The battle of Gáirech is over; the armies of Connachta, Lagin, and Mumu are destroyed! Survivors are ravaging The Five Kingdoms of Ireland!
While working to resolve the Kingdoms’ issues and bring peace, Cathbadh is murdered, dying in his son Genonn’s arms. Genonn vows to avenge the death of his father. For his revenge to work, he needs Conall Cernach and the Red Branch warriors of Ulster. But Conall is gone, searching for the head of Cú Chulainn. Genonn sets out to find him, aided by the beautiful Fedelm, the capricious Lee Fliath and the stalwart Bradán.
Where I came by my inspiration for After Gáirech is not a simple question to answer. It goes back to the beginning of my writing books for a living.
I chose to write novels set in pre-Christian Ireland because I read Classical Studies and love ancient history. I consider Ireland grossly under-represented in the genre. Fantastical stories based on Irish myths do exist. Talking animals and faeries; druids like Gandalf with magic staves; barrow mounds brimming with monsters and the undead. Although a fascinating subject, I wanted to write something historical, even though technically pre-Christian Ireland was prehistoric. The Irish Celts did not keep written records, maintaining their history as a verbal tradition passed down from druid to druid. Their only written language was a scripting language etched in stone, called Ogham, which was used to carve names in stone monuments and little else. (Ogham was written vertically from top to bottom. The following is a representation of Conaire Mór, a High King around the time of Julius Caesar.)
When Christianity destroyed the druids in Ireland, it also destroyed their history.
Chronologically, After Gáirech follows my previous book but is not part of that trilogy. During the book launch of Daughter of War, one of the participants mentioned how intrigued they were by the shadowy figure of Genonn in the background manipulating the battle. The reader wanted to know if I intended to develop the character further.
At that point, I had not given it much thought. I’d come across the name Genonn while browsing a Celtic Encyclopaedia. He was listed as a son of Cathbadh, involved in some minor way in the Cattle Raid of Cooley. I needed a shadowy figure and adopted Genonn in that role. I wrote a pre-release short story as part of the book marketing material (Genonn Rising), which brought him into existence. He took a minor role in Daughter of War. If not for the question raised during the launch, he would have been confined to oblivion.
Even during the book launch, I began to formulate ways I could develop the character. I knew, for example, Genonn had a brother who was a druid. Therefore, I had some main elements: the battle of Gáirech was over, and I had a father and his sons. Although Cathbadh features heavily in Irish Celtic mythology, his sons do not. As such, I had the freedom to develop a story in whichever direction I wanted, so long as I did bind it all together in history. I used the imminent invasion of the Romans. The presiding academic theory is that the Romans never came. There are those in academia who would argue the Romans did arrive in Ireland. Whether they came or not, the threat must have been on the minds of those who ruled in the Five Kingdoms.
I had a good guy and needed a bad guy and a plot. Medb as the wicked queen of the west was covered in my earlier work, so I discounted her. Mac Nessa, the king of Ulster, ran from the battle. That would put him firmly in the “persona non grata” camp (warriors who followed the code would not abide cowards), which left his son, Longas. To have a strong plotline, I needed something that broke away from the traditional stories of Irish Celtic heroes. In the legends, Cathbadh was a manipulative druid who must have had many enemies. Having someone murder him seemed like a good inciting incident.
I had a good guy, a bad guy, and a victim, all the elements needed for a historical murder mystery.
And so, the story arc plotting began.
Meet Micheál Cladáin
Micheál Cladáin studied the classics and developed a love of ancient civilizations during those studies. Learning about ancient Roman and Greek cultures was augmented by a combined sixteen years living in those societies, albeit the modern versions, in Cyprus and Italy. As such, Micheál decided to write historical fiction, trying to follow in the footsteps of such greats as Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden. Because of his Irish roots, he chose pre-Christian Ireland as his setting, rather than ancient Italy or Greece.
Micheál is a full-time writer, who lives in the wilds of Wexford with his wife and their border terriers, Ruby and Maisy.
Connect with Micheál
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Miche%25C3%25A1l-Clad%25C3%25A1in/e/B07BGWK6BD