Patricia Kennealy-Morrison – FAQ 30

. . .And The Deer’s Cry.

The Deer’s Cry is the foundation myth of Keltia. It’s the battle, on many levels and over many years, between Brendan Aoibhell, latterly known as St. Brendan the Astrogator, founder of Keltia, and P.traic, reputed Christianizer of Ireland. Essentially, it’s how their rivalry from boyhood led to Ireland’s coercion from the Old Ways to Christianity, and sent Brendan off on an interstellar hegira with whoever wanted to come, ending in the finding and founding of Keltia.

I’m very fond of Brendan. He’s very much in the Taliesin mold: those of you who’ve written to tell me how taken you were with Tal will probably like Brandoch too, though the book jacket–another John Ennis, see it in the Gallery–makes him look ever so much hunkier than I had been picturing him. Not that this is a bad thing–I’m just saying…
But those of you who lamented the end of the Canty Keltiad covers won’t like this one any more than you liked the art for Blackmantle. Now I LOVE Tom’s cover art–all of it, not just what he does for my own books–and I am very fond of him as a person, and I hope to work with him again on future projects; but to be perfectly honest, we’d gone about as far as we could with the Keltiad jackets. EVERYBODY’s book was looking like a Keltiad book, to the point where my own mother was in a bookstore and picked up someone else’s Cantified volume thinking it was mine! (“Oh, I didn’t know she had another book out, that rotten kid, why didn’t she tell me?” Oops, never mind…)
I chose Tom personally to do the Keltiad jackets; my books were the first ones to have that gorgeous art in those lovely border frames, and now the look is everywhere–either genuine Canty or clone ripoffs. I adore Tom, and I’m majorly delighted that he has gotten the creative recognition he so richly deserves, and I’m very proud to have maybe contributed to that a teensy weensy bit. But HarperPrism felt it was time for a change. The books are changing, we’re trying to find a wider audience, and the art had to change too. John Ennis is a terrific artist, a very different sort of stylist, and I think he is absolutely right for the way the books are tending now.
One odd aspect to The Deer’s Cry: for the first time in any of my books, there are no front-and-center strong women. Sure, there’s Nia, Brendan’s mom, the great sorceress everyone’s always going on about in later books; and Etain, his wife, whom we’ve already met in her second marriage, a long time later–but there’s not really anyone to stand with Aeron or Athyn or Gweniver or Morgan. Strange, that; and I have no idea why–maybe someone can elucidate it for me.
There’s some nice stuff: Brendan’s first meeting with Patraic; their duels on the hills Newgrange and Tara; the leaving of Earth; some encounters on the way; the arriving at what will be the future Keltia; the raising of the walls of Caerdroia… Each of the books (or trilogies) has a different voice: the Aeron books are different from the Arthur ones, and Blackmantle was different in tone from both of those. And Brendan is different in tone from Blackmantle–but I guess that’s the idea…they’re about different people, different times, so they should sound different. And, hopefully, one gets better as one goes along–though I am always humbled (or maybe just puzzled) by people who tell me they think the Aeron books are the best…
Anyway, The Beltane Queen will be next; at least, it will be the next Keltiad book–there’s something else ahead of it in the print queue, which I will inform you of in good time. Another one-off, BQ is the story of Aoife, Aeron’s great-grandmother, who was the Queen Victoria of Keltia, longest-living monarch and longest to reign. Actually, she starts out as Prince Hal and then grows up not into Henry V but into Henry IV Parts One and Two. She has a very misspent youth–something we haven’t seen yet in the Keltic royal house–but then, like Victoria, she finds her Albert, and also her Melbourne and Disraeli and Gladstone…
We will also meet for the first time a mystical interplanetary order–a cross between the Jedi, the Rangers and the Bene Gesserit–that will play a major role in the final trilogy, when I get back to that–which I’m now thinking will maybe happen after Aoife–as well as in the life of Aoife herself…
I’d also like to explain to my readers who are in same-sex unions, and who have complained (gently!) about this novelistic lack, why we’ve never seen any Kelts in such relationships.
The simple truth is that they just never turned up before.
In Blackmantle we do have Tipherris Inchspell of Greyloch and his spouse Hutcheon Fraser: alas, most of their scenes–advising Athyn, mostly–ended up on the cutting-room floor, part of the eighty thousand words (that’s right, 80,000!) (mostly adjectives–well, it is my favorite part of speech…) that I had to excise (even so, Blackmantle as published is still 195,000 words…).
And in The Deer’s Cry we meet Conn Kittagh and Shane Farrant, dear friends of Brendan, warriors who marry in Keltia and go on to found the planet Gwynedd. Again, these guys aren’t leads, but there will probably be a gay or bi female character in the Aoife book, and by the time we get back to Aeron and Gwydion, almost certainly a major gay character–and it might surprise you who it’ll turn out to be. (NO, not Aeron or Gwydion!!! Although–nah!)
This is not a conscious, politically correct authorial decision, by the way: that’s not how I work. As many of you are well and even personally aware, like most authors I base characters on people I know, and since I have gay friends it stands to reason that sooner or later there would be gay characters and some of them would be married gay characters, just like there are married straight characters. Keltia is all things to all people, and there was never even a flicker of doubt as to whether its perfect equality would extend to all individuals regardless of sexual identity. OF COURSE it would, and it does…
But I didn’t want to arbitrarily assign a character a gay sexuality for no other reason than that it seemed the thing to do–that would be presumptuous. I didn’t want to make a big dramatic deal of it, either–that would be just as wrong. The characters’ gayness isn’t a big deal for them or for me; it’s just how they are, and nobody gives it a second thought. That’s how it is in Keltia, and one day not so far off now that’ll be the way it is here too…
I just had to wait for them to come along and tell me who they were. And now they have.
Currently excerpted elsewhere on this site from The Deer’s Cry: The poem that begins the book, The Leaving of Fanad; from Chapter 9, Brendan and Patraic face off on Midwinter morning at the great pagan holy place Newgrange; and from Chapter 15, Brendan and his mentor, Barinthus, take a spacecraft for a test-drive–a little spin in low Earth orbit…


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