Author Interview: Celine kiernan

All book covers used are covers published by O'Brien Press in Ireland, covers are different in each country*

Can you please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing?

I've been writing since I was a very small child. I was literate very early ( I could read from the age of three, I think) and as soon as I could hold a pencil I was doing one of two things with it, drawing or writing. I loved words and how they sounded and how they fit together. I played with them like building blocks, really, and still do - my unconventional use of language is often a source of amusement (not to mention consternation) to my editors.

Lets talk Books:
The Poison Throne (Moorehawke Trilogy, #1)You are the author of award winning and critically acclaimed YA fantasy trilogy, The Moorehawke Trilogy, that includes The Poison Throne, The Crowded Shadows and The Rebel Prince. Can you tell us a little about the trilogy?

It's set in an alternate 1500's Europe and is about a young girl ( Wynter Moorehawke) and her attempts to not only prevent the kingdom she loves from descending into intolerance and tyranny, but also to rebuild a life for herself when all her support structures have been slowly eroded. It's quite dark and doesn't shy away from the harsher aspects of renaissance life, with torture and violence and intolerances of all kinds, but it's also all about friendship and love and good people trying to do what they believe is the right thing. I offer no answers in it, so characters make many mistakes and often end up doing terrible things to each other - but such is life and it's life I'm interested in exploring here. Above all else I'm interested in exploring the fact that there is never one true answer to everyone's problems, and how people need to find a way to live within an ever fluid series of compromises if we are to get along.

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Where did you get the idea for the trilogy?

As is often the case with my work, I first got the idea for Moorehawke a long time before I actually began to write it. We were staying in the south of France and went to visit Clos Luc Manor where Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last three years of his life. There (after an encounter with a small grey cat) I first got the idea for a children's adventure story featuring a missing prince, a carpenter's daughter and (possibly) a talking cat. My children were very young at the time and so it initially started out as something sunny and adventurous and light. When I finally settled down to write it however (many years later) my children were grown and it had become something much darker and complex and more... well, more me really! You can read more about what influenced the final book here, if you like.

           If you could encourage anyone to pick up the trilogy in three words what would they be?

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The characters rock.


You have also written Into the Grey a YA ghost story set in the 1970’s in Ireland . Can you tell us a little about it? (O’Brien has published it in Ireland, Walker is set to publish it in the near future)

Book CoverInto the Grey is about 15 year-old twin brothers Dominick and Pat who - due to their senile grandmother burning their house down - lose everything in the course of one night. Moving to an empty holiday home in a wintery seaside town, they quickly find themselves in danger of losing far more when the ghosts who live there take an unhealthy interest in the two boys who now impose on their troubled domain.

Into the Grey is a different genre from The Moorehawke trilogy. You have gone from fantasy to paranormal. Do you like to experiment/try different genres? Is there any other genre you would like to try?

Everything I write has major fantasy elements (so things like ghosts, aliens, werewolves, paranormal activities, psychic powers etc all feature in there somewhere) and I think its unlikely that I'd ever write a story without those elements included. But at the core of every book is a theme that I'm trying to explore ( in the case of Into the Grey the themes of identity - of how we see ourselves and how history/the world sees us - of loss and of family are all very strong) Any choices I make in terms of setting, POV, voice or even tense, are simply based on what I think best serves the story and its themes.

Even though your books are all YA but in different genres I have noticed a pattern, that all your books are set in the past. With the Moorehawke Trilogy being set during the renaissance, Into the Grey set in the 1970’s and your 2013 release, Resonance, set in the 1890’s. Do you prefer setting your books in the past rather that in a contemporary or futuristic setting? Do you have an interest in history and is the why your books reflect your interest?

Well, the settings of the stories all depend on the themes I want to explore within them. It's always fun to sidestep reality a little in writing. It makes the exploration of deeper themes less heavy handed - especially when exploring such real-life issues as racism and PTSD and political responsibility, as I do in Moorehawke. Setting a story in the past or in an alternate reality is one way of dealing with deeper issues without the story feeling heavy. I do also like to examine the long term consequences of real life actions (like societal reform for example (Moorehawke), or the changes history makes on how we see ourselves and our own actions (Into the Grey) or seeking self-worth in a world that deems you/your kind worthless (Resonance)) Setting a story in the past is a great way of exploring sweeping concepts like that. (I have written future sci-fi and contemporary stories btw, but they've not yet been published.)

Next for you is the release of Resonance in 2013, a supernatural Sci-fi. Your publishers are calling it a “metaphysical gothic”. Can you tell us a little about it?

Well, there's no real blurb for it yet, but Resonance is set in Ireland, in 1890, and tells the story of two ruthless immortals who prowl the theatre district in search of food for their 'Angel'. They're ancient and pitiless, and they care for no-one but their own twisted family. They'll stop at nothing to maintain their grip on life and soon there's only a seamstress, the young man who loves her and a penniless American magician to stand between them and the deaths of many. I guess there are many things that went into my writing this one. I was thinking a lot about life and death at the time, inspired probably quite deeply by my father finally losing his decades-long struggle with cancer. How does our concept of what comes after life (Something? Nothing? Punishment? Reward? ) shape our attitude to living and dying? What does it mean to be alive; what does it mean to want to be alive? Even knowing how insignificant we are in the great scheme of things, even knowing it will all someday end for us, how is it that people keep themselves going? I was also very interested in the concept of self-worth; of characters who are told by the world, You are less than others, yet somehow manage to find their way. It happens in so many different ways: by dint of a person’s gender or race, creed or social status, they are deemed to be inferior to the dominate strata of their society. I wanted to explore how folks deal with that; in what ways it may strengthen or warp them. And I wanted, as always, to push these ideas as far as I could. The urge to run away, to hide, to make a little haven for yourself and your loved ones far from the judgment and horrors of the world - how long can that be sustained without it becoming something twisted? As you remain mired in the same old fears and prejudices, and the world around you changes, wouldn’t you be as good as dead? This is in contrast to the determined manner in which some people simply face the world; simply barrel on through’ simply make of themselves whatever they can, no matter what the circumstances. All of that I wanted to explore, and did, in Resonance. Of course there are Angels, too, and murderous children, and psychic powers, blood and guts, spooky mansions, murderous thugs. You know - the usual Celine Kiernan delights.

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