Friday, November 20, 2015

Ireland reimagined - interview with alternative history novelist Pat McDermott

Greetings, commies!
Meet a fellow Celtic spirit, Pat McDermott, author of romantic adventure novels set in historical - and alternative - Ireland. You know by know that Irish history is my passion.  And often catch myself wondering: what if the Fenian uprising of 1867 succeeded? How would that affect the subsequent course of history?

MJN: You come from Boston where there is a considerable Irish population. Some are farther removed from the Emerald Isle than others. You get a mixture of authentic-snobby-academic Irish culture and the Disnefied Blarney kitsch. How do you respond to verbalizations of Irish stereotypes? Some authors capitalize on the Blarney element, while others have a very strong adverse reaction to it. I'm asking because I also write Irish themed fiction, and the organizer of one of the author events started playing "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" as an expression of hospitality. I nearly fainted. God bless the gentleman, but my cheeks were crimson.

PM: No green beer or Lucky Charms for me, thank you. I grew up on Mission Hill, a mostly Irish and Irish/American neighborhood back in the day. I never met anyone who said “Top o’ the morning” etc., though I’ve met plenty of Irish folks who are characters in their own right. No need to add any Blarney whatsoever.

MJN: Band of Roses has an unusual setting. If I understand the intent correctly, it's retro-speculative? Modern Ireland that *might have been*. For those who are not familiar with the intricacies of the sub-genre, what is the difference between paranormal, speculative, steampunk and revisionist fiction?

PM: I know very little about steampunk. Paranormal is, of course, the addition of ghosts, magic, or, in the case of my young adult Glimmer series, Ireland’s fairies, the “Good People.” Except for The Rosewood Whistle, my stories are alternate/alternative history, a sub-genre of science fiction that includes speculative and revisionist fiction. The term simply means that the world would be a different place if a key event in history changed. If Germany had won World War II, for example, or if Rome still ruled Europe. In 1066, Irish High King Brian Boru perished at the end of the famous Battle of Clontarf. Many historians have said that Ireland would be a different place today if he had survived. Hence, A Band of Roses.

MJN: The covers for your Band of Roses trilogy share a similar layout but a different background image. I am particularly intrigued by the cover on the first novel, featuring a castle and a helicopter, with Celtic ornaments in the foreground.

PM: I worked with the cover artist to meld a sense of Irish history with the implication of modern times the helicopter provides. Hopefully, it works.

MJN: Most people have heard the name of Brian Boru. Are there any obscure mythological figures that you would like to bring to light?

PM: Each of the Glimmer Books features a different branch of Ireland’s fairy clans. Finvarra, King of the Connaught Fairies, plays a major role in the first book. An ancient, dragon-like monster called the Peiste worries a troop of water fairies in the second book. Book three deals with some of my favorite mythological features of all time: the Leprechauns. At the moment, no one in the mythological cast of characters is nagging me for a leading role, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

MJN: Your Rosewood Whistle is a stand-alone novel, a contemporary romance featuring older partners, both burdened with ghosts from the past. Your age does not always correlate to the amount of proverbial "baggage" you are carrying. I've met 13-year old girls who have "old souls" and claim that they've "been around". And then I've met 70-year old women who have divorced and buried a few husbands, and still feel young at heart. In your novel, the heartthrob, Ben Connigan, is in a delicate situation. His wife died in an accident, yet she was not particularly nurturing or supportive. In fact, she was quite condescending and downright toxic. And yet I've heard that it's the toxic late spouses who often hold more power the survivors after their death. How do you explain that phenomenon?

PM: I’m not a psychologist, but I suppose it stems from the idea that no one can hold power over you without your permission. In Ben’s case, he was a young man in love, blind to his wife’s frivolities. Over time, he learned that he deserved better. We all do, don’t we?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for hosting me today, Marina. I enjoyed your thoughtful interview. Best wishes, Pat