Your stories are set in a medieval world with a Celtic flavor to it. How did you establish that in the world-building to differentiate it from, say, the French influence seen in the classic King Arthur tales?
I use a lot of names of Celtic-Welsh origin in my writing. Rhiannon and Gwydion are also both characters you will find in Celtic mythology, although their mythological counterparts don't have anything to do really with my characters! I use the Welsh word for castle, "Caer," and Rhiannon's castle Caer Idris has a Welsh root meaning "fire." I have always loved Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, and his character names such as Fflewddur Fflam the bard and Princess Eilonwy and the great and wise warrior Prince Gwydion always appealed to me. However, in true Arthurian fashion, I do mix the French influence of courtly love into my narrative, and you will find references to "curtesye," or courtly manners, in the relationship between my Sir Gwydion and Lady Rhiannon.
What are some of your favorite sources of information about medieval and/or Celtic life?
My favorite literary primary sources are Malory's Le Morte Darthur, which I feel is the definitive tale of Arthurian medieval romance, and The Mabinogion, which is the collection of Celtic mythology. For historical and archaeological information my number one source is Leslie Alcock's Arthur's Britain. For literary analysis, I recommend starting with The Development of Arthurian Romance by Roger Sherman Loomis, which also includes the influences of The Mabinogion, French writers such as Chretien de Troyes, my favorite Grail story Parzival by the German Wolfram von Eschenbach, the legend of Glastonbury Tor, and Merlin. Loomis also has written various other books on the Grail and individual Arthurian characters.
Is there an aspect of Celtic life that was especially difficult to work into your world? Or especially fun and easy?
Although I knew from the start that my main characters would be named Rhiannon and Gwydion, the other names were a bit more difficult. I looked at a lot of Welsh/Celtic name lists and roots to get Idris and Aelwyd, which both have "fire" connotations. Aelwyd, Rhiannon's great-great grandmother's name, actually has a root meaning "hearth," which can have several symbolic connotations in my story. And I don't want to give away too many secrets, but there is another character's name whose translation gives his secret away!
When Rhiannon was small and had just learned to read, her mother brought her into the hall one day when her father was on campaign, and led her to the large table upon which a great map of their lands lay. She instructed Rhiannon to read the words of the landmarks: castle, road, mountain, forest, village. The young girl touched words inscribed over a place where trees met craggy peaks. “What does that say, my love?” her mother prompted.
“Here be dragons,” Rhiannon answered, glancing up at her mother.
Her mother nodded, smiling. She knelt down in front of Rhiannon so they were at the same height. The lady’s hazel eyes sparkled as she whispered, “I have a secret to share. But I can only share it with a little girl with red and gold hair,” she pulled playfully on Rhiannon’s braid,” who knows how to read.” Rhiannon giggled. “Are you a little girl such as this?” Rhiannon nodded eagerly, and her mother laughed. She stood up and gestured at a tapestry on the wall. “Come, child, the dragon guards our treasure.”
Hand in hand they walked to the tapestry of the sleeping dragon. “Your great-great grandmother wove this tapestry when she was an old woman. It took her a long time to complete, with her hands gnarled so, like the twisted oak by the drawbridge.” The dragon was curled up in front of a turret, with stone dolmens in a semi-circle behind it, interspersed with trees and a mountain peak in the background and bright blue sky above. The dragon’s scales were crimson and woven through with glittering gold thread, and its curved horns and talons were gold. As they paused in front of the large tapestry, Rhiannon looked closely at the eyes of the dragon; she thought perhaps she could see a slit of gold, as if the dragon were only pretending to be asleep.
Rhiannon’s mother stood on tiptoe and moved part of the tapestry to the side, revealing a slit in the stone wall. With her free hand she reached in and drew out a large leather-bound tome. She motioned her daughter to come sit with her on one of the benches that lined the walls. “Look and listen well, my daughter,” she said, and ran her fingers along the smooth cover, “this book is our special treasure, and it contains many secrets within its pages. I am going to teach you how to read them.” She opened the book as Rhiannon snuggled closer to her, her mother’s loose red-gold hair falling over the girl’s shoulder and brushing the crinkly parchment pages of the book which she turned until she came to the picture of a girl.
“The first secret is a story…”
Back cover blurb
A dragon writes a cryptic message with its ember breath in the evening sky...
Lady Rhiannon watches from the turret wall with an ache in her blood. She's the only person who can decipher the message as the sole keeper of the Dragon Tome. When an old enemy threatens the castle, her father charges his knight with escorting her to a safe haven—the same knight Rhiannon had a crush on as a girl. But she must now convince him to change his plans, for she has her own sacred charge to fulfill...
So begins a journey to hidden ruins where magic slumbers in the stones and love lies in the heart, waiting to awaken. As Rhiannon and the knight face seemingly insurmountable odds, only the dragon knows if they can fulfill their destiny...
Lori J. Fitzgerald lives in New York with her fellow English Major husband and their two little bookworms. Medieval literature is her passion, and she wishes she could spend more time traipsing around Renaissance Faires and shouting “Huzzah” at jousts. She was a middle school English teacher for many years and was best known for her dramatic readings of The Princess Bride. Lori is currently a Staff Writer for the website Once Upon A Fan, the popular fansite for ABC’s hit show Once Upon A Time. You can contact her by email at WhiteRaven829@gmail.com.
The Dragon’s Message, A Dragon Tome Novelette,
is available on Kindle and Nook for $1.99
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