Author Interview with Jules Watson + Giveaway for signed copy of The Raven Queen

As part of The Raven Queen Blog Tour I am happy to bring you an interview with the delightful and charming Jules Watson plus a giveaway for a signed copy of The Raven Queen!!


What inspired you to tell the story of Queen Maeve of Celtic legend?

That she was portrayed so badly by the early scribes. Any woman labeled a promiscuous harlot and power-hungry, bloodthirsty war-mongerer has to be fascinating to write about!

You see, the early Irish tales were passed on by word of mouth for hundreds of years. The first literate people able to write them down were monks in medieval monasteries, as Christianity was established in Ireland. An example of a legendary woman so sensual and powerful would obviously be a threat to the new order, and there are theories that Maeve and other female characters like her were subject to a sort of smear campaign.

Perhaps she was as fiery and powerful as I have portrayed her, and early writers twisted that to make her into an abomination that should be scorned, not admired. As a writer, I just had to take this fascinating woman and imagine what she was really like, and what she really did that could have lead to this bad press.

The key, though, is her backstory. I have invented very good reasons why she fights so hard to rule over her own life. And, if you can show a character’s vulnerabilities, readers will hopefully still sympathize even if she makes some questionable decisions. I mean, none of us are perfect! And in the end, she recognizes the power of love, and I think we can all relate to that.

The other reason I wanted to write about her is that she is so different to my other heroines. She is not a maiden waiting to be rescued, or a priestess or seer. She is a ridiculously brave warrior, and bears the burden of queenship alone while a lot of people want her dead. What a woman!

What is it about the fearless Queen Maeve that you think modern women will relate to when reading The Raven Queen?

She feels entirely modern to me, because she is ballsy as well as vulnerable, and she will fight to create a life on her own terms. She wants freedom and self-determination so much that she risks everything to break free of the restrictions imposed on her by the male-dominated world. At the same time, she is not afraid to need both romantic and family love, and risk just as much, if not more, for it.

While modern women don’t need to take up a sword to do this, I think we all identify with that struggle to find out who we really are, discover our unique, innate powers, and forge the life we want. We don’t want to be stuck in a certain career, or relationship, or powerless position just because we are women. It’s funny how a character from two thousand years ago can be so contemporary!

Against all odds, she becomes a ruling queen, and ends up leading the greatest army in Irish myth on the battle-trail to protect her people. A woman doing this in a man’s age is so inspiring.

Deirdre (from The Swan Maiden) and Maeve, two vastly different women, had actually at least one thing in common - they both broke free from the men who had been using them as pawns. In your writings and research did you come across any more similarities between the two women?

They are only connected in myth through The Tain, the famous Irish battle epic that forms the backbone of the plot in The Raven Queen. There is a snippet of myth somewhere that one of Maeve’s husbands was at one time Conor of Ulster. He is the ageing king who imprisons Deirdre as a child in The Swan Maiden, in order to later take her as his wife. So immediately, I saw that I could bump up the connection between Maeve and Deirdre, as they were married to the same power-hungry, evil king.

I went further, though. Deirdre flees her marriage to Conor, but there is no evidence that Maeve did the same. I invented this impulse on Maeve’s part so that Maeve and Deirdre both end up abandoning Conor (at different times) and thus deeply humiliating him. His rage and fear at this assault on his power drives him to war in The Raven Queen. Though they never meet, the same need in both Deirdre and Maeve to be free, to rule their own lives, sets the whole conflict between the tribes of Ireland in motion.

Also, Deirdre’s fate at the hands of Conor makes a group of his best warriors defect from Ulster to join Maeve’s army. She could not wage war on Conor without this boost to her forces, so indirectly, Deirdre also helps Maeve on her path to battle.

They are vastly different, but obvious they were both very strong in their own ways, and determined to choose their own lives, no matter the risk.

Can you explain to us a bit about the legend surrounding Queen Maeve's tomb on Knocknarea mountain?

The legend is that the enormous cairn (pile of stones) on top of the mount of Knocknarea in Sligo, Ireland is Maeve’s final resting place. In the epic myth The Tain, Maeve and her kingdom of Connacht in the west wage war against Conor of Ulster in the north. Knocknarea overlooks the western sea. The legend says that Maeve is buried standing up in full war regalia, facing the north and her great enemy Ulster. Great story, huh? Later peoples of Connacht must have gained comfort thinking that their great queen still protected them.

In Irish, Knocknarea is Cnoc na RĂ­, which means the Hill of the King. This is why I chose it for the scene where Maeve realizes she must take up arms and fight to become queen of her people after her father dies. She decides to become “king” on that hill.

Of course, the archaeologist in me can’t fail to mention that the actual cairn predates Maeve’s time (the Iron Age, a hundred years BC) by a few thousand years. It is a neolithic tomb, which has never been excavated. Sometimes such tombs were re-used in the Iron Age, though, so you never know. I actually climbed the hill and stood up there when I was working out my plot, and I could definitely feel her. Long live Maeve!

Who are your writing influences?

When I started, my two biggest influences were Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I loved MOA for the Celtic flavor and the focus on pagan spirituality: priestesses and the sisterhood, and a bit of subtle magic. In Diana’s Outlander series, I loved the Scottish setting and more importantly the natural way her characters spoke and acted, the depths of emotion she managed to convey, and the wonderful and believable romance.  I loved that she went back and forth so easily between heart-thumping action and heart-tugging emotions.

In fact, both books straddled genres, with swashbuckling adventures and romance; history and fantasy. This is what I wanted to achieve with my books – adventure, romance, and a dash of spirituality thrown together. Perhaps it is the different parts of my personality coming out. I am a woman, obviously, so I want to write about women’s lives, but I think I have a sword-wielding adventurer somewhere inside as well!

Well, Jules I think you have met that achievement for sure!  I am in love with the way you can transport readers to another time and place and you are a truly remarkable storyteller!  Thank you for stopping by Passages to the Past!

For more information, please visit Jules Watson's WEBSITE.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

SYNOPSIS

In this dazzling retelling of one of Ireland’s most stirring legends, acclaimed author Jules Watson brings to life the story of Maeve, the raven queen, who is as fierce as she is captivating.

She was born to be a pawn, used to secure her father’s royal hold on his land. She was forced to advance his will through marriage—her own desires always thwarted. But free-spirited Maeve will no longer endure the schemes of her latest husband, Conor, the cunning ruler of Ulster. And when her father’s death puts her homeland at the mercy of its greedy lords and Conor’s forces, Maeve knows she must at last come into her own power to save it.

With secret skill and daring, Maeve proves herself the equal of any warrior on the battlefield. With intelligence and stealth, she learns the strategies—and sacrifices—of ruling a kingdom through treacherous alliances. And to draw on the dangerous magic of her country’s oldest gods, Maeve seeks out the wandering druid Ruan, whose unexpected passion and strange connection to the worlds of spirit imperil everything Maeve thought true about herself—and put her at war with both her duty and her fate.

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

- To enter, please leave a comment below and include your email address.
- Giveaway is open to US ONLY.
- For +1 additional entry each, please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, tweeting or posting on Facebook.  You can use the SHARE buttons below and please include the info in the comment section below.
- Giveaway ends on February 28th.

GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

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45 comments:

  1. Great interview Amy...and you know I love a strong woman! From the author's description and review, Maeve reminds me a little bit of "Ellen" in Pillars of the Earth. Now all's I need to do is work on my Irish pronunciation for all these names and places...lol Have a wonderful week...last week in February...oh my! Fondly, Roberta

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  2. Posted the giveaway on my sidebar...February has been a great giveaway month for sure ;)
    http://con-tain-it.typepad.com

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  3. Just shared the blog love on Facebook and Twitter ;) Now off to Dollar Tree to fill up some more "Bags of Hope".

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  4. I loved this insigtful interview. Thanks for the giveaway too.
    Love & Hugs,
    Pam
    pk4290(at)comcast(dot)net

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  5. Loved the interview. I had no idea who the woman was behind this story. I would love to be entered for the giveaway. I tweeted this http://twitter.com/#!/dolleygurl/status/39761755450257408 and shared with Google Buzz http://www.google.com/buzz/dolleygurl/Kgu9yYJEEvF/Passages-to-the-Past-Author-Interview-with-Jules.

    dolleygurl[at]hotmail[dot]com

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  6. I loved reading this interview. I am all for a strong heroine and Maeve sounds like a fantastic character to get to know! Thanks so much for the giveaway!

    Amy
    tiger_fan_1997 AT yahoo DOT com

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  7. Great interview! I'm really enjoying reading about Maeve. She's a great heroine. And I'm always happy to meet a fellow Outlander fan :)

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  8. Sounds interesting. I've never heard of her before!
    yabookmarks@gamil.com

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  9. Fascinating! Please enter me.
    -Shelli
    mljcwsu at yahoo dot com

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  10. Wonderful interview! Queen Maeve was such a strong female and this novel sounds wonderful. I'm all for a story with a strong heroine such as her.
    Would love to be entered!

    Lether

    am0rtentia@live.com

    I also shared on Facebook; http://www.facebook.com/lether.meyer

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  11. That was an interesting interview. I would love to read this book, I love celtic legends.
    twoofakind12@yahoo.com

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  12. I have never heard of the woman behind this story. What a great idea for a book I would love to be entered for this giveaway.

    +1 I tweeted via share buttons

    taylor_ward11@yahoo.com

    Taylor~ http://allthingshistoricalfiction.blogspot.com/

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  13. I love reading about women who are "ballsy"! Great interview and thanks for hosting the giveaway!

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  14. I would love to read this book! Please enter me into the contest.
    minoubazaar AT gmail.com

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  15. Sounds great, I love stories based on early Celtic myths. Thanks for the giveaway.
    lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

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  16. What a great interview! I love the idea of taking a woman who maybe got some bad press and re-imagining her!
    thebirdsisters@gmail.com

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  17. I am a follower and email subscriber. Tore923@aol.com

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  18. Please enter me in contest. Sounds like a really great book I would love to read. Tore923@aol.com

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  19. Loved the interview with Jules Watson and the synopsis for the novel, The Raven Queen. I love to read about strong women and how they overcome adversity. I think it reaffirms with women that they are strong and can do what they truly want and need to do. I would love to read this book and am truly hoping to be chosen as a winner.

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  20. As a writer about women, I'm happy to see that Jules immediately saw through (and with humor!) the old meme that powerful women are immediately assumed to be evil.

    Power can be positive.

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  21. Oh, thank you for this awesome giveaway:) I do so hope to win!
    Many Blessings and Smiles,
    Charlotte Kay
    charlovesmark at gmail dot com

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  22. I tweeted this giveaway
    @CHAKASA58
    Charlotte Kay
    charlovesmark at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  23. I shared this giveaway on FB on my profile, Charlotte Bushong Saltzman
    Thanks,
    Charlotte Kay
    charlovesmark at gmail dot com

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  24. I my this sounds fascinating! Great review, too, by the way :). I love authors that write about women throughout history that were depicted as promiscuous, power-hungry and far reaching in what they wanted and expected from life. It seems that often, since much of history is written by men of the time, these women are falsely labeled negatively because men of the time did not believe women should act the way these women did. Today, they would be fully embraced and I just love to read about these kick ass women who took no prisoners :).
    Thanks,
    candc320@gmail.com

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  25. Only a few female characters would be described as fiery coupled with a strong personality, the Xena's of this world.

    The book would be an interesting read.

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  26. I ahne been excited for this bok to be released thanks!
    jerelynhodges@yahoo.com

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  27. Please enter me in the giveaway. I love novels based on Scottish and Irish legends.

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  28. Opps forgot my e-mail...

    justpeachy36@yahoo.com

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  29. OMG! This looks so good! Thanks for the opportunity to win it! apereiraorama[at]gmail[dot]com

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  30. I like that cover very much. The look of determination in her eyes implies a lot about her character.

    user1123 AT comcast DOT net

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  31. I love the fantasy aspect of this book. The Swan Maiden also sounds like a wonderful book!
    I sidebar-ed the giveaway at http://themusingsofabookjunkie.blogspot.com/.
    Thanks for the awesome giveaway!
    Allison
    Allisonmharper@hotmail.com

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  32. Thanks for the interview and giveaway!

    susanna dot pyatt at student dot rcsnc dot org

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  33. I would love to win this one!

    LIS859@gmail.com

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  34. I would love to read this book! Thanks for the interview!

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  35. This sounds really good! I would love to read it!

    http://twitter.com/CarolAnnM/status/40907014049759232

    mittens0831 at aol dot com

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  36. This sounds like a book I would like to read. Please enter me. Thanks!

    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

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  37. This sounds like an interesting book. I've always been interested in the tales of Maeve. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Amy // artsyrockerchick at aim dot com

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  38. I love the qualities that inspired the author to write this!

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

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  39. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book. Tore923@aol.com

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  40. LOVE the cover and the book sounds very interesting, definitely something I'd enjoy.

    bittenbooks at gmail dot com

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  41. I just discovered your blog while googling for a review of the "Raven Queen." I'm a librarian and read mostly historical fiction. While a gem your site is. I marked it as a favorite on my computer. Enter me in the contest to win a free copy of "Raven Queen" if it's not too late. Email: wmarsha505@aol dot com

    Thanks,
    Marsha

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  42. The cover's beautiful. I also love reading Diana Gabaldon's books!

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

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  43. I do so hope to be a winner of this fabulous book. I always forget my email!

    conniecape@aol.com

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  44. I enjoyed the interview. This book looks interesting & I would love to read it.
    Thanks for the chance!
    megalon22 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  45. Very interesting interview! I like reading books with strong women characters, especially with a modern feel.

    Thanks for the opportunity,
    Jules
    onebookshy at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete

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