Pat Rice here, asking you to welcome Patricia (Pooks) Burroughs back to tell us about the second book in her dark YA historical fantasy series, The Fury Triad. Set in an alternate magical Regency world, The Dead Shall Live is available for preorder everywhere and will be released Halloween.
The Dead Shall Live begins the moment the award-winning dark YA fantasy, This Crumbling Pageant, ends—with two kings but only one throne. Persephone Fury’s Dark powers are finally under control but at a horrific price, and she is married to a man she has long loathed but with whom she shares her Dark burden.
Nevertheless, her beloved Robin has sworn to bring her back from the Dark.
“To unthrone the usurper, return to the cradle of the Fury.”
This mysterious message from within the stronghold of the enemy sends Persephone to Ireland with Vespasian. There, they will finally learn the truth and horror of their shared Dark powers and the prophecy that binds them together.
Death in all its forms is Vespasian’s gift and Persephone’s curse.
How much more of her soul will she have to sacrifice to the Darkness within?
And under the malevolent midnight moon on Samhain, who are the dead that shall live?
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky.
John Dryden, 1687
Pat: How much research do you need to write historical fantasy?
Pooks: I'm afraid I do an iceberg of research for every ice cube that shows up in the book, but that's more a matter of how my brain functions than anything that could be deemed scholarly!
For The Dead Shall Live, my husband [the Resident Storm Chaser and Intrepid Pooks-Wrangler] and I spent about a week in the walled medieval town of Youghal [pronounced Yawl] on the southeast coast of Ireland, though material on my time period—Regency—was slim to nonexistent.
Youghal is on the very edge of County Cork [pronounced Cark by the locals] and I was a bit surprised to find out that even many Irish people aren't familiar with it. It's a bit of an undiscovered gem that only now is beginning to develop ways to show its history to advantage. It's part medieval walled town and part Victorian beach resort, though there are now plenty of modern places to stay. We stayed in a self-catering home as our research base.
We were fortunate enough to have a private tour from the official Town Crier [yes, really!], Clifford Winser. He's a font of fabulous info on Youghal's rich history and was particularly helpful on another of my story needs, the time of Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh's connection to Youghal as mayor and recipient of holdings from a grateful Queen was the primary reason I’d chosen Youghal as a setting.
The Fury family’s ancestral patriarch, Bardán Fury, was able to establish wealth and security by assisting any Tudor monarch who happened to be in power. During Elizabeth’s time, that took him back to his native Ireland. Being on the side of the English in Ireland was not the way to win friends and influence people—unless you happened to be in Youghal, an important port that–within the walls, at least–was more English than Irish.
That is the backstory and the mystery that brings Persephone and her inconvenient husband to Youghal over two centuries later, in 1811. By then Youghal was evidently so settled and boring that the local museum, tourist information center and even Clifford didn’t have any specifics to offer. There were no maps of the town in the early 1800s, or drawings.
However, quite unexpectedly, one of my new characters in this book, Akachi Redshanks, had her own connections to Youghal. I had no clue when she exploded into the story [rather literally], that this escaped slave from Barbados would have strong connections to Youghal. I knew she was part Irish and part Igbo, but not that as a busy and important British port, Youghal had shared in the ugly history of slavery. And I hadn't realized that Oliver Cromwell both entered and departed Ireland via Youghal, where he also kept his headquarters during the time he was directing the pillaging of the Irish Catholics to turn their lands over to English landlords using the first of what became to known as the Plantations.
Suddenly Persephone found herself the focus of a threatening narrow-eyed glare.
The other woman tossed the spent gun to the deck and snatched another from her holster, holding Persephone in her sights.
"I got many names. The name my owner give me be Mary." Her luscious lip curled. “Because his wife not like Irish, so I have English name in they house. The name my mam gave me, may holy immaculate mother intercede for her soul, be Brigid, like the saint…."
She took a hip-swaying step closer, and Persephone had to stop herself from backing up.
"But the name I give me my own self, that name be Akachi Redshank. Akachi I make myself to be. Akachi mean the 'hand of god.’” She eyed one of her hands—and the flintlock in it—proudly. “And Redshank, that be for my Irish blood." Her voice was both lyrical and lethal. "And whoever you think you be, fine lady, this ship not going to my Mamo’s cursed home island of Ireland nor my Nne Nne’s cursed home island of Africa. And more? God’s truth, where this ship go, you not be on her."
She spat at Persephone's feet.
Akachi most definitely holds a grudge against Youghal. Ahem.
And, as we strolled along the waterfront, there were some new buildings that could be placed in my approximate time period.
In the late 1700s Youghal had been extended out into the bay so that new docks could be built. The wall that had protected Youghal from invasion by water was history, and now there was a new road traversing where it had separated the town from the mouth of the Blackwater River pouring into the ocean. And on that street–Catharine Street–stands a stretch of row houses that originally would have had businesses on the street level and, most likely, living quarters or storage above. Nobody knew exactly when they were built. Maybe some time between 1810 and 1815? they suggested.
This was both frustrating and liberating.
Those buildings were the beginning of me cutting the apron strings from real history and letting alternate magical history take over. Because as I was strolling down the opposite side of Catharine Street looking at them, I noticed one that had small, carved busts supporting some of the corbels.
I needed a place in Youghal where the Magi would do their business without calling attention to themselves. And there it was—the secret identification that ‘this is it.’
The ruling society in Persephone Fury’s Magi world worship the Greco-Roman pantheon. They first arrived in the British Isles with the Romans, and later in great numbers with the Normans. Those who were in the British Isles to begin with worship the Celtic pantheon.
In Persephone’s Youghal, those buildings were new, but they were there. And those busts? In her world, they were Apollo.
Apollo’s bust could have meant anything in a period when Greek architecture, fashion and art were popular. But on Catherine Street in Persephone’s Youghal, it was the sign that Magi were welcome.
Moving forward, I researched and wrote about a Youghal that is built on all the history at my disposal, but could in no way claim to be as it was in 1811. This meant I no longer had to worry about how much of the wall was still in existence, compared to how much was rebuilt later in the century. I didn’t have to know if those row houses were there yet. I didn’t have to know whether Bold Town still existed on the other side of the walled town—the place where Irish had to live because they weren’t allowed to stay overnight in Youghal, even if they worked there. By 1811 that wasn’t true, but in Persephone’s Youghal it still was.
While I was taking real history and letting it give me new threads to twist, I fell in love with The Collegiate Church of St Mary.
It began as a monastic settlement in c 480, which fit perfectly with the need in my world for a connection that went back to the 6th Century and the time of Myrddin Wyllt, or Merlin the Wild. The church itself is the oldest church in Ireland that has had continuous worship, with the oldest entry in the vestry book being from 1201. It’s a medieval beauty, and alas, ended up being important to my tale. I say alas, because I had to create a little bit of extra magical history to tuck into it, involving an ominously inhabited green Connemara marble tomb commissioned by a cohort of Sir Walter Raleigh’s holding… well, I did say there was a mystery, didn’t I?
Imagine my astonishment when only a couple of weeks ago a 2-minute video clip was posted to Youghal Online revealing what is described as “the green panel tiled floor at St. Mary's Collegiate Church, Youghal,” which is believed to be a tomb. [Oliver Cromwell’s daughter—yes, that Oliver Cromwell—is believed to be buried there, but since they can’t prove anything, they can’t prove it’s not [name redacted to protect mystery], either! [I quickly amended my book to add the green rectangle on the floor that appears after—oh, dear. Well, yes. My apologies but I can’t reveal that, either.
Finally, where but in Ireland could I need a magical road to take my people into Faery, and find actual magical roads—at least one of which is close enough to Youghal for me to include in Persephone’s quest.
Oddly, one of the most fascinating and I am almost certain accidental bits of research and parallelism where real history intersects with my magical world is Persephone’s ancestor’s magic assisting Oliver Cromwell as he destroyed the Irish life forever by confiscating lands to redistribute as boons for the new English landlords and Irish traitors and who sided with Elizabeth I at that time.
I quite sadly identify with Persephone as she begins learning the truth about the ancestor she revered so much, the family history she reveres so much, and the foundation of her very being that culminates on Samhain [Halloween] 1811, under a full moon [yes, there was one that year] with the Great Comet of 1811 in the sky.
You see, my Burroughs genealogy ends with the Burroughs forefather who landed in Baltimore, Maryland in 1787 from Dublin. We haven’t been able to find out anything about him prior to that which is most likely due to the destruction of most census and Church of Ireland baptismal and marriage records when the PRO [Public Records Office] was burned during the Irish Rising in 1922. Not that he would have been recorded in the CoI records or the Catholic records.
Just as in an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” there is a significant detail about that first Burroughs that may tell us more than I wanted to know.
He was Baptist. [Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn't it? A Baptist Irishman walked into a bar… Oh, wait.]
And according to Baptist history, until the mid-19th Century the very, very few Baptists in Ireland were descendants of those who came to Ireland with Oliver Cromwell. Like Persephone, I am coming to terms with the fact that my family was part of the bad guys.
Pat: How much of this research shows up in your material?
Pooks: There are many details, events, or bits of history woven throughout This Crumbling Pageant and The Dead Shall Live. A handful of subjects that influenced the world-building, for example, include Greco-Roman mythology, Celtic mythology, the Reformation in England, Catholic and Anglican history, Arthurian legend, , Georgian medical practices including bone-setting [ouch!] and period approaches to treating adder bites [holy moly!]. and that's off the top of my head.
As someone who is not a poet I was particularly challenged by having to write the 6th Century prophecy that incites all the warring factions in my world, which involved much reading of ancient Welsh literature and its medieval expressions to finally come up with the historical basis for the prophecy, which resulted in me turning Arthurian legend upside down and also writing some new ''secret verses" to an existing work. I love research. I love when it stops me cold in my tracks and I have to work harder to solve a plot snarl. I love it when it feeds me fabulous facts to complicate and enrich my world. I love it when it inspires me to a new twist.
But, here's the thing. I usually drop these details in so lightly they may go unnoticed, or the reader may assume it's part of the fictional world-building. I'll never write historical fiction like those whose knowledge of their era is decades old and soul-deep even though I love to read it. My muse delivers me a wild premise I want to write, and then I have to find the best fit for it in location and/or history. I write stories of passion, adventure, romance and [something] that are set in a location or time period that enhances the tale and fascinates me enough to want to live there for a few years.
Once I'm telling a story, I may not explain why this public building is painted yellow [even though I know it was only yellow for six months in the year of my book and never again] if someone is desperately running past to escape a murderer, but believe it or not, I couldn't write that two sentences of someone running down a real lane in a real Irish town in 1811 until I exhausted all avenues of research in an attempt to make sure it was then the way it is now. [This is actually really hard and sometimes impossible in the setting of The Dead Shall Live, when the local history is rich and bloody but finding out specific details of the town in 1811 was nigh on impossible. , or reference the old folk remedy for adder bite that inspired Vespasian's attempt at a magical remedy for Persephone. I'm a storyteller. Sometimes finding a way to reveal that the hero’s efforts to treat a wound are historically correct without it being awkward wraps me up in knots, so I just don't bother.
But I have to do this kind of research and immerse myself in all of these things because I have to believe the world before I can write about it. Mind you, I am not immersed in all the details and minutiae of all the subjects I mentioned above! I am immersed in the culture I am building that–for sound real world historical reasons–includes all those various elements.
I also have to be fascinated by this world before I can write about it. That's the tougher challenge. So I'll comb through several books about ancient art and ritual in Athens or Rome, remember a countering religious attitude in ancient Wales, and have that 'oh wouldn't that be fun?' moment that will make them collide in a way that is weird or fabulous or horrifying.
I live in hope that the occasional reader will lift eyebrows in surprised recognition when stumbling across one of the wee nuggets that get included.
Pat: What's the fun part about writing historical fantasy?
Pooks: Not only do I get to live in another age, not only do I get to play with magic, but writing in an alternate magical world allows me to stretch my imagination farther and twist my story more unexpectedly. [In other words, as I have blatantly demonstrated, ultimately I get to twist facts to my will!] But don't misinterpret that. For every time I decide a shortcut is in order, there are a half dozen others where I take wicked delight in letting history and facts make my characters work harder or even face doom.
Pat: What do you want us to know about the new book?
Pooks: Well, the first thing I’d like to share is the book trailer. It’s the first one I’ve ever done and I’m proud of it, and it involved a lot of research, as well!
Also I do believe there was more than a bit of “woo woo” in the air when I was desperately looking for some nighttime images of Samhain or Halloween celebrations or cemeteries that were evocatively exciting or moody and could pass for 1811. Tall order, evidently! You would think it not a difficult task, but almost everything I found had special effects wizardry or graphics adding witches and goblins and pumpkins and such. I judiciously cropped a couple of images to eliminate 21st Century ghosts and ghouls and also added a Celtic tombstone to a cemetery so it wouldn’t look so American.
And this is where the “woo woo” comes in.
These images were of a recent Samhain celebration in Youghal, Ireland—the exact location [and date, for that matter, give or take a couple of centuries] of the climactic scenes of The Dead Shall Live.
But they were the copyrighted material of Shane Broderick, a professional photographer in Ireland. Fortunately for me and the last few strands of hair on my head, he graciously allowed me to use the two I needed. [Watch for the horse and the eerily burning torch pics!]
And the music? Well, I am truly delighted to introduce you to Adrian von Ziegler–a gifted Swiss composer [pictured on the right] whose entire works are available for us to hear on youtube or download from Bandcamp. His “Dance With the Trees” is the perfect soundtrack for the video.
And if you want to see the video I created next so that This Crumbling Pageant wouldn’t get jealous? Click here.
Finally—to answer the question, what do I want you to know about The Dead Shall Live?
That it doesn’t stand alone. You really have to read the first book in the series first. But have I got a deal for you? I do! This Crumbling Pageant is available in eBook everywhere for only 99¢ through the end of the year. And The Dead Shall Live is available for preorder for only $3.99 through October 28, when the price will increase to $4.99 for the October 31 book release. I’m grateful to my publisher, Story Spring Publishing, for making both books available for the price of a single book for those who preorder.
Thank you Word Wenches for once again inviting me to guest post and special thanks to Pat Rice for the Q&A! I love the Word Wenches; I love your books; I love your website; and most especially–I love the WordWenches.com readers!