Sunday, 26 June 2016

An Interview With Author ' William A. Methven'

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the author of a new and very wonderful Irish Mythological tale 'The Hare's Vision' : 'William A. Methven' . He has created a glorious tale which spans across a period of  2000 years. Anyone who is interested in this genre should rush out and get themselves a copy immediately. Whilst I am not overly familiar with this type of tale I found it a pleasure to read. The tale is about a journey taken by monk Fr.Cormack and his sidekick Zachariah the hare. Cormac is entrusted with sacred scrolls by the Patriarch of Alexandria, these bring into question the very teachings of the church. This book may offend the sensibilities of some religious people but on the other hand it may open your mind to new possibilities. I 'd like to thank William for his time and for writing such a great tale. 

What gave you the idea for such a wonderful book?

I've always been interested in history. I was living in Scotland & began studying Scottish history. Scotland's history is closely linked to Ireland especially in the 6 -9th centuries when the Kingdom of Dalriada spanned both north east Ireland & western Scotland. Scotland's Christianity also originated in Ireland with St Colum Cille. So my research brought me back to Ireland, especially early Irish Christianity. It struck me there was so much good material here.It intrigued me that the early Irish church was independent of all other churches & had developed a more liberal approach to Christian belief. I began to realise how advanced Irish civilisation was in medieval times. Uniquely in Europe there was no bloodshed in Ireland in converting to Christianity from paganism. Ireland was also the only country in Europe to have a uniform legal system & a uniform language. Yet it had no government. This was a highly advanced society from which we could learn in the 21st century. I became fascinated by this time in Ireland. I wanted to shed a light on this remarkable time in Ireland because I believe the story has not been properly told.  There was not enough understanding of what Irish civilisation had contributed to the world without conquering anyone..

What spurred your interest in Celtic Mythology?

It is the richness of the story telling & the remarkable fantasies that attracted me. They blurred the boundary between reality and fantasy allowing plenty of room for the imagination. Although some of these stories were based on actual historical events that got embellished. Story tellers in this time were great propagandists for one cause or another. These stories continued to be common currency in Ireland long after the arrival of Christianity. In fact it was the monks who wrote them down & preserved them.

Was it a dream?

I got many ideas in the wee small hours as I lay half awake, half asleep. I wish I had kept a diary of how & when the story evolved. I started off with a basic idea about an old Irish monk who lands in the south having travelled from Egypt with sacred scrolls and is pursued by others who want these scrolls. Once I had that simple idea it kept me going with the project.

Where did you get the idea of using a Hare as one of the main characters?

Research told me that the hare is a sacred animal in both ancient Egypt and in ancient Ireland. I wanted to use animals in a way similar to the ancient myths. Once I introduced Zachariah he quickly asserted himself & carved out a role for himself. He rapidly became a good support for Cormac in all the challenges he faced.

What research was involved in the history part of the book?

I wanted the book to be as historically accurate as possible so that people with the historical knowledge could say: 'Well it could have happened like that.' So I spent a lot of time researching. About two years. Far too much. I only used a fraction of it. But research gives you new ideas. So if I hadn't done the research I would not have had many aspects of the story.The ideal I think is to research as you write.But the research was fascinating. 

How much of that is based on fact and are these dates accurate?

The dates are accurate. There was a legal assembly near Limavady in 575AD presided over by Colum Cille. Many of the characters were alive at this time. Damianos, the Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope John III in Rome, Colum Cille, Aed mac Ainmuirech was the High King of Ireland & cousin of Colum Cille, all the other Irish kings are real & were contemporaries. The British general, Artur, is also an historical figure that the legend of King Arthur is thought to be based on.

Were you concerned that it might ruffle feathers in the religious world?

I wish it would & still might. The story challenges the way the Christian church developed contrary to the original teachings of Jesus. The Church developed power structures & attitudes towards women, sex & sin that Jesus never taught. The early Irish church was not hierarchical. It had no central authority. It allowed married monks & women became abbesses. 
All that changed when the Church of Rome arrived with the Normans in the late 12th century and the original Irish church was replaced with the European ecclesiastical system. The rest is history.

Would you say this book is suitable for children?

It's not a children's book. The themes about religion, politics & women are more for 16+. There are a couple of scenes that are not suitable for children. I have thought of editing these scenes out to have an abridged version for secondary school children.

Have you planned on writing another book?

Yes I have begun writing a second book based in the early 9th century. This was when the amazing Book of Kells was written and also when the Vikings first appeared in Ireland. So it is a tale that brings the Irish & Viking cultures together around the Book of Kells. Here's the opening scene! I hope to have it finished by early next year.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Once you have an idea for a story just keep writing it. You don't need everything worked out in advance. A basic idea is all you need to get started. Ideas come in as you write. So write & keep writing. Back your imagination. You'll be amazed at what comes into your head as you're sat there. Once you have a character or two they will write the story for you! Believe in your story & it will get written

William Methven
Author of The Hare's Vision: a new Irish myth
"A glorious tale"

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