Ali Isaac needs no introduction. Still, I’m going to give her one, as I’m terribly fond of this remarkable author, with a silver tongue and a hand to match. She recently launched Legends of Ireland; her third book in her Conor Kelly YA fantasy series. Or, as she explains, a side project that came about because of people’s interest in Irish myths and legends.
Because, you see, Ali has not just written some of the most moving blog posts I have read, but she is also a veritable treasure trove of information on anything Irish. Which is strange, as she’s not even Irish! Indeed, in a blind fit of jealousy I might even claim her as a fellow Greek. To find out why and discover this remarkable lady, just read on.
But first, an introduction to…
Legends of Ireland
There is so much more to Irish mythology than ‘The Children of Lir’, as beautiful a story as it is. Those brave or foolhardy enough to step between the veils to enter the magical realm of the Sidhe and learn more risk much, but surely the search for enlightenment is worth the challenge?
Let me be your guide, and all will be well. I invite you to accompany me now on an epic journey four thousand years back in time to the shadowy past of Ireland’s long-lost legend, where fairy kings and Goddesses walked amongst mortals, and where feats of magic, swordsmanship and courage were customary…
Hi Ali, wonderful to have you here. Before we begin, can you please explain your connection to Greece?
Hi Nick, thanks for having me on your blog. My parents moved from Kuwait in the Middle East to Cyprus when I was about nine. We lived in an old converted goat barn in a little village near Limassol called Ayios Tykhonas. It was quite quaint and undeveloped then. The goat’s manger was made into our sofa, and my bedroom window didn’t even have glass in it, just an old wooden shutter. It was a great place to grow up in.
Seven years ago, I was married on the beach of another Greek island called Kalymnos, which is a short boat trip off the coast of Kos. My mum is semi-retired there, and we go there most years for our summer holiday.
Be sure to drop by next time you’re around. Still, it’s Ireland that has stolen your heart.
Yes, my husband is Irish. I have to say, Ireland was not a place I had any interest in at all until we moved here. I have always been fascinated by archaeology and mythology, a love which started when I lived in Cyprus. When we moved back to England in my early teens, I became obsessed with Arthurian legend. In Ireland, I felt for the first time in my life that I was home, and discovered that I had an Irish great-grandfather. I also discovered the myths about the Tuatha de Danann, and I was hooked.
As we’re here today to celebrate the launch of your third book in your Connor Kelly series, I take it the series has been influenced by Irish legends?
Of course! This is not actually the third book of the series, but more of a sideline really. It occurred to me, from the interest in Irish mythology on my blog, that many people who love Irish mythology might not be interested in reading YA fiction. YA is not everyone’s cup of tea. So I decided to pull out the myths from the series so far and give them their own book. They’re worthy of reading in their own right. And my aim all along was to introduce Irish myths to an unsuspecting world! I intend to re-write more of them in language people today will understand.
That’s brilliant! What inspired you to start the series?
I had got a little bored with standard classic fantasy. I was bored with the perfect, handsome hero. I had three aims with this series; to create the ultimate flawed hero, to introduce Irish mythology, and to show that disabled people can be as heroic as ‘normal’ people. I have a disabled daughter, you see. My main protagonist, Conor Kelly, is based on her. I wanted to create a strong female lead, too, but that was too close to real life for me, I had to move past it and the only way I could do that was to make the main character a boy.
Makes sense. Was the Conor series the first thing you ever wrote?
I don’t remember the first story I ever wrote. I was always reading and writing throughout my childhood and into my twenties. The first story I vaguely remember writing was about a dog following a butcher’s delivery boy on his bike because he smelled of sausages, and then getting lost and having lots of adventures before finding his way home. God knows what inspired that one… did butchers ever deliver? Not that I remember. I was about seven at the time.
A lovely premise! BTW, our butcher does deliver, so perhaps you were just ahead of your time. What other writing have you done? Anything else published?
I wrote a book with Jane Dougherty called Grá mo Chroí, Love of my Heart, Love Stories of Irish Myth. It’s free on Smashwords, if anyone would like a copy! I also write regularly on Irish mythology for Irish Central, and have had several articles published in Brigid’s Fire magazine. And of course, the first two books in my Tir na Nog Trilogy, Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean and Conor Kelly and The Fenian King.
Any hobbies or interests that you enjoy in your spare time?
I’ve recently taken up running. It’s going really well, I’m even thinking of training to run a half marathon! We’ll see. I love visiting archaeological sites, walking in the countryside, and travelling.
I have seen the lovely photos at your blog. What are you working on at the moment? Tell us a little about your current project(s).
I’m currently working on a YA novella based on the classic tragic Irish love myth. A girl finds a ring which connects her to a fae shape-shifter… of course, it’s not going to end happily ever after! After that, I will be re-writing a set of Irish myths known as The Three Sorrows of Ireland. I hope to settle down to the third and final Conor Kelly story after Christmas.
Who are your favorite authors and what do you love about them?
Oh gosh I hate this question, and it comes up often! I’m not like most people, I don’t have a favorite author, as my tastes very widely. In my youth, I used to love Rosemary Sutcliffe, Marion Zimmer Bradley, David Eddings. I still do. But I also love the classics, like Dickens, the Brontes, George Elliot, and Thomas Hardy. These days I read a lot of Indie fiction; I have so many lined up in my Kindle right now, but among those I have loved so far are Craig Boyack, Harriet Goodchild, Patrick de Moss, Jane Dougherty. What do I love about them? They all give me the two things I crave; beautiful writing and escapism.
Currently, I’m revisiting a fantasy classic I first read in my teens, Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson. Next, I am beta-reading for an author friend. Two of your books are lined up in my reading queue, Nick, btw!
Woo hoo! Thanks – and sorry I asked! 😀 Are you an Indie author? If so, do you have any advice for other indie authors?
I most certainly am an Indie author. I don’t give writing advice, because I am still learning myself, and there are so many other authors out there who do it far better than I ever could. But we are so fortunate to live in the digital age where we all have a voice, so I would say, if you think you would like to write a book but haven’t yet, go for it. Just make it the best it can be, and remember that with 6 million other books on Amazon, it won’t sell itself.
Wise words indeed. Are there any sites or writing tools that you find useful and wish to recommend?
Well there are so many, it’s hard to know which to trust. The best thing to do is make friends with other writers, and then get recommendations from them. When I first started out, I joined Youwriteon.com, which was great. You upload the first 7,000 words of your WIP, and people review it for you, but you have to earn reviews by giving reviews first. Not only do you learn what your own strengths and weaknesses are, but you learn so much from reading other people’s writing too. Also, it quickly teaches you to develop a thick skin, an essential requirement in this business, as some reviewers do not mince their words. They also have a top 20, where you can earn a review by a leading publisher.
Nice! Tell us about your website/blog. What will readers find there?
I blog about Irish mythology, and the ancient places of Ireland that I visit. I also blog about my journey with my little girl Carys, who was born with a rare syndrome called Cardiofaciocutaneuos Syndrome. I try to support other authors with my Friday Fiction and Friday Fantastic Flash features.
It’s a great blog, people. Have a look, if you haven’t already. Now, what are the things in your life that you’re most grateful for?
My family, my health and my writing. I’m grateful that we don’t live in a war-ravaged country, that we have a roof over our heads and food to eat. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like enough, and I get caught up in things that don’t really matter, but that’s just being human. I just remind myself about all the things I do have. It leads to a much happier state of mind.
How true. How would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as a good writer, and a good mother who did her best.
Except for a wonderful writer, you’re also known for your poignant and loving posts about life with Carys – your fairy daughter. What has prompted you to share your experience with the world?
Up until Carys was about two years old, I had a really hard time coping. Two things helped me struggle through; reading other peoples’ stories and thus knowing I wasn’t alone, wasn’t a bad person, and writing down my feelings. Eventually, I thought I would share my own thoughts in the hope that it might strike a chord with other parents going through similar experiences, and that it might educate people about what it’s like living with someone who has special needs, and what it’s like to be a person with special needs.
If you had to describe a theme or thread running through your life, what would it be? What’s your life theme?
That’s a hard one. I think I’m a seeker, always looking for something even if I don’t quite know what that is. It’s why I’ve never turned down any opportunity which presented itself to me, even if it was something which scared me silly! Nowadays, I think that journey is more of a spiritual one, despite not being a religious person. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense… I’m still working through it myself.
I don’t think you need religion to be spiritual. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Where are you from?
Somewhere in between the two that hasn’t yet been discovered, I think!
Oh yes, the elusive third-and-a-half rock from the sun. Is it true you’ve been abducted by aliens?
How did you know about that? It’s not something I talk about!
I saw you on the saucer, remember? Name your claim to fame.
I was almost betrothed to an Arab prince when I was a child. Tis true! I’ve been on local radio a couple of times, does that count? LOL! I have no claims to fame, I would rather run a marathon than be famous!
Well, the Arab prince thing definitely qualifies! Is that the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you?
Can’t tell you that! I might reveal it on my blog one day, but not yet. Not until it’s over.
Oh my! Ongoing weirdness – and even weirder that being almost betrothed to an Arab prince as a child? Can’t wait to read all about that! Now, which one do you prefer: Elephants or tigers?
Elephants, definitely. I know, tigers are beautiful and powerful, but elephants have such beautiful, gentle souls, unless riled. I wouldn’t want to be one of life’s predators, although perhaps as a human, I already am.
You don’t strike me as one, to be honest. If you had to live over again what would you change in your life?
You mean if I had to live the same life over again? There’s not much I would change, actually. I think I would learn some languages, I would definitely have travelled more; that is something which is limited since Carys came into our lives. I’d try to be a better sister to my younger sister and brother.
Where in the universe would you live if you could travel anywhere?
Honestly? I’d choose a Greek island! Lovely weather, lovely people, beautiful scenery, fabulous food… and Carys thrives there. And only 31/2 hours flight back to Ireland. Why travel across the universe when you have all that on your own home planet?
Well, looking forward to seeing you in our necks of the woods, then 🙂
Ali Isaac lives in beautiful rural Co Cavan in Ireland, and is the author of two books based on Irish mythology, “Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean,” and “Conor Kelly and The Fenian King.”
Ali writes for Irish Central and Brigid’s Fire Magazine, and regularly posts on topics of Irish interest on her blog.
Connect with Ali
Except for her blog, you can also find Ali on: