When I read Kristin Gleeson’s novella,“A Trick of Fate”, I knew I had to interview her. Since the book was a prequel to what was to become a series I thought it might be fun to get a little insight into where the characters were going. Upon reading her Bio on Amazon I became even more intrigued. Here was a woman with a wide scope of talents and interests. An artist and musician in addition to being a writer, she also moved from the US to Ireland and is very active in her community in Cork.
My latest book is “The Imp of Eye”, a historical novel of political intrigue and witchcraft set in 15th century London and based on the true story of the Duchess of Gloucester who was accused of witchcraft.
What inspired you to write this book?
The book was a sort of a collaboration with a friend of mine, Moonyeen Blakey who died last year. Before she died she asked me to take over the manuscript and do what I thought best with it. I read it over and then reworked it, created new characters and retired others. It was quite an experience and at times it was as if Moon was at my shoulder.
Since this story takes place in the past did you have to do a lot of research before writing?
I am a historian and know the period well enough but I did have fun looking at books on growing up in Medieval London and a book on Medieval feasts. So elaborate were the feasts sometimes 15 courses, and they often had entertainment incorporated into them.
Are any of your characters based on real people in history? The story is based around the actual events surrounding one of the main characters, Eleanor Cobham, the Duchess of Gloucester who was accused of witchcraft. The other main character, a street urchin named Barnabas, and the Duchess’ servant,Alys, is completely invented.
If you were transported back to the time of your book would you be poor like Alys or a noblewoman?
Well, life was certainly more comfortable if you were a noblewoman, But it could also be precarious– a wrong move or glance and you could face losing your place or money at best, or your life at worst.
Do you identify with any of your characters and in what way?
I think a little bit of my personality comes out in most of my main female characters, or at least the traits I admire. Certainly many of them play musical instruments, especially the harp, which I play. Or, like Alys, they aspire to be painters. I’ve been painting for many years and love the history of art and so it is an opportunity to explore that love through my characters.
Since “A Trick of Fate” is the first in a series, do you have the follow up books already planned?
A Trick of Fate is a prequel novella to the Imp of Eye, that focuses on Alys, the Duchess’ servant. The Imp of Eye, follows that and is a full length novel. I am writing the second in the series, The Renaissance Sojourner series, right now and it should be out in the winter of 2016. The tentative title is The Sea of Travail.
Would you like to share a little about your next project?
I have another novel coming out in the fall, Without Pity For Her Plight which is the first in another series, The Highland Ballad Series. It’s set in 16th century Scotland during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots and is about a woman who is sent to the household of the Laird of Glenorchy at Kilchurn castle out of the way of the French court after overhearing a dangerous conversation. She poses as a male lute player in the household and finds intrigue and danger there.
I also have a literary novel, In Praise of the Bees, coming out in September. It’s set in 6th century Ireland and is about a woman with appalling injuries who seeks sanctuary in a nunnery while political war in which she is a pawn wages around her.
What made you decide to write “The Renaissance Sojourner” a series instead of one large book?
The book started out as one novel when Moon had it but I loved the character of Barnabas and Alys so much it seemed that their story could continue on taking them out of London to Paris, Bruges, Venice and Africa where so much was happening- the Medici was starting its empire, the trade in Venice and all the intrigue surrounding that, the exploration of Africa and the beginning of the slave trade.
Have you been inspired by any other writers?
Many writers have influenced my style and they would be fairly diverse. I love Dorothy Dunnett’s witty writing and plotting and she is a strong influence in the Renaissance Sojourner Series. Diana Gabaldon and DD are influences in the Highland Ballad Series. With my Celtic Knot Series, I think Sarah Dunant’s sensuous literary style was a real factor and also Joseph Byden, who writes about First Nations in Canada.
What is your process for writing? Do you dedicate a certain amount of hours daily? Do you go from beginning to end or just write in a non-linear fashion?
Since I teach art classes a couple of days a week in the winter and work full time in a library in summer plus work as a writing consultant I vary in my schedule. I can write all day sometimes, but at other times I will write only part of the day or not at all. I do tend to write in a linear fashion so I can ensure that I create and maintain sufficient tension and pace in my writing.
What is your favorite book and why?
No you can’t do that to me. I can’t even pick a favorite author, let alone a book. Authors would be ranging from Joseph Boyden (Orenda and Three Day Road) and Nadeem Aslam to Dorothy Dunnett’s Niccolo Rising Series and Diana Gabaldon’s Highland series. All very different.
If you could make your one of your books into a movie who would portray the main characters?
I suppose I thought about that a lot with my first novel, Selkie Dreams and felt that Wynona Ryder would portray Maire if she could do a decent Irish accent.
Would the movie be a series like “The Hunger Games” or Harry Potter or would you prefer one film?
If it was the Highland Ballad Series, now I would do it like they’ve done Outlander and have it as a TV drama series.
What is the most difficult part in writing a book?
That’s a tough one. I don’t know, really. I love making up the plot and let it go in my head before I start outlining it. I play the scenes out in my head as I walk or do chores and then I’m ready to sit down and write it and off I go. Proofreading, I guess. I know I can’t do it well on my own work.
Do you read your reviews and how do they affect you?
I do read them, and yes, I can’t help but take them in, good or bad. I try to see if they are fair and make adjustments if I think it’s a valid point. I’ve been lucky for the most part and have good reviews.
Do you have any special steps or superstitions you follow when writing?
Not really. Got rid or lost all my lucky pens. Just have a wonderful photo in front of me of Canada and then music playing while I write.
What makes a good book?
For me a good plot is still important,even if it’s a literary novel. Believable and well developed characters would come second.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
My family were always telling stories, making them up. I started writing them down when I was in the Brownies.
If you could describe your writing style in one sentence what would you say?
My real writing style is lyrical and descriptive, at times sensuous, in that I incorporate the senses of smell, sight and taste, etc.. I changed it a little for The Imp of Eye to keep the voice of Barnabas, though lyrical still creeps in a times.
What is the last book you read and why did you choose to read it?
The last book I read was Tender by Belinda McKeown and I loved it. It’s set in Dublin in the 1990s and the story just takes hold of you. I read it because I read her first book Solace and enjoyed it very much.
If you could choose any person living or dead to read and review one of your books who would you choose, which book would you choose, and why?
Wow, that’s something to think about. I guess if I had to choose I would chooseSarah Dunant to review my forthcoming literary novel, In Praise of the Bees because her writing influenced me so much in that book. I worked hard to create an immediacy and tension in the use of present tense which I so admired in her books.
In Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 the characters memorize books to “save” them when all books are being burned. They are known as Book People. If you were a book which one would you be and why?
Probably Shakespeare’s sonnets because they are so timeless and lyrical.
Amazon Author Page
Kristin Gleeson on Facebook
My Review of “A Trick of Fate”
2 thoughts on “Kristin Gleeson – Author and So Much More”
A lovely interview – interesting – a 15 course meal! Now, that’d suit me!
Great interview with a multi-talented musician and writer.