1) Your book includes a lot of Celtic lore and fairy tales. Why did you
choose to use them as a starting point?
My initial starting point was autobiographical. As a pre-teen, I spent summers in a cabin my grandfather built circa 1921 in San Geronimo, a rural community in Marin County, California. My two best friends and I rode bikes and explored the hills, forests and creeks. We had adventures just like the three characters in my book.
In the first two chapters, the boys seek help from an old woman the boys believe is a witch. For her Irish accent, I remembered a 1960s broadcast of an interview with the Irish poet, Ella Young, in which she described communicating with trees, animals and even rocks. I love the outdoors, so it seemed natural for talking trees to become a significant character in my book.
That Irish theme struck a familiar chord. My mother was 100% Irish, we lived in an Irish Catholic neighborhood of San Francisco and I attended a high school with primarily Irish and Italian kids. The school motto was and still is today, the ‘Fightin’ Irish.’
I had grown up surrounded by this Irish population. Curious about my heritage, I spent two years studying Celtic mythology. Most of my research uncovered tales of leprechauns and fairies, not what I wanted. Finally, I discovered a treatise titled, Cuchulain of Muirthemne, by Lady Augusta Gregory, a peer and friend of Yeats. I poured thorough this exhaustively and incorporated many tales of the great Irish hero, Cuchulain, as updated adventures for the boys and one girl in my book.
2) Have you ever been to Ireland?
Funny that you should ask. Half way through the second or third draft, my wife told me that I couldn’t very well write a story about Ireland without going there, so we did. After a few days in Dublin, we rented a car and got completely lost looking for Tara, but eventually found it. It’s a mystical place, the presumed location of the ancient castle of the king of kings. I made it the location of Queen Aine’s castle in my story. We then took a train to Belfast in Ulster and traveled through the countryside where Cuchulain fought his battles. I stood at the window most of the trip taking photos of the landscape. Later I bought contour maps of the area so I could accurately describe those places that the boys visited in their search for Irish’s sister.
3) Are there other adventures planned for Irish and his friends?
Several readers have asked for a sequel and I’m about half way through a first draft. My target release date is the summer of 2012. This time the boys discover another part of the Otherworld that exists inside Mt. Shasta in California. You can download the first chapter here: http://www.charlesmarkee.com/html/irish2.html
4) What inspires you to write?
Everything inspires me to write, especially talking to other writers. People I meet become my characters. Places I see become the environment in the story. Events I witness become portions of the plot. I’m always writing even when I’m not writing. Finally, I confess that I love the god-like ego-trip of creating a fictitious world filled with my characters who take on an existence of their own.
5) What advice would you give young writers?
Read voraciously, especially in the genre you want to write in. Get to know your target audience. Join and participate with your local community of writers. Join or form a critique group. It’ll keep you sane. And above all, keep writing.
6) In one sentence, how would you describe writing?
For me, writing is the process of producing a dream state in readers’ minds that will take them into the world I have created.
7) In closing, what other books are in the works? Events or
appearances for 2012?
In addition to the sequel about Irish and his friends mentioned above, I have a completed manuscript sitting on the shelf. It’s the story based on true events about a Hispanic girl who discovers her best friend is dying of a kidney disease and her parents refuse to allow medical intervention. It’s a story that needs to be told, but my 72 rejects tell me that it won’t succeed with traditional publishers. You can download the first chapter here: http://www.charlesmarkee.com/html/maria_summary.html
A short story titled ‘Hills like Brown Camels,’ a parody on Hemingway’s ‘Hills like White Elephants’ is published in a 2011 anthology, ‘The Sound of a Thousand Leaves.’
I’m working on another short story for the 2012 anthology. It is titled ‘The Bear’ and it’s based on an event in the life of my father-in-law who was a bear guide in the Shasta/Siskiyou County mountains for 30 years.
As the coordinator for the North Bay Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), I plan, provide speakers and host quarterly meetings in the Santa Rosa area for children’s book writers.