Please welcome KATHRYN SCANNELL into the moonlight today! Thanks so much for joining us today, Kathryn. It's a pleasure and a joy to have you with us!
GRACEN: March has a few popular dates to celebrate. Which one are you more apt to celebrate, St. Patrick’s Day, or the First Day of Spring, or both and why?
KATHRYN: If I do anything for either, it’s more likely to be Saint Patrick’s Day.
GRACEN: Because of it’s Irish heritage, St. Patrick’s Day is a big party day in Wisconsin (and many other areas) in which everyone gets in on the action from free pub crawl busses to breweries making green beer/spirits and some stores selling green colored/decorated food and sweets. Does anything similar occur in your area? Even if you do not participate, please tell us what activities are going on around you. Anything you feel is unique or especially interesting?
KATHRYN: I’ve never liked the drunken celebrations of Saint Patrick’s Day, with green beer and plastic shamrocks, and have avoided them like the plague. I nearly dragged out the soapbox and wrote something here about how they keep alive the 19th century stereotype of the drunken Irishman. Then this weekend I read an essay on the topic by Larry Kirwan, the lead singer of Black 47 on his blog (http://black47theband.blogspot.com/). He talks about seeing it in the historical context, growing out of the days when the Irish were despised and unwelcome immigrants, as an affirmation of their right to survive and make this new country their own. That’s a light I hadn’t seen it in before, and maybe the plastic harps and shamrocks aren’t so bad.
We have the usual run of parades, and bars offering green beer. One interesting extra is the traditional Saint Patrick’s Day Breakfast at which local political figures are invited to gather and roast each other. On a more positive note, we also usually get a good selection of Irish bands playing local concert halls in honor of the occasion.
GRACEN: Do you like to decorate for spring/St. Pat’s Day or is this the time of the year where your house has a break from special décor?
KATHRYN: I find as the years pass that I’m less inclined to worry about decorating the house for anything but Christmas.
GRACEN: Ireland is steeped in myth, legends and lore. Do you have any favorites? Please briefly share them with us (include links to other information for interested readers).
KATHRYN: There are so many interesting things to read in Irish myth and legend that it’s hard to pick out just a few. I’ve always been fond of the retellings of the stories of Cuchulain and Finn MacCool by Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory. They were published in the early 1900’s and are out of copyright, so you can read them here:
Many of the old texts were first translated into English in the late 1800’s and can be found on this site. I particularly enjoy the Lady Gregory versions because she chose to render them in the colloquial vernacular of west country Ireland, which gives them a lovely old time feel.
Many of the country folk tales were collected for the first time in this period too, from traditional storytellers.
GRACEN: Spring is considered a time of renewal, a time of rebirth. Do you do anything “special” to commemorate this idea such as planting flowers or cleaning out your house? Please share with us your way of celebrating this time of rebirth.
KATHRYN: I don’t see spring as particularly special. It’s one more part of the wheel of the year. The other three are just as worthy of celebration. My spring activities tend to be practical ones – getting my horse his annual shots, getting my camping gear ready for summer trips, and trying, usually futilely, to get ahead of my yard work before the growing season really takes off.
This year I’ve added a new spring ritual – pumping out my basement. I’ve been learning about the finer points of hydraulic cement, and foresee a sump pump in my immediate future.
GRACEN: Magic is often tied into Celtic myths and legends, or at least we like to think it is. Why do you think that is? Why, in your opinion, does Ireland carry so much mystery and magic for the rest of us?
There’s magic in every ancestral land. I think Ireland may be a little more accessible to many of us because it’s been blessed with great writers who have brought that magic to life in books, songs, and movies for those who don’t live there or have convenient older relatives to hand down the traditions.
It may also be a little more appealing to many of us than other lands because there are a lot of people in the US who have Irish roots in their family tree. But I meet enough people who are fascinated by the stories, who aren’t a bit Irish in heritage, that I think we have to credit good PR too. There’s fascinating magic in many other cultures too, but you have to look a little harder to find it.
GRACEN: If you could be any mythical or legendary Celtic creature or character, what/who would it be and why?
KATHRYN: I think I’d like to be a sidhe (that’s pronounced Shee, if you’re not familiar with the term). They were the Irish elves – tall, elegant, magical and immortal.
GRACEN: Please tell us some of the favorite/best books you’ve read with Celtic myths/legends or ties in them. (They can be fact or fiction, just be sure to indicate what type of books they are in case our readers might want to check them out.)
KATHRYN: I’ve read so many good books based on Celtic/Irish myth over the years that it’s very hard to pick out a short list to recommend.
Morgan Llywelyn has some wonderful modern retellings of many of the Irish legends, as well as well researched historical fiction set in more modern periods in Ireland. There are too many to list individual titles here.
I’ve also been a fan for many years of the work of Fiona MacLeod. I’m never sure what pronoun to use in discussing her work, since Fiona was a pseudonym for a male writer, William Sharpe, but saying his sounds very odd coupled with a female name, so I usually opt for matching the apparent gender of the name. Her work is also out of copyright, and you can read most of it here: http://www.sundown.pair.com/ There’s an assortment of formats – short stories, a couple of novels, songs and some plays. Her tales center mostly on the Hebrides, but there’s strong Irish influence too.
GRACEN: Now, let’s get to your writing, Kathryn…What genre is your writing considered to be? Why this genre? What was the draw for you?
KATHRYN: My published work so far is largely urban fantasy romance/erotica, mostly featuring M/M relationships. I’ve also just released my first ménage story last month. I have plans on the drawing board for an urban fantasy thriller, some high fantasy, and a historical fantasy.
My first love in reading has always been fantasy, followed closely by science fiction. Those were the sorts of stories that filled my imagination in my formative years, so I suppose it’s natural that when I started having ideas for stories of my own, that’s where they went. I’ve always wanted there to be magic in the world – magic that is inarguably real, and as an author I can create that.
GRACEN: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please be creative and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
KATHRYN: Magic. When you drill down to the core of everything – life and love, you find magic. It’s not necessarily magic in the sense of turning lead into gold or casting lightning bolts or reading minds, although that might be there. That’s surface stuff. The real magic is buried deep in the spirit of everything alive. It’s the stuff of life itself, and love is one of its purer expressions. Love is a power that can transform, like the medieval alchemist seeking to turn lead into gold. Compassion is another. Pour those out into the world, and magic happens; sometimes in very subtle and hard to see ways, but it happens.
GRACEN: Do you prefer magical or human ingenuity for problem solutions? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
KATHRYN: Human ingenuity. Magic is a tool. It requires a guiding hand to use it, just like any other tool. My favorite character, Danny O’Riordan, is a clever young human with no real magic. He’s got a few talents, but nothing to compare with the magic native to the Elves or their cousins the Tengri. Either of his lovers could turn him into a greasy black spot with a thought. Yet he’s important to them because of who he is. And he’s important to the politics of the world because he isn’t afraid to think outside the traditional paths, and to say to people “No, you don’t have to do it that way, just because you’ve always done it that way. We’re in trouble here. You need to do something different.” That’s human ingenuity at its core.
GRACEN: Who decides what you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one strumming the harp?
KATHRYN: It’s a bit of both. When I’m creating a first draft, the best thing I can do is get out of the way and let my muse have its head. I often have a starting point in mind, usually a character or two, and maybe the endpoint of the story, but I’ve stopped worrying about planning out any real details because they’ll change on me, no matter how thoroughly I plan.
Once that initial creative flood has happened, I do have to go back and do some steering though, because my muse has some very bad habits. It knows exactly what those characters look like, so who needs descriptions? And what’s wrong with using the same word three times in one paragraph?
GRACEN: What was the character or creature that you had the most fun creating and why?
KATHRYN: Collectively I think Danny O’Riordan has to rate as the most fun, based purely on longevity. He’s been lurking around in my subconscious since the early 90’s, and was the character that first tempted me to think maybe I should write some of these ideas down. I plotted most of a novel about his life on a long road trip. I still haven’t written that one, but I have managed to finish chronicling several smaller pieces of his life.
He’s pure escapism. He’s physically competent in ways I’ll never even think about achieving. He has all kinds of adventures, which usually end up being resolved happily. There are a few exceptions, because I do try to aim for a small note of realism in my fantasy, and no one’s life is universally happy. That would make for a very boring story. But by and large he’s got a pretty good life – family that love him, lovers that care for him, great kids, and the satisfaction of knowing that he’s been instrumental in saving the world from an invading alien menace. You can do a lot worse if life than that.
GRACEN: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your character/creature creations in real life, who would it be and why?
KATHRYN: I think I’d like to meet Paolo, the lover (and future husband) of Greg in Leap of Faith (http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=2203) . He’s gorgeous, artistically talented, and an incredibly loving dom for Greg. Of course he wouldn’t be interested in me, so that wouldn’t do me much good….
GRACEN: Which of your character/creature creations would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
KATHRYN: One of the Devourers, from the Danny O’Riordan stories. They’re a race of aliens who are invading Earth and the Elven world. They’re magical creatures which live on pain and life energy. They’ve left behind them a chain of worlds they’ve devoured, hence the name. They suck all the life out of a planet, then move on to the next nearest world. They’re so alien that merely being too close to one can cause mental disorders, and their breeding habits don’t bear thinking about in a PG-rated column. I’ll just say they lay eggs like wasps, and prefer intelligent hosts.
GRACEN: Of all the stories you wrote, which was the storyline that you had the most fun fleshing out? Why?
KATHRYN: I had a huge amount of fun with my latest story, Winter King, which appears in an anthology entitled “I Put A Spell on You”, available from Torquere Press. (http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=2539) . It’s my first ménage story. It features Danny O’Riordan, his wife Ginny, and his Elven lover King Aran, doing a ritual re-enactment of the seasonal battle between the Summer King and the Winter King. It started out life as a bit of sexual fantasy one morning, and even after repeated edits, which might reasonably be expected to take the fun out of almost anything, I still think parts of it are very hot.
GRACEN: As writers, inspiration comes from everywhere. What, specifically, inspired your latest story, the one we’re promoting here today?
KATHRYN: The story I decided to promote today, in honor of Saint Patrick’s day, is a bit of historical romance. Late 19th and early 20th century Ireland has been a favorite topic of mine for years. There are so many fascinating things going on there – the Easter Rebellion of 1916, which gave rise to modern Ireland, the birth of the trade union movement, the women’s suffrage movement, a huge literary renaissance, and a variety of occult and spiritualist movements. There was also a surprisingly large overlap in terms of the people involved in these important developments. W. B. Yeats, for example, was a huge figure in the literary circles of the time, active in several occult groups, and involved peripherally in the politics.
I’ve had an idea for a novel based on the events leading up to the 1916 rebellion sitting on the back burner for some time. It’s been waiting for the right characters to drive it, since I didn’t want to make my main character one of the major historical players. Shortly before Christmas my muse finally produced the characters, and this little story is their first outing. It’s set in 1904, well before the period to be covered by the novel. I wanted to get a feel for them before getting into the meat of the novel. This is their first meeting, before either of them have been sucked into the great events of the time.
by Kathryn Scannell
16 pages / 7625 words
Available file types - html, lit, pdf, prc, epub and Sony Reader pdf
Heat Rating: Chile (mildly explicit sex)
Making advances to a man you don’t know is a risky proposition in turn of the century Dublin, but Jason Goldsmith is sure he sees signs of interest in the handsome stevedore who is staring at him at a public reception in honor of the premier of the Abbey Theatre where he’s an actor. The risk pays off handsomely.
Christmas is nearly upon them, and Neil is lonely for his family and his home town. Jason has a brilliant idea to take Neil's mind off it, and give him a Christmas Eve to remember. He’ll borrow a set of ladies clothing from the theater wardrobe, and disguise himself as a woman so they can go out on the town openly together. It’s a daring plan, and will be great fun if it works. But can Jason pull off the deception?
[I had a great deal of fun with this part of the story. Our lads have just finished a bit of very explicit business in an alleyway, when they’re interrupted. Jason, the viewpoint character, is wearing women’s clothing at the moment. ]
"Unhand that young woman immediately, you shameless fornicator!" A strident voice interrupted Jason's moment of bliss. Looking toward the mouth of the alleyway, he saw a stout woman in a black dress, with a shawl over her head. What was she doing there? His brain wasn't quite functioning again yet.
"Shame on you, you great lout, to be sinning so blatantly on the feast of the birth of our blessed lord Jesus! You'll be spending years in purgatory expiating these moments of pleasure." The woman came toward them implacably, making Jason think of a great ship with a full head of steam in its boilers.
Slowly his brain began working again, as some of the blood flow returned to it. The thing he'd thought at first was a shawl was in fact part of a nun's habit. He had no idea what order, but it probably didn't matter anyway. Neil had turned beet red, and was staring at her in complete horror. His mouth was open, but no words were coming out.
Jason ducked around Neil, putting himself between his lover and the apparition of impending doom. He wasn't sure what to do with the situation, but it was abundantly clear that Neil was even less sure, so he'd have to come up with something.
"Sister, we-" Jason tried to interrupt, hoping inspiration would come to him once he started.
"Oh, my dear." The nun's expression changed as she looked at him, to one of sympathy and concern. "Are you all right? Do you need me to summon a constable? Has this brute injured you?"
Jason quickly rethought his approach. He'd expected the nun would take him for a whore, and vent her righteous fury on him, too, but apparently she'd decided he was a respectable young lady. His face was flushed from his orgasm, but that could pass as embarrassment, particularly in the dim light. Maybe he could talk their way out of this yet.
"No, Sister, really, it's all right. Please, don't call anyone. Me da would have a fit. There's no harm done, really." He slipped into a more working-class accent, and smoothed his skirts nervously. "There's no need to be thinking so ill of my poor fiancé Sean here. We're going to be married a just a few weeks, but it's so hard waiting. I didn't think a little kiss or two beforehand would do any harm." Behind him he could hear Neil making choking noises. He hoped Neil would keep his mouth shut and just go along with the story, because God knew Neil couldn't lie to save his life.
The nun looked sternly at them. Now that she was closer he could see her features in the dim light. She was a stout woman, probably weighed nearly 20 stone, and middle-aged. A wisp of curly brown hair escaped from under her head covering. She was looking at him now with concern clear in her blue eyes. "Girl, that way of thinking's been the ruin of many a young lass. Where'll you be if you let him have his way, then he decides he needn't marry you after all? Sure, God will punish him eventually, but it's little good that'll be doing you in this life, you with maybe a baby in your belly, and no one for it to call father."
"I'd do no such thing, Sister. As God is my witness." Neil broke in.
"Easy to say, when it hasn't happened," the nun snapped at him. "Are you sure you don't need me to walk you somewhere safe, girl?"
"No, no, thank you, Sister." Jason answered quickly. "We'll just be walking on to mass, and then home. You're right -- we should be patient. Next month will come soon enough."
The nun looked at them dubiously. "Well, if you're sure. But mark my words, girl. Don't you be letting him under your skirts before the wedding, or you'll regret it." Her face softened. "I'll pray for you both, that he's worthy of the faith you've placed in him. If things go wrong, and you need help, you can find me at the Sisters of Mercy convent on Crofton Road. Ask for Sister Catherine."
"Thank you, Sister. We appreciate your prayers." Neil said in a slightly strangled voice. "Blessed Christmas to you."
"And to both of you," the nun smiled at them.
Jason put an arm on Neil's, as if leaning on him, and urged him down the street away from the alley and the nun watching them go. They walked on for another block, and around a corner, getting well out of sight. Once they had, Jason leaned against a convenient garden wall, and burst into helpless laughter, stifling the sound against his hand.
"Oh, God. I don't believe that just happened. Of all the people to interrupt us. That's just too much." If he'd been wearing his own clothes, he would have doubled over laughing, but the corset got in the way.
Neil stared at him for a long moment, his expression a mix of shock and embarrassment, then gave in and laughed with him. "Fiancé, is it? And we're to be married next month? Lord, I had no idea we were that serious. You are such a wicked man, telling lies to a nun on Christmas Eve."
"Oh, indeed, my wickedness is boundless tonight." Jason grinned at him. "I was about to have my way with you when we were interrupted. Shall we find another secluded spot and pick up where we left off?"
My work: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=272&main_page=index