Today, an Author Chat with Cryssa Bazos, a favourite author with a brilliant new best-selling 17thC historical fiction release set in a fabulous location with adventure, romance and heartache. What are you waiting for? Dive in, friends!
(Quest for Three Kingdoms)
By Cryssa Bazos
Ireland 1652: In the desperate, final days of the English invasion of Ireland . . .
A fey young woman, Áine Callaghan, is the sole survivor of an attack by English marauders. When Irish soldier Niall O’Coneill discovers his own kin slaughtered in the same massacre, he vows to hunt down the men responsible. He takes Áine under his protection and together they reach the safety of an encampment held by the Irish forces in Tipperary.
Hardly a safe haven, the camp is rife with danger and intrigue. Áine is a stranger with the old stories stirring on her tongue and rumours follow her everywhere. The English cut off support to the brigade, and a traitor undermines the Irish cause, turning Niall from hunter to hunted.
When someone from Áine’s past arrives, her secrets boil to the surface—and she must slay her demons once and for all.
As the web of violence and treachery grows, Áine and Niall find solace in each other’s arms—but can their love survive long-buried secrets and the darkness of vengeance?
Violence, references to sexual/physical abuse.
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Cryssa, welcome, I’ve been so looking forward to the release of Rebel’s Knot. Take a moment and tell us more about how you set about writing, and what inspires you.
If you could go anywhere for a year to be inspired for your next book, what setting would you choose and what would you write?
Wales! Northern Wales! Even though my next book won’t actually be set in Wales, my character came from there. Nathaniel Lewis turned his back on Wales and relocated to London when he was a youth and spent the subsequent years at Lincoln’s Inn reinventing himself and putting as much distance between himself and his roots as he could. A few years ago, my husband and I travelled to Northern Wales, where I expected to get more insight into my character’s background on that trip. A more stubbornly closed-mouthed character you’ve never come across. While I was marvelling over the landscape, he was sitting sullenly in the corner complaining that he didn’t want to be there, that he much preferred London. Finally, on a trip on the Ffestiniog Railway, that took us up the highlands of Snowdon, we reached the end of the line at Blaenau Ffestiniog and he finally revealed what he had been running away from. I cracked that nut, but I’d love to go back and discover more (as well as continue castle hopping).
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal and why?
I once discovered a fairy on my bookcase, and she now occupies a corner of my desk. Her name is Queen Mab, and she sits on a toadstool with an owl dangling from her blue wings. This is how we ride. I like to think of her as my muse. On a good writing day, she whispers in my ear and gives me nuggets of gold. On a less than stellar writing session, she will sit in a corner playing sudoku while I tear my hair out. Eventually, she helps me figure out the path forward.
How important is working with your editor or beta readers, and how would you describe your relationship?
I love working with my editor, Jenny Q (Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial). I can brainstorm sticky plot points with her and trust that she won’t steer me wrong. I’ve sent her early drafts with more holes than Swiss cheese and notes instead of actual scenes that started with: Dear Jenny, I have a notion that this scene should work like this. Somehow she understands what I’m trying to do and helps me tell the story I want to tell.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I usually do research in three distinct waves. The first happens before I write anything. I read what I can about the history of that era and the historical events that will concern my characters. The research I do at this stage is a general survey to determine where my story sits within the framework of history. I look for signposts that I can build a story foundation.
Then the writing begins. By the time I get to the end of the first act, I realize I need far more historical detail about the setting and everyday life than I have at that point. So I go back to the books for round two. First-hand accounts are invaluable, especially for the everyday details. Now, with those under my belt, I continue along my merry writing way until I hit the middle slump. I don’t know what to do with the characters. They seem to be walk around aimlessly, waiting for the events that will sweep them to the end. A suspenseful subplot is really what’s needed, so back I go down the rabbit hole, to get inspired by history. At this stage, I pay particular attention to the footnotes. I’m never sure what I’m actually looking for, but I usually find a nugget that leads to an idea that gets me to the end. I love footnotes.
Tell us more about your latest book, Rebel’s Knot:
How do you select the names of your characters?
Normally, I’m very conscientious about names, ensuring I choose ones common to the seventeenth century. The Oxford Book of Names is my go-to source. However, this didn’t work for Rebel’s Knot, and I searched online for Irish names that struck my fancy. As a result, when I handed the manuscript to an Irish author friend, she quickly pointed out that since she was born Catholic, she should have been named after a saint. I really should have known that. I had to come up with a new name for her and landed on one that I also really loved, Áine. I then did something different with another female character I had to rename, so instead of choosing the name myself, I sent out a list of appropriate names to my newsletter subscribers and asked them to vote for the one they liked best. I had so much fun tallying the results. It was close, but Eireen won the day.
As for Fionn, the wolfhound, a friend of mine, Ken Cameron, wanted to name him, and he pulled out a winner. Niall’s hound could only be Fionn.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes, I do read book reviews. If someone has taken time to pen a few words, I’ll read it. I find value in all of them, including the less than stellar ones. I consider them a learning opportunity. The good ones confirm the story was working for the readers, and I’m keen to learn what resonated with them. This I file away for future reference. I’m also interested in what didn’t work for the reader. Not every book is right for a reader, and it might just not have been the right book for them. There’s nothing to be done. It’s happened to me too. But when a reader says that something specific didn’t work for them, I do give it consideration.
What was your hardest scene to write?
There is a scene where my heroine Áine has to confront her former abuser. She physically escaped him years ago, but never escaped him mentally. After years of hiding, she finally realized in order to be free, she needed to confront him. This was one of the first scenes I knew I had to write, but it was one of the last ones that I actually wrote. Every time I sent the manuscript to my editor, it would include a note in lieu of this scene. When I finally got through it, I remember feeling like I had slayed a dragon, and there I was standing over it, brandishing a sword. I don’t know why it was so difficult to write. I shied away from it in so many ways, even switching the focus from Áine to others in the scene. It was as if I were sheltering her, but she didn’t need protection. She only needed to be heard.
Give a shout out to a writing buddy or fellow author; how did they help you with this book?
I have a long list of people who deserve a shout out for helping me through this writing journey, most notably the Amigas and my writing group WIHW (don’t ask about the acronym, we inherited it). But I specifically wanted to give a shout out to you, Liz. I started writing Rebel’s Knot as a short story, intending it only to be a companion piece to my second novel, Severed Knot, but it quickly grew to a novella. By the time I got to the end, it was on the cusp of novel territory, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I had. You encouraged me to expand the story into a novel and realize its full potential. I’m grateful that you didn’t allow me to get away with being a lazy writer, who was eager to type “The End” and move on to their next project. Thank you! My characters also thank you!
LOL Thanks for the shout-out – I claim no responsibility except a gentle prod to turn your intriguing short story into a brilliant novel (and I would never have spoken to you again if you didn’t!)
Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and a seventeenth century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction, a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel, Severed Knot, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chaucer Award. Rebel’s Knot is the third instalment of the standalone series, Quest for the Three Kingdoms.
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