I invited Ali Isaac and Jane Dougherty to talk about writing a collaborative book. I’ve written one story in concert with Mari Wells over Halloween, but we each wrote our own story. The collaboration was in making sure our tales complimented each other. Ali and Jane have a book out now, and I’ll let them tell you about it.
Grá mo Chroí
Long ago in a green island surrounded by protective mists, a people lived among the relics of a bygone age of which they knew nothing, not being archaeologists, but around whom they created a mythology. They were a volatile people, easily moved to love or war, and motivated by a strict sense of honour. They had women warriors and handsome lovers, wicked queens and cruel kings, precious heroines and flawed heroes. Magic was in the air, beneath the ground, and in the waves of the sea, and hyperbole was the stuff of stories. They were the Irish, and these are a few retellings of some of their beautiful stories.
Ali Isaac and Jane Dougherty are writers with a shared heritage. Ali has woven that heritage into the fabric of her stories about Conor Kelly and his adventures in the Otherworld. Jane consistently slips references to the old stories and the old heroes into all of her novels.
This collection of retellings of some of the great love stories from Irish mythology is our tribute to this culture which has so captivated us. Love in the Iron Age, as you will see, did not have the benefit of Disney. The Ancient Irish had to contend with far more violence than modern lovers, and their ideas of what constituted happiness were not necessarily the same as ours. An Irish princess was not going to languish at the top of an ivory tower waiting for a knight in shining armour. She was much more likely to get on her horse and drag him out of his bed with a curse if he hung about too long. But in many ways, love through the ages has not changed one iota. Grief, sorrow and passion are all there in spadesful.
If the only thing you know about Irish mythology is Saint Patrick, serpents, and Leprechauns, it’s about time you read this collection. If you like what you see, this could be the start of a life changing experience.
From the Story of Baile and Aillinn:
Bailé, the soft-spoken, left Emain Macha in the north to meet Aillinn, his betrothed. Rare was such a wedding host, and uncommonly joyful. For the king of Ulster’s only son and the daughter of the king of Leinster had made a love match. Even the sun shone bright on Bailé’s journey, the hounds danced and milled about the horses’ legs, fancy bridle bits sang silver songs in the wind, and the company was filled with joy.
Bailé left behind his own lands of Ulster, the blue lochs and gorse-yellow hills where the eagles cried. Before him, beyond the purple peaks of home, lay the low, wooded hills and the rich plains of Leinster. He saw his Aillinn in the contours of the hills, in the white plumage of the swans on the river. She was soft as new grass and spring foals, wild as the March wind, and generous as the blackbird singing to the world. His heart was full of joy that soon they would be wed and their union would bind together her rich beauty of soft hills and birdsong, and his wild majesty of the eagle and the red deer.
Why did we write this book together?
Ali; We had already become friends through our blogs. I had this idea of re-telling stories from Irish mythology kicking around in my head for a long time, in fact, I had been incorporating some of them into my Conor Kelly books. It turned out that Jane, too, had already been re-writing her favorite myths. It just seemed natural that we would join forces and work on a compilation together. 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. We noticed the theme, and 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; I started these retellings about a year ago with the story of Deirdre. It was cold, we had had a flurry of snow for about five minutes that had everybody gazing in wonder up at the sky, and the blackbirds were taken by surprise and fussed about in the trees. Something in the combination made me think of Deirdre and her feelings as a young girl kept in seclusion, just waiting to be married to an old king. One story led to another, and when Ali, at the end of last year suggested we have a go at rewriting some of these tragic stories, I knew I could do it. Tragic usually means love stories. Love stories means Valentine’s Day. Our collection had to be ready for February 14th. And it was!
Here’s what Jane and Ali think about author collaborations
Jane: There’s nothing like a good poke in the ribs from a so-called friend to produce results. The proof: I have been writing my own versions of some of the great Irish myths for over a year and have a whole clutch of them waiting to be polished and published. I even have a cover. What has been lacking is the motivation to finish the job. When Ali suggested in November last year that we have a go at retelling one or two of the old love stories, I was game. Of course I was! This was something I knew I could do.
But having the idea is one thing, getting the damn stories written and ready for Amazon is quite another. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t had Ali cracking the whip, this project would have been dead in the water. For all I know, she was getting as little actual writing done as I was, but to hear her go on! Setting deadlines, then pointing at the calendar, waving the stop watch at me. Even now, when the book is finished and up on Amazon, she’s still badgering me about different ideas for promotion, contests and giveaways. If you need a harridan on your back to make you work, Ali Isaac is your woman.
Joking apart, Ali’s energy and enthusiasm have made this project happen. She has been great fun to work with, a fund of ideas and invention. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Well…when I’d had a bit of a rest first.
Ali: And she calls me bossy? No sooner had we agreed on the project, and the stories, when a book cover pops up in my in-box! So while I was looking at that, she only goes and sets up a blog tour… she’s a whirlwind, I tell you, and I had my job cut out just keeping up with her!
Actually, I found Jane to be a pleasure to work with, and a very inspiring person to be around. Her writing style is so beautiful, her prose is so full of poetry, and she has a way of really seeing into the heart and soul of her characters, and transfers that onto the page with ease.
We naturally fell into the roles we took on, felt comfortable with editing each other’s work, and accepting criticism. It was a real team effort, and I think we have created something unique.
Of course, if the book flops, I can always blame her cover… and no doubt she will blame my poor formatting! Teamwork is a wonderful thing!
I have my copy in my TBR list. I’m not familiar with Jane’s work, beyond her blog. I am a great lover of Ali’s books and will certainly read and review this one.
You can contact and follow Ali and Jane at the following locations:
You will find Ali pottering about most days on her blog, her Facebook Author Page, or tweeting. Alternatively, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Her books are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.