Song of the Fianna comes out tomorrow! Sophia was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
You can get your copy of this exciting historical romance HERE!
What is the most inspiring place you’ve visited and has it shown up in one of your books?
The Rock of Cashel in Ireland. I visited it with my family when I was a senior in high school, and both my sister and I felt a deep connection to the place. We sat together on the hillside overlooking the fields for hours while my parents did the guided tour, and we went off exploring the castle on our own. The entire time, I imagined what it would have been like to walk through it a thousand years earlier, to meet the people who lived there, to see and live as they did. Even then it inspired stories. It’s one of my all-time favorite places in Ireland.
Cashel appears in my Warriors of the Fianna series as Brian Boru’s stronghold in Munster. Historically, it was the seat of the kings of Munster, and Brian himself was crowned there. Though my characters travel to and from Cashel in each book, it is featured most heavily in Song of the Fianna.
How much research do you do into the time period and places you write about? Do you have any experience dressing in character or participating in living history situations or are you more a fan of libraries and online resources?
In addition to having my masters degree in Medieval History, I spend about forty to sixty hours researching for each series. I do the bulk of the research when I outline the series, and then any additional research as needed while writing. JSTOR has finally allowed free access to many of its amazing articles, an invaluable resource. I also read non-fiction books and primary sources, such as chronicles, histories, and myths.
Both! In college I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism as a way to meet fellow history nerds and do some fun crafting. I learned so much about clothing and crafting processes during that time, and I hope to be able to participate again once my life slows down a bit. I’ve sewn several dresses of varying styles and even a few tabards for friends. I find that combining library research and practical application yields the greatest understanding of a subject. Plus, it’s just good fun!
Which comes first for you: the plot or the characters?
A book for me typically starts with a spark—a small idea that I use as my starting point. Sometimes it’s a character, a location, a conversation, or a trope that I’ve always wanted to try. I create the characters first, because their growth over the course of the story will determine the plot. That being said, some character traits develop as a result of the story, so in the end I am often planning them simultaneously.
From all your books, who is your favorite hero and why?
This is such an interesting question, and it really made me think! Right now Dallan, the hero in Prince of Fire, is my favorite. That story is very personal for me, more than any of my others, and I don’t think it would have worked without Dallan being the incredible person that he was. I loved writing him because he had such a fun, cocky, dramatic personality. I loved creating his character because beneath all his alpha bravado he is such a cinnamon roll. He is driven by loyalty and duty—an incredible warrior, a fearless prince, and a selfless friend. He would burn the world for Niamh and his sister, Eva. And—the deciding factor for me—he falls for Niamh first. Every time.
When it’s difficult to physically travel, how do you find ways to escape?
My garden! I couldn’t survive without my garden, and I go outside every day during my lunch hour unless the weather is truly horrendous. Even in the winter, I just go sit outside with some hot tea and imagine what projects I’ll tackle come spring or enjoy the birds. If it’s warm enough, I’ll even go out when it’s raining and pull weeds (they come out easier then!).
I have a ridiculously elaborate bird feeder set-up, and I’ve been slowly befriending the squirrels, blue jays, and cardinals. One squirrel knocks on our sliding door to get peanuts! The birds sit in front of the window and yell at me when I’ve forgotten their food. Even when I am able to travel, my garden keeps me going and makes every day a treasure.