Saturday, October 27, 2012

Meet Celtic Hearts member, Mary Gillgannon

Hi Mary, and welcome to Adventures in Auhorland. Please share your writing adventure with us.

Have you ever traveled to a place and come away with a story unexpectedly?

The idea for The Dragon Bard came to on my first trip to Ireland. On the last leg of the trip we went to County Antrim, which is in the far northeast coast of the island. From the shore there, you can almost see all the way across the Irish Sea to Scotland. When the previous book in the series, The Dragon Prince, ended, the hero’s brother Bridei was on his way north to what is now Scotland. Gazing across the water on the coast in County Antrim, I suddenly knew that in his book Bridei wasn’t going to stay in Scotland, but end up in Ireland. And as I observed the lush countryside of northern Ireland, I imagined a beautiful Irish queen fighting to hold on to her lands and the idea for the story of The Dragon Bard was born.

Can you give us some details of your latest release?

As The Dragon Bard begins, my hero Bridei is lying shackled on a slavers’ boat as it crosses the Irish Sea. The boat eventually ends up in territory of the Queen Dessia of the Fionnlairaos in northeast Ireland. Queen Dessia is young and beautiful and desperate. Her whole family was killed years before and she has spent her life since recapturing the lands her father once held and regaining her heritage. Her harsh life has made her suspicious and driven, and when she meets Bridei and he tries to charm her with his singing, she is immediately wary. She suspects this handsome bard has the means to undermine everything she’s worked so hard for. Thus begins a clash of wits and wills, as Bridei seeks to seduce the distrustful queen and Dessia tries to resist.  Over the course of the book, both of them will have to confront what they fear most and discover what truly makes life worth living. Not surprisingly, because it’s a romance, they discover that love might be the most important thing of all.

How many books have you written? What’s your favorite?

I’ve published thirteen books and have completed four others, so it’s pretty tough to pick a favorite. But I do love The Dragon Bard, which is the fourth book in my Dragon of the Island series. The first book in the series was my first published book and featured my first (fictional) hero, Maelgwn the Great. In The Dragon Bard, Maelgwn makes a brief appearance at the end and it was very satisfying to show him as an older man and reveal his growth as a character.

I also love the hero in Bard, Bridei ap Maelgwn, because he’s a different sort of hero. He’s a poet and a musician rather than a warrior and he uses his wits, his talent and his charm to make his way in life. He’s also very cynical and rather bitter, although he hides that beneath a fa├žade of devil-may-care. It’s the vulnerable aspects of my heroes that really intrigue me and although he conceals it well, Bridei is pretty wounded. He also undergoes probably the most dramatic character growth of any of my heroes, going from a detached, rather selfish outlook on life to finally risking everything for love.

What place inspires you the most?

Although I live in Wyoming, land of cowboys and wide open spaces, almost all my books have been set in the British Islands. Due to some sort of ancestral memory, misty forests, hidden glens and rocky hillsides are where I feel most at home and that’s the landscape where a lot of my books are set. They also take place in the past. I took my heroine all the way back to the Bronze Age in one of my unpublished books and the Dragon of the Island series is set in the time of King Arthur. (Arthur plays a big part in the third book, The Dragon Prince.)  I’m currently working on a time travel where the hero visits modern day Denver. But since the set-up of the story happens in the 9th century, even that one has ties to the past.   
What inspired you to write your first book?

I’d always been a voracious reader and secretly harbored the dream of someday writing a novel. But I was too insecure and intimidated to attempt writing fiction until two things happened:  1) I had emergency back surgery and that forced me to consider the possibility of dying and I began to think about what I’d most regret if I did die (besides leaving behind my children).  2) I started working in a library where I realized people weren’t mostly reading great works of literature, but simply stories. Once I knew I just had to write a book before I died, and I got past the idea that you had to be as talented as Fitzgerald or Faulkner to write a novel, I decided to give it a try. Since I had small children and very little free time, I wrote in longhand on my breaks at work and any other chance I had. I told all my co-workers what I was doing, thinking that way I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t finish the book. As I wrote, I fell in love with the creative process. Having my characters “come to life” before my eyes was exhilarating. I was hooked. When I finished the book, I had one of my co-workers read it and she said it was pretty good and I should try to get it published. And so I did, and somehow, magically, it was and I was on my way.

Do you have any advice for new writers beginning their adventure?

I’ve been writing for almost twenty years and my career has had a lot of ups and downs. In this business, persistence and pure stubbornness are probably as important as talent. And you have to love it. The thrill of having characters and worlds come to life before your eyes has to be there, or it’s going to be very difficult to keep at it through the rough times. Put your heart and soul into your books and readers will respond to that. Your passion for your story does come through on the page.

Excerpt from The Dragon Bard

At last Dessia could see the visitor’s face, and it was as fine and comely as she’d expected. He wore only the hint of a beard, a dusky down outlining the square shape of his jaw. His nose was straight and narrow, his mouth, full and sensual. And his eyes—by the gods—it seemed unfair that a man should possess such amazing violet blue eyes, surrounded by thick, black lashes.
Shaking off such thoughts, Dessia forced herself to meet the visitor’s gaze. “Who are you?” she asked.
The man bowed low and then straightened, his movement as graceful as a cat’s. His dazzling eyes glinted with warmth. “I’m Bridei ap Maelgwn, lately of Britain, although I have lived many places.  I play the harp and musical pipe. I compose poems, sing songs and recite a hundred different tales. I can write Latin and a little Greek, decipher runes and tally accounts. I would be a most useful and entertaining addition to your household, Queen Dessia. In exchange for my services I would ask only that you provide me with a small chamber of my own, food and drink such as you give your warriors, and the freedom to come and go as I please.”
As he finished his speech, Bridei felt rather startled by what he’d just said. He’d intended to entreat Queen Dessia to help him return to Britain. But somehow, at the last moment, different words had formed on his tongue. Why had he offered to serve her? Was it simply a response to her remarkable beauty? For Queen Dessia was stunning. Masses of dark red hair cloaked her tall, voluptuous form. Her face was a pale, delicate oval, set with gleaming jewel-green eyes and a lush coral mouth. She was a goddess. As bold and magnificent as Epona, lady of horses. As radiant as Arianrhod, queen of the moon and stars. Merely looking at her made Bridei’s loins grow tight.
Queen Dessia shifted her body and licked her lips. At last, she said, “You appear far too young to possess the skills you boast of. And you haven’t told me how you came to be here. My man, Keenan…” She motioned to the warrior who’d escorted him there, making Bridei feel a sudden surge of jealousy. “He says you were wearing slave chains when he found you.” Her green eyes narrowed. “You’ve been brought to Eire against your will. Why would you choose to stay here rather than returning to your homeland?”
He made his expression sorrowful. “If you haven’t heard, there was a great battle in my homeland last summer. Our brave, valiant leader, Arthur ap Uther, was defeated and killed by the Saxons. Fighting at his side was my older brother Rhun.” He hung his head dramatically. “I’m still mourning my loss. While the remainder of my family yet live in the mountain kingdom of Gwynedd, I haven’t the heart to visit them. I can’t bear to look upon my father’s face and tell him that his eldest son is dead.”
He slowly raised his gaze and assessed the effect of his words. She looked stricken, as if he had been speaking of her family rather than his own. Pain creased her fair brow and her mouth trembled. He quickly bent his head again, repressing a smile of satisfaction.
He waited a moment, then sighed deeply and once more looked into her eyes. “Call me a coward, if you will, but I am weary of the war and fighting that has torn apart my homeland. I seek a place of refuge, and this lovely bit of land, bordered by the wild sea, warmed by a gentle sun and blessed with soft, sweet rain, seems the perfect place to mend my spirits.”
A sheen of tears glazed her green eyes, reminding him of sunlight shining upon a still forest pool. She looked so tender and sweet…and young. He could see the wounded girl she’d been, only partially hidden beneath the trappings of the proud queen. She could still weep over loss and injustice. In a moment, she would agree to let him stay in her household. Then he need only offer a few more soulful looks and touching tales and she would eagerly welcome him into her bed.
But even as he considered the splendor of this prize, he couldn’t help wondering what he had done—offering up his freedom, his independence, to serve this exquisite young queen. He glanced down at his hands and saw the pale reddish lines marking the place where the iron fetters had encircled his wrists. Those shackles were gone, but it felt as if they had been replaced by other, invisible and yet more powerful, bonds.


I am fascinated by history, as well as Celtic myth and legend. These interests inspire and enrich most of my books, both historical romance and historical fantasy. Raised in the Midwest, I currently live in Wyoming with my husband, four cats and a dog. I work in the local public library and have two grown children. Besides writing, I enjoy gardening, travel and reading, of course! 

For more about my books and me, visit my website or check out my blog:

Thank you for joining us today, Mary. Here's wishing you many sales.


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