Here’s a little info about author Sheila R Lamb and her novels
About Fiery Arrow: Brigid, a gifted druid priestess, seeks to preserve Ireland’s ancient religion when Christianity broaches its shores. When she confronts Patrick, the charismatic leader of the newly-arrived Christians, she realizes they have a shared history, tied together by a bond formed lifetimes before. As Brigid persists in reminding him of their past and of his promise to help her revive the Ancient Ones, Patrick denies the deal he made as a lonely slave boy to a goddess he believed to be only in his imagination.
About Church of the Oak: When Brigid starts a rigorous druid training school called Cill Dara, she’s threatened with a lifetime of slavery. In order to survive, she must span two cultures and two faiths when the Christians and druids decide to teach their students together, an undertaking that places her in the priest Patrick’s path once again. Fifth-century Ireland is the backdrop for their turbulent lives, a place where history and myth live side by side.
Author Sheila Lamb discusses her life as a writer:
Virginia is my home, though I did start the Brigid Series a decade ago during a time when I had quit teaching and moved across the country…so the novels were written in Virginia, West Virginia, and Arizona.
I used to teach history, but now I teach English. Most schools separate History and English courses, which I find a little odd. I really support reading literature within the context of the time period in which was written (and studying art and music, for that matter). Separating “Brit Lit” for high school seniors (standard 12th grade English in Virginia) is weird and out of place when they take World History in 8th, 9th, or 10th grades. If I teach Swift’s Modest Proposal or Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women, I have to do a history review lesson first, so we all understand why these pieces were being written at that time. It’s hard to understand Swift’s satire without understanding what in society he was satirizing. A student has to understand why Wollstonecraft’s time period was very different from our own and why she argued against Rousseau in that particular piece. Why not blend the History and English into a Humanities course?
A fiction writer who chooses a particular place or time period for a story must have a reason. Even a contemporary writer has to reflect the culture and place in which a story is written. Sci-fi writers have to keep true to the worlds that they create. I’m not saying you have to be an expert or have history degrees, but you do need to do some basic research.
For the Brigid Series, I had to have a working knowledge of what pre-Christian society might have been like in Ireland. Brigid’s struggle against Patrick’s Christian mission depends on it. Her druid belief in reincarnation is also crucial for her connection to him. The idea that they were tied together in previous lives was part of the belief system.
Likewise, For Patrick’s side of the story, it was important to have a general knowledge of the Roman Empire (and that the empire did not spread into Ireland, thus keeping it isolated). Christianity would have been standard practice by this time. When Patrick was kidnapped and made a slave at 16, he is faced with a huge culture shock, along with his physical hardships.
For historical fiction, understanding the culture and society is key. Later, Patrick was able to succeed in spreading the word of God because of tribal issues in ancient Ireland. Tribes, generally speaking, were not united at this time. Cattle raids against each other was common. Taking prisoners of war into some form of slavery or servitude was common. These two issues allowed Patrick to fill a gap.
The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia are similar to some areas of Ireland in a lot of ways – the greenery, the mist, the humidity.
Both sides of my family have Irish ancestry, and I’ve worked with family members on genealogy research. My father’s Irish ancestors came through New York during the Famine era. My mother’s side, a Scots-Irish-British mix, immigrated much earlier and settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Researching family history and genealogy led to my interest in Irish history overall. I began, years ago, researching the Irish Famine. That led to the political issue and England’s takeover of Irish lands, not allowing Catholics to practice their beliefs or the Gaelic language to be spoken, which led to….you see where this is going? It made me wonder about Irish becoming Catholic in the first place, which led to St. Patrick, which led to Brigid…It’s a really big rabbit hole.
This quote prompted the whole trilogy: “Her friendship with St. Patrick is attested by the following paragraph from the ‘Book of Armagh,’ a precious manuscript of the eighth century, the authenticity of which is beyond question: ‘inter sanctum Patricium Brigitanque Hibernesium columpnas amicitia caritatis inerat tanta, ut unum cor consiliumque haberent unum. Christus per illum illamque virtutes multas peregit.’” (Between St. Patrick and St. Brigid, the columns of the Irish, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind…”
Here’s one of the quotes that prompted the entire story for Church of the Oak: “St. Brigid came to him with her chosen virgins, bringing the shroud in which he would be enshrined. It is recorded that when St. Patrick and St. Brigid were united in their last prayer, a special vision was shown to him. He saw the whole of Ireland lit up with the brightest rays of Divine Faith.”
I was lucky enough to attend the Achill Island Archaeology Field school. One of the landmarks there was “the star,” a quartz rock set in the mountainside of Mt. Slievemore. I saw it every day for six weeks. I think some fellow archaeologists climbed up to it, but I never did. The mist may have taken over the couple of times I started the hike. It has always been a beautiful, unattainable place. For Brigid and Patrick, it would have been a place far from both of their worlds. A place where they could be without their followers and their titles and without their present forms, since it was a spiritual dream state.
I did use the Star as a setting in some of Brigid and Patrick’s dream sequences in Church of the Oak:
“They no longer call for you, do they?” Patrick asked when she met him on the mountain beside the quartzite slab, their secret place. She took his hand, which was flesh and not flesh, in the transitory place between waking and dreams.
“No, I’ve told them I share their wishes, but I will no longer do their bidding. I cannot live between both.”
Follow along with Sheila R. Lamb’s virtual book tour to learn more about Fiery Arrow and Church of the Oak, both of the Brigid Series!
Sheila Lamb received an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. Her short stories have earned Pushcart and storySouth Million Writers Award nominations. She is a writer-in-residence at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities and is a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). Sheila is the author of the Brigid of Ireland historical fantasy series, which tells the story of Brigid as goddess, druid, and saint. Sheila has traveled throughout Ireland and participated in the Achill Archaeology Field School. She loves Irish history, family genealogy, and is easily distracted by primary source documents. She lives, teaches, and writes in the mountains of Virginia.