Guest appearance — Jackson Cordd
It’s a pleasure to have Jackson Cordd here today, a very interesting author I’ve just met recently. His most recent novel, Shamrock Green, is due for release from Dreamspinner Press on April 2nd. Welcome, Jackson!
Thank you Lloyd for your interest in my latest novel, Shamrock Green, and for inviting me to talk a bit about it.
I’m thrilled at how the book is already garnering so much attention. When I began writing it, I struggled a bit because the work is much more epic, with a larger cast of characters than any books I’ve ever developed before.
My inspiration for the story came from a trip I took to Ireland in 2012. While touring about the green hills, I learned quite a bit more of the Celtic and Gaelic mythologies, expanding my knowledge of the stories I had heard from my Granny while growing up. Naturally, such a Granny also became part of the back-story for the main character, Hank Lear.
As for the magical elements in the story, I decided to stick closer to what I thought might be real possibilities, by postulating that the Fae are energy creatures that reach our world through a portal from a dimension of pure energy. So what the humans in the story perceive as ‘magic,’ is merely the Fae manipulations of energy to change their appearance or create plasma balls.
The story also involves several concepts of psychic ‘gifts’ in the forms of psychometry, empathy, projection, and premonitions. As part of his hero’s journey, I gave the character Hank a budding empathic gift.
I know many readers may consider such talents to be magic or mere fiction, but I have had personal experience with all of those gifts, most notably the empathy. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been sensitive to the emotions around me, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed. Most of the time I think of the empathy as a blessing, but I must admit there have been times when it felt more like a curse to be constantly bombarded with feelings that weren’t mine.
For the antagonist of the tale, I chose to have a misguided dullahan be the primary force. He enlists a phouka as a reluctant sidekick, by promising to grant him a pleasing human form.
The main conflict begins in the back-story in the early 1200’s, when an important human wedding brings together the factions of the green and blue Fae, who bestow their Fae gifts upon the wedding attendees, creating a group named ‘The Ten Families.’
Infuriated that the Fae are mingling and sharing so openly with the worthless humans, the dullahan orchestrates the theft of the bride’s wedding ring, then later circulates rumors that the bride lost her ring during an illicit affair. He continues fanning the tense flames heating up between the families and factions, eventually leading to a huge conflict later called ‘The Tempest.’ For the next few hundred years, the dullahan continues creating strife and trying to close the portals and end all of the unnatural co-mingling of the Fae and humans.
The novel picks up the story in modern Dublin, when nine of the families, aligned in a group calling themselves ‘The Antiquer’s Guild’ continue fighting the dullahan, who has since co-opted the church in his quest to end the unnatural behavior.
Hank Lear, our main hero visiting from Texas, who is a descendant of the unrepresented family, happens to buy the bride’s Claddagh ring in an antique shop, which soon pulls him into the middle of the ongoing mess after he meets the infatuating Darren O’Connell, one of the members of the Antiquer’s Guild. Darren is a descendant of the original groom, and has the other artifact from the wedding set, a choker amulet depicting the Celtic Tree of Life.
I had a great deal of fun writing this work, and I hope the readers will enjoy the ensuing roller coaster ride as well.
I’m sure they will! While I’ve got you here, may I ask a few questions?
Of course, ask away.
I rarely run into someone with double-edged psychic gifts related to my own, and I’m fascinated. Can you say more about your experience with them?
Empathy is the only gift that I’m really strong at. I occasionally have bits of emotional psychometry (I can pick up the emotional state of the owner, but not any real details). Even rarer are premonitory flashes or dreams. Those are so unreliable though. Invariably, I see some distant point, like ten years into a possible future, which can exist only if factor A, B, C, D, E, F, G… all line up just right over the course of the next decade. They aren’t very helpful, other than to highlight what might be the best potential in a situation and depending on how great that potential is, I can decide if the situation is something worth fighting for.
It would take more than a short blog interview to compare our journeys in detail, but how do you think those gifts have changed you as a person, and how central are they to your writing?
Well, since the empathy is something I was most likely born with, I can’t see where it had a ‘changing’ point. But I know that ability has certainly shaped my life in slightly different ways.
In my earlier years, I shied away from any large groups because of how I would get bombarded by so many external emotions, especially in the teenage years. Just imagine attending a party, feeling waves of depression from Sally, anger from Jake, horniness from Tom, boredom from Michelle, elation from Kathy, and fear from Amy all hitting you nearly simultaneously in random pulses. It’s hard to relax and enjoy yourself with that kind of assault going on in your gut. So I grew up a bit of a loner wallflower, not participating in clubs, dances, and parties very much.
On the plus side, I had a very good ‘gaydar’ during those early years, so I didn’t suffer any of the ‘I’m the only one like this in the world’ isolation many gay kids experience when they first come to terms with their sexuality. I got pings everywhere I went.
Over time, I’ve learned to ‘tune out’ those things a bit, but even now, I can still have issues in big crowds (like Dragon*Con), and I spend so much of my effort just trying to protect myself that I can’t relax and enjoy the event.
The empathic nature has had a direct effect on my writing, because I invariably have one character in each work that has some bit of empathy. Indirectly, I think it has an even stronger impact, because I tend to see the world as an ‘emotional ocean’, I put more mention and notice of character’s feelings and how those feelings motivate them into my work.
Turning back to Shamrock Green in specific, please say more about your dullahan. What would make him likely to hate humans so?
His character developed as I thought about the details of the dullahan. As the notions rolled around in my head, it seemed likely that an essentially immortal, judgmental non-human creature who sees into the darkness of people’s hearts, would likely become very cynical in just a century or two of constantly seeing the petty inadequacies of humans. At first, he might try to weed out the worst offenders in hopes of giving the others a better chance to rise above their baser natures, but after seeing the pettiness repeating from generation to generation without any signs of improvement, the dullahan begins to see the human condition as a hopeless struggle.
Of course, I think the guy is a bit impatient because often evolution advances take time. From what we know of the fossil records, our modern brain structural capacity developed practically overnight, and after 200,000 years or so, we’re only beginning the process to use our new brain size to its full potential.
I love the modern hope I feel in your comments about Shamrock Green, the hope of re-uniting the families of the wronged bride and groom from the 1200’s. Did you encounter any particular obstacles in your fae world-building by making the modern couple both men?
I took quite a bit of creative license with the back-story of the novel. From what I found of the mythology, it’s mostly short little passive vignettes in the flavor of ‘I met a leprechaun once.’ So I chose to create a mythical major event between the Fae and humans, which I set in the 1200’s.
During my research, I never found any historical references to homosexuality, at least not until the time the Christians arrive, who of course brought their anti-gay messages along with their teachings.
Which I saw as an interesting point. I do know from the sorts of attitudes I felt in Ireland, ‘Live And Let Live,’ is almost an unspoken rule in their culture. So my guess is, that like most other early cultures, homosexuality had a place that was common and natural enough to them that they never felt the need to mention it in writing. Much like us, our ancestors mostly wrote about the odd and unusual things they saw around them. So if homosexuality were neither odd or unusual, it could easily go undocumented in a culture.
Another point to support that notion, was the church’s loud stance on the issue shortly after arrival. I don’t think they would have been so vocal, had they not seen it as a prevalent problem.
Since the bulk of the story takes place in our modern European world, where attitudes are quickly shifting to acceptance, I didn’t see the need to add any ‘homosexual’ conflict for the gay characters. They already have enough to worry about, anyway.
Authors have often altered mythic tales to suit the stories they write. When you approached the body of traditional fae mythology, how free did you feel to modify it? Did you feel any constraints? If so, how did you honor them?
As I mentioned, I took the flavor of the little vignettes and wove together a major event in the form of a unifying wedding that wouldn’t really be common knowledge, except to those families involved. The only real modifications I made to the mythology were adding the Eirestones (green diamond crystals collected from a geode given to the Neill family by a banshee) and adding a new creature, Skeena. I also tried to create a bit of theoretical scientific underpinning to help explain the world as it exists in the novel. With each step, I carefully thought through staying true to the spirit of the mythology to maintain respect for those old stories.
One myth I used as a template is the tale of the creation of the Blarney Stone. As one version of the story goes, a young lad who had gone deaf and mute after a bought of the pox, wandered into the woods feeling a bit depressed at being left out of the craic (Irish version of a pub-crawl). He stopped to rest at a stream, where his tears falling into the water caught the attention of a nearby sprite. She flew up out of the water to observe. Feeling moved by the lad’s plight, she stood on one of the large bluestones in the stream and beckoned the lad forward.
Impressed at the sudden appearance of the tiny sprite, the lad moved closer to the stream and leaned down to her. She kissed his chin with a magical pucker, restoring the lad’s speech and hearing. The magic also passed into the bluestone on which she stood, and to this day, kissing that stone can give the gift of Irish gab.
Generalities are dangerous, he said, stating a generality, but do you have a particular kind of reader you want to reach with your stories?
I grew up enthralled with sci-fi and fantasy, but in most cases I felt a bit left out from the lack of LGBT representation in those stories (except for the occasional 50’s style fag that has to be despicable and justifiably die at some point in the book).
Such a state of affairs makes my heart hurt. I still see a prevalence of self-deprecation in the gay community, and such stories I’m sure has some basis for furthering, if not actually creating, those problems for us.
So, my goal is to write positive, hopeful stories in those genres with gay characters that, although they may not necessarily be the hero, they at least don’t have to die to fulfill some formula in the plot.
Dreams of millions of sales and months on the Times bestseller list (which I share, too) aside, what creative direction do you see your writing headed now? Or maybe more accurately answered, where would you like it to be heading?
I always strive to put some deeper philosophy into my stories, and my dream has always been to create the sort of epic work of significance that readers would feel deserved to be on their shelves right next to ‘Dune’, ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, ‘The Stand’, and ‘A Single Man’.
With each new project I’m finding myself opening up further, putting more of my heart and soul into the work, so maybe someday, I’ll reach that point. Until then, I’ll keep writing stories that I hope readers not only find entertaining, but maybe a bit thought-provoking and brimming with my optimism for a brighter future.
Thank you, Jackson Cordd, for coming by. I’m looking forward to reading Shamrock Green as soon as it’s available.
And folks, Jackson has an author page on the GoodReads website, as well as a ‘Jackson Cordd’ Facebook page and Twitter. He also enjoys receiving e-mail — you can contact him directly at JacksonCordd@gmail.com.