Thursday, 24 May 2012

Author Spotlight and Guest Post: Erin O'Quinn

A warm Scottish welcome to wonderful storyteller, Erin O’Quinn, whose writing I’ve come to admire after meeting her in cyberspace at various places around the blogging world. Erin’s Dawn of Ireland series takes the reader back to the days of St Patrick and the dawning of Christianity in Irish pagan history. It is also the awakening love story of Caylith, who begins her journey as an innocent yet passionate girl in Storm Maker. Read Erin's excellent post below on the tanding stones of Celtic Ireland.

The Wakening Fire follows Storm Maker as the second in The Dawn of Ireland series.

Even though married life for young Liam and Caylith O'Neill is just as sensuous as their stormy courtship, both of them still need to learn a whole new language - how to show each other their deepest, most secret passions. Liam finds ingenious ways to teach his still-naïve wife about his urgent needs, and she surprises him with her own instruction.

In the midst of their quest of each other, they find themselves on another, deadly search - for the dark secrets of their old enemy Owen Sweeney, confined to an invalid's cart and seemingly just as dangerous as ever. Their search for the truth of the brooding half man leads them back to the history of Ireland's most famous high king, to the astonishing vengeance of a jealous woman, and finally to the hills of sacred Tara, where a high king and St. Patrick himself compete for men's hearts and souls.

Storm Maker is available from Siren BookStrand here, and from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

The Awakening Fire is available from Siren BookStrand here. It will be available from Amazon soon.

Thank you so much, Erin, for writing this very interesting post about the standing stones.

The Standing Stones of Celtic Ireland
As seen in O’Quinn’s Dawn of Ireland Series

Cairns and all manner of sacred stones abound in Ireland and Scotland. In fact, the word 'cairn' is the plural form of 'stone' in Scottish Gaelic. Ancient Gaels somehow transported stones, many weighing tons, and erected them in certain alignments clearly imitating some sacred rite or calling forth a religious belief.

The three most important stone formations that figure in the Dawn of Ireland novels are first, the famous Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny, erected on the sacred Hill of Tara in Co. Meath, Ireland. Second is the Tirnoney dolmen, near Maghera in present day Co. Derry. Third is the evocative group of stones sitting in a farmer’s field near Claudy, near the city of Derry.

The Lia Fáil is perhaps the most unforgettable sight to a visitor viewing the famous hill of Tara, home of Old World Ireland’s high kings. It stands fully six feet high and is a pale grey, a phallic symbol of such undeniable potency that it is said high kings could not hold office until the contender for the crown stood at the stone and everyone in attendance could hear the stone roar.

This stone is the site where, in Caylith’s vivid memories, her husband’s father High King Leary erected his public throne and pronounced judgment on Owen Sweeney; and where he awarded Caylith her new provincial land, former holdings of the criminal Sweeney. In a later novel titled Warrior, Ride Hard, one of the main characters uses the Stone of Destiny as an unerring reference and later as a focal point in his quest to bring down a group of scheming druids.

A dolmen, in general terms, refers to two stones with a third (lintel stone) erected on top. Thus most of the stones on the Plain of Salisbury are said to be dolmens. In Storm Maker, as Caylith and Liam are traveling to her new holdings in Derry in company with his cousin Ryan, the three stop and marvel at such a formation. In the book, I have the stone placed roughly where it stands today, near a copse of ashes near the town of Maghera.

In the novel, as in reality, the stones have obviously been brought to that place, and the lintel stone is not flat. It is almost as imposing as the balancing stones, and tipped to face the rising sun. Actually, the group of stones had been subject to vandals in some past age and have been brought close to a modern highway so that folks in passing vehicles can stop and marvel at the sight of stones almost six feet high with an even larger stone balanced on top.

Seeing these stones opens a deep place inside Caylith - and in Liam too, for both of them feel stirrings of a being far greater than themselves, a might that reaches back into the dawn of time.

I felt Liam next to me, and Ryan, too. He spoke through his cousin. “What do ye feel?”
“I feel the old bones. And I hear them singing.”
“Are ye a believer in the gods of old?”
“No. I believe in Christ. And I believe in the life everlasting, as he taught.”
“Then the ancestors still live?”
“In a way, Liam, yes. They speak through these stones.”
“Then Pádraig’s beliefs differ not so much from our own,” he said, and I looked at him then. He, too, had reached out to touch the ancient stones, and his finger traced the fissures and cracks that seemed old as the earth itself.
“Me father has warned me about Pádraig. The druids have told him that the priest means to destroy our beliefs. Do ye think that be true, Caitlín?”
I had to be careful here, for I did not want to go against Father Patrick’s teaching. I knew he welcomed many of the old beliefs of the people of Éire, as long as the teachings of Christ were carefully layered over old superstition and shown to be superior.
“I do not believe the druids. I think they will do or say anything to discredit Father Patrick. I think he wants what the people want - to be protected and loved by almighty God.”
“If that be true,” Liam said slowly, “then I could follow Pádraig’s words and not be damned by the almighty powers.”

The third set of stones to play an important role for Caylith and her friends is the group sitting in a farmer’s field near Claudy, about six miles south of modern Derry. You will see in the photo how the farmer has carefully mowed the field all around the stone. It may seem strange to those of us in the USA that the stone is not the site of a souvenir stand and a photo-op sign. Thankfully, the Éireannach people are more sensitive than we about their culture.

These stones, to Caylith, represent a mighty king surrounded by his subjects, and she has taken Owen Sweeney to gaze on the formation in a closing chapter of The Wakening Fire.

I stood with Liam regarding a stone as tall and wide as he was. It was light gray and weathered. Like the one we had seen near the Lough Neagh, it was crisscrossed with feathery strands of lichen. But one entire side of this stone was streaked and almost bloodred.
At first I thought the red was the stain from some ghastly druid sacrifice. And then I realized that the stone itself on this side was a bit different from the rest. Instead of looking like thousands of bits of shiny dwarf dust, this side was rougher and darker. I thought the red might be the way the sun and the rain played upon its surface over the countless years it had stood here.
From the moment I had seen it yesterday, I imagined it as a solitary, proud king. The several stones that stood or lay nearby were his sentries, his minions, watching over him as he stood on high ground and beheld his realm—the low, pretty valley where two rivers flowed together.

I, like Caylith and some of my other main characters, am drawn like a lodestone to the ancient stones. They call me back to the beginning, even before the stalwart men who placed them in prominent places throughout the British Isles. I look, I marvel, and by the grace of God, I write about them.

I adopted Erin O’Quinn as my pen name when I found myself steeped in the history, culture and language of Old World Ireland. The characters - cattle barons, kings, druids and others - reflect the pre-Christian times and beliefs of Éire. And then came Patrick. With the arrival of the famous minister of Christ’s gospels, the country underwent an almost miraculous change, and the characters in the books find themselves reacting to that change.

I earned a BA (English) and MA (Comparative Lit.) degrees from the University of Southern California. My training almost demanded that I pay close attention to the interplay of culture, language, and folklore. I am retired from an active life and I look out at the sprawling brown hills of Central Texas - far from the Emerald Isle - as I write my novels.

You can find out more about Erin and her writing on her Blog and Facebook. You can also contact Erin by email here.


Miriam Newman said...

Great post, Erin. Those stones and the beehive huts on the Dingle Peninsula were two of the most impressive sights I remember from my stay in Ireland--oh, and the Cliffs of Moher looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. They speak to me of both primordial and then pagan times, both so much a part of the soul of Ireland.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hello Miriam - many thanks for coming over to support Erin!

Rosemary Gemmell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erin O'Quinn said...

First, let me thank you, Romy, for such an attractive platform for my article. Great job!

And to you, Miriam, I always welcome your cheerful face and words of support. I hope that visitors to this blog know that just by visiting TheCelticRose, they will almost stand on top of those imposing cliffs, looking into the turbulent sea...Can you guess that I want to be there?

Ladies, I love that you support the celtic spirit, and that you give authors a chance to showcase their works. Being a newbie, I am especially grateful.

Slán, Erin

Pat McDermott said...

Hey, Erin. I have visited the Lia Fáil (stepping carefully around sheep droppings) several times. The entire Tara panorama is a spectacular scene, even in its less than pristine state. Those old stones are a fascinating mystery. So clever of you to work them into your stories.

Erin O'Quinn said...

Dear Pat,

In a way, it's refreshing that the sheep plops abound around that sacred stone. In the US such a place would be roped off, a MacDonald's would be close by, and someone would be charging an entry fee. I prefer the wholly natural.

Great observation, and I'm so glad you stopped by to share it.

xx Slán, Erin

Janus Gangi said...

I love your posts they always teach me so much!!

Erin O'Quinn said...

Dear Jan,

Wow, how nice of you! Can you tell that I have a bit more of an intellectual bent than is good for me? A lot of readers want to get to the, um, action...the other stones, as it were.

LOL Erin

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Pat - great to see you and thanks for commenting!

Hello Janus - many thanks for visiting!

Paula Martin said...

Hi Rosemary - and hi Erin - good to see you here! I love the 'stones' of Ireland - you can just be driving along, and spot them in a field! The dolmens and other stones on the Burren in Co. Clare are very impressive, especially Poulnabrone.

Erin O'Quinn said...

Dear Paula, Isn't it great how the Éireannach people just let their heritage lie the way it was put there? The ancients had their reasons, I think, for the position of every stone. Hurray for the people for letting those grand cairns stand as tributes to a long ago age.

Thanks for visiting!

Slán, Erin

Joanna said...

Thank you Rosemary and Erin. This was fascinating. I love Ireland and I love those stones and the way they are simply there, out-of-the-blue, with a wealth of stories to tell.
And, Erin, your books sound marvellous reading and full of your passion for the subject. I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you. x

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Paula - many thanks for coming over!

Hello Joanna - so glad you enjoyed Erin's interesting post. Thanks again for commenting!

Erin O'Quinn said...

Dear Joanna,

How really nice of you to leave a comment. Authors love comments, strewn like those stones across our landscape, nuggets that we can take home with us when the blog has ended!

Thanks for your interest in my writing,

Slán, Erin

Patsy said...

I find standing stones and stone circles fascinating - can see how they'd be inspiring to a writer of historical fiction.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Patsy - thanks for leaving a comment for Erin!

Erin O'Quinn said...

Dear Patsy,

I think every country on earth must have its memorial stones, and for every imagination there is a story behind those stones.

Like my characters, I cannot help but reach out and touch the surface, trace the lichen, frollow the many fissures and wonder why, and even how, those mighty memorials were brought to a certain place for men to marvel at.

Thanks for sharing my fascination.

Slán, Erin

Gilli Allan said...

There is something especially magical and mystical about Ireland. You manage to capture it, Erin. Gilli x

Erin O'Quinn said...

Thanks a lot, Gilli. I hope a lot of people interested in Ireland will pick up one of my books. Even non-romance fans may find some treatment of cairns (as you see here), mythology, folklore, Gaelic language, Patrick lore, etc.

You're a doll to leave words of encouragement for me. xxErin

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hello Gilli - thanks for such a lovely comment for Erin!

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