they like to wander from their homes.’

‘Would you teach me to play?’ Turlough asked.

‘Would you learn?’ the squire replied, loosening his grip.

‘If I had the chance I’d spend every waking moment behind that instrument. I’d devote myself to study and practise until I became a master. I’d earn the title of Chief Musician of Ireland.’

Caiseal, thanks so much for stopping by. Tell us, how did you get started writing?
It all happened by chance. Nearly thirty years ago I had a market stall in Sydney, Australia, where I sold t-shirts with screen printed designs I’d created and printed by hand. One day I met a woman who asked me to show the designs to her mother who was looking for Xmas gifts for her clients. I went to visit. Her mother turned out to be a literary agent. She told me I had a gift as a storyteller and asked me to write 8 chapters of a novel. I thought I’d give it a go but I really didn’t expect anything would come of it. It took me three weeks to write those eight chapters. Before I knew what had hit me I had a three-book deal from Random House, based on those eight chapters. I’ve had thirteen novels, four non-fiction books and two graphic novels published since then.

What was the inspiration for your book?
I travelled around Ireland in the early 1980’s and met a lot of traditional storytellers. I kept hearing tales of Turlough O’Carolan- the famous seventeenth century, Irish Harper. In the end I’d collected so many stories, it just made sense to write a novel about him, combining history and all the legends I’d heard. That was the inspiration behind King of the Blind.

What’s a genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I write in Historical Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction. Those three satisfy all my storytelling urges, one way or another.

Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why?
I’m not at all interested in the romance genre. I find it’s often so demeaning and disempowering of women, and men for that matter. I don’t know why it’s even called romance writing. There’s not much that’s really romantic about it. The whole genre is really just one painful infatuation after another leading to a sickly sweet happily-ever-after that has no long-lasting gifts to impart. I believe it creates unrealistic expectations, sells co-dependency and isn’t really an effective form of escapism either. I wouldn’t be able to write romance with a straight face. Real romance is far more interesting.

What are you up to now? Do you have any releases planned, or are you still writing?
I’m currently finishing the second chapter of my Sci-Fi graphic novel series, Veil of the Gods. Chapter One was published last year. Chapter Two is a couple of weeks away from publication. I’m also putting the finishing touches to the reworking of my first novel, The Circle and The Cross. That should be published next month. I have been very blessed to be able to have all the rights to my novels revert to me. So, one by one I’m re-releasing them as “director’s cuts” if you like. They’re complete reworkings.

Alright, now for some random, fun questions. Favorite color?
Blue. No, red. No, blue. Every day it’s different- sometimes every moment. I’ve truly got more than a touch of the ADHD. Green.

Favorite movie?    
I just saw The Grand Budapest Hotel for the first time and it has leapt to the top of my list of favourite films. Though there’s really no definitive answer to that question. I love anything by Akira Kurosawa and I can still watch “Dead Man” after a dozen times and see things I never saw before.

Book that inspired you to become an author?
No book inspired me. I was inspired by traditional Irish storytellers who I met in Ireland when I was in my twenties. That style of storytelling is quite unique and absolutely enthralling. I’ve never read a novel that captures the drama, the comedy and the depth of a real live storyteller. I don’t actually read novels very often. My mind won’t stay still long enough and gets easily bored.

You have one superpower. What is it?
Without them being aware I can convince people to be grateful for their lives and treat one another with respect. That’s the only superpower I consider worth having.

You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
Winston Churchill. I’m not a fan of his work. I’m just intrigued by his point of view.
Adolf Hitler. Likewise.
Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Old London Town. Love his work.

If that doesn’t prove to be a thoroughly entertaining evening that changes the world I can always get a shave with an extremely sharp razor.

Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why?
I’m most like Hugh Connor, who is the storyteller in King of the Blind. He loves telling tales with a moderate amount of embellishment. He’s extremely hospitable and has an eye for detail- even if his eyes don’t work. He loves a laugh and he loves music. The only thing that Hugh does differently from me is that he likes to drink. I’ve never been too fond of the stuff myself.

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Author Bio and Links:
Caiseal Mor is an Australian sci-fi and fantasy novelist, artist and musician. Ancient Celtic Folklore has been a major inspiration for his thirteen published Fantasy novels. Mór also composes and records music, having produced seventeen albums since 1995. He is well known for his self-designed book and album covers and his intricate artworks in both traditional and digital mediums. Since 2013 he has been developing a distinctive graphic art style and creating digital sculptures in 3D.

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