Thank you Tricia for inviting Ali and myself to talk about Grá mo Chroí our collection of retellings of some of the great love stories from Irish myth. Quite a few people have asked us what prompted us to have a go at rewriting perfectly good stories. To explain…
Jane: I started these retellings about a year ago with the story of Deirdre. It was cold.
Exceptionally, we had had a dusting of snow; the blackbirds were taken by surprise and fussed about in the trees. Something in the combination of the snow and the black feather reminded me of the story of Deirdre, a young girl kept in seclusion, just waiting to be married to an old king, and I decided to write her story. One story led to another, and when Ali, at the end of last year suggested we have a go at rewriting some of these legends, I knew I could do it.
Ali: The first stories we worked on and subsequently revealed to each other just happened to be the most tragic ones, the love stories, perhaps because we connected in some way with the characters and what happened to them. It seems to happen quite naturally in the mythology, that stories and characters cross-reference each other. But it also helped with the selection, I think. Jane knew that she wanted to write both the Baile and Aillin story, and the Cuchullain and Emer story, which build on each other. Without giving too much away, I was half way through writing my Ciabhan and Cliodhna story, when I realized there was an overlap with the Cuchullain story. Fand’s words of advice to the couple do not appear in the mythology as far as I know, but I thought it would be fun to add them, as the story lent itself so perfectly to that happening.
Once we’d noticed the love theme, we thought it would be fun to launch them for Valentine’s Day. That was in November, so we had to work fast… the Christmas and New Year celebrations held things up, but it’s amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it!
Jane: The challenges we faced were both in the research and getting under the skin of Iron Age people. There are lots of variations of all the old stories. As they are part of an oral tradition, we know them mainly through the versions noted down by Christian monks. There are regional variations, but also alternative endings, as if someone was trying to change the message, or include a message that wasn’t there before. We can’t know anything for sure, but it rather muddies the waters if we are trying to reach back in time to the emotions of the men and women of pre-Christian Ireland.
Ali and I have different writing styles, but I think it’s fair to say that both of us have been greatly influenced by the obvious love of nature of the early Celts. Their flattest prose, even their description of combat, is full of poetry. That, for me, is the point of entry into the world of the protagonists of these ancient stories. They looked at a stream, a tree and saw what I see. They listened to the song of the blackbird, the curlew, the cry of the gull, and they heard the same sound. They were romantic people though their notion of love was perhaps not quite the same as ours. That is what I hope we have succeeded in putting across in these retellings.
Ali: Everyone loves a love story, the more dramatic and tragic the better! I am lucky enough to live in Ireland now, and Jane comes of Irish heritage although she lives in France. I never imagined when I came to live here that I would ever fall in love with it so deeply, but I did. I’ve never yet met anyone who has experienced Ireland and didn’t!
If you’re ready to dive into the world of Iron Age Irish tragedy, Grá mo Chroí is available at
Connect with the authors:
Jane can be found on her blog, www.janedoughertywrites.com, on her FaceBook author page , or tweeting. You can find out more about her on Goodreads, and all her books are available on Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk.
You will find Ali pottering about most days on her blog: www.aliisaacstoryteller.com, her Facebook author page, or tweeting. Alternatively, you can email her at: email@example.com:firstname.lastname@example.org. Her books are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.