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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

C. E. Laureano: The Sword and the Song

By Kelly Bridgewater

Interview with C. E. Laureano:

1.      How did the Song of Seare Trilogy come about?

I’m a longtime fantasy reader, starting as a child with the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit, but this particular series began with a single premise: what happens when you have a young man who is raised to rule, but his personal, religious, and philosophical beliefs are different than the country over which he’s meant to reign? The story went through a number of iterations. In the early drafts, Conor was already in his twenties and about to take the throne of Tigh. But I realized that the real story began much earlier, where those personal beliefs were formed: his fosterage with a rival king. As I dug into the story, I realized that Conor was only a small part— or maybe the culmination—of a generations-long struggle that has at last come to a breaking point. And so the final storyline of the Song of Seare trilogy was conceived.

2.       Why Celtic fantasy?

 I’ve been interested in Ireland for as long as I can remember, maybe because of my distant Irish heritage. I had the opportunity to travel there during college, and I’ve never felt such an instant affinity for a place. While America will likely always be the place I “hang my hat”, I realized that Ireland was my heart’s home. Ever since then, I’ve written Irish characters and settings. But it was only when I started reading books by Juliet Marillier—wonderful historical fantasies that showed the pagan/Christian conflict from the pagan point of view—I knew I wanted to do something similar with a Christian slant.

3.       How much is based on history and how much was made up?

The culture of Seare is very much based on ancient Ireland before the 10th century, but since relatively little is known about that time period, much of it is extrapolated from research done in the 1920’s. (Some of that research, like the idea that the Irish wore kilts, has since been disproven.) But the food, weaponry, law, and social structure of Seare is very similar to how things might have been in ancient Ireland. Of course, the addition of magic changes things, so I got to imagine how the existence of supernatural gifts and blood magic might have affected their culture. I also re-envisioned the faerie mythology from a neutral, mischievous role into something more malevolent.

4.       What kind of research did you do to write this book?

 I have a fairly extensive library on Irish history, and what I wasn’t able to buy, I checked out from the library (thank goodness for inter-library loan…some of my books came all the way from Nebraska.) Because Seare was united by a man who had been a mercenary in the Holy Land, I also did a lot of research on the Near East and the Roman Empire from that time period. You’ll see traces of Asian, Middle Eastern, and Greco-Roman influence in the Fíréin brotherhood, especially their fighting and training styles. I also used my background as a martial artist and fencer to create a fighting style that was believably cross-cultural.

5.       Why did you choose to write Christian/inspirational fantasy?

 I didn’t start out to write fantasy for the Christian market. I’d originally envisioned the series as having a Christian worldview but little overt religion. However, the coming of Christianity so heavily influenced the history of Ireland, removing it left my society feeling flat and unrealistic. Not to mention that I quickly found out Conor wasn’t happy without a wider perspective and deeper goals than just bringing peace or winning the throne. The spiritual thread came along organically and tied the story together.

6.       Who is your favorite character and why?

 That’s almost an impossible choice, but I’d have to say Conor, my primary hero. He’s definitely the one I find most personally relatable. He knows he was created for something greater, but he doesn’t always make the right decisions—he lets his emotions sway his thinking and he lets down the people who depend on him—but he always comes through in the end. In that way, he’s something of a Biblical hero than a superhero…David was described as a man after God’s own heart, but he still did some seriously stupid things.

7.       What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

 I didn’t want to write a “safe” story where you know that everything is going to be okay and everyone will come out unharmed—because real life isn’t like that. It can be scary and messy and unpredictable. But through it all, if you look hard enough, is the ever-present thread of God’s grace and provision. My greatest wish is that readers come away with the understanding that they have a purpose, that they matter, that God cares for them as individuals and not just as a face in the crowd. I’ll consider my job done if readers walk away with hope. 8. If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be? Aine…because it guarantees that I would also get to spend time with Conor and Eoghan! After all, one or the other is always shadowing her. Plus, she just seems like the type of person I’d like to hang out with: practical, no nonsense, and filled with interesting knowledge. She’s also the one you want around if you’re going to do something dangerous—her healing ability would come in handy!

8.       What do you think makes a book Christian or not?

Christian authors can’t help but create a world that reflects our beliefs in some way. Sometimes, it’s an overt parallel to historical Christianity as it is in the Song of Seare. Sometimes, it’s the presence of the values that we learn from the Bible: faith, love, hope, loyalty, perseverance. Even if God isn’t mentioned by name, if you look closely, you’ll often find Him there.

9.       Who are your fantasy writing inspirations?

My two direct inspirations for this series are Guy Gavriel Kay and Juliet Marillier, both of whom write lovely historical fantasy. But I also enjoy Karen Hancock, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, David Farland, C.J. Cherryh…the list goes on.

10.   What’s on your bookshelf/e-reader?

My reading habits are rather eclectic, so you’ll find everything from non-fiction, biographies, and spiritual memoirs to romance, steampunk, literary fiction, and fantasy. Some of my current favorites are Patrick Carr, Mary Weber, A.G. Howard, Billy Coffey, and Susanna Kearsley. But I have at least a dozen paperbacks waiting to be read and hundreds on my e-reader. There’s just not enough time to consume all the wonderful books I come across. Not to mention all the research books I keep around to spark ideas for new projects.

Thank you Tyndale for providing these insightful questions with answers from C. E. Laureano, so the readers can learn more about her and her writing process.

Synopis from Amazon:
From Amazon

The shadow of war. A clash of brothers. A terrible sacrifice. In the face of powerful darkness, who will prevail?

The island of Seare is at war. The Red Druid is gathering strength and power to stand against Conor, Eoghan, and the brotherhood. But there is strife within the brotherhood as well. Eoghan still refuses to claim his rightful rule, and the resulting conflict creates an uncomfortable distance between him and Conor. When Conor leaves to find the key to defeating the Red Druid, Eoghan and Aine worry he will succumb to the danger. They set out on their own mission to defeat the Red Druid through Aine’s magical gifts.

But nothing―and no one―is as it seems.

My Thoughts:

I have really enjoyed the Song of Seare series and looked forward to getting back into the story with the addition of the third book The Sword and the Song. It is like returning home after attending college for four years. Sure, you have made visits, but to truly come home and sleep in your bed for a couple of nights before the reality of finding a job hits you full force. The Sword and the Song is another fantasy series that fits right up there with Ted Dekker’s Circle series.

I enjoy coming back and learning more about the relationship between Conor and Aine. They are spending more time together now and makes me want to spend more time with them too.

Laureano writes in a clear way with vivid descriptions that both readers familiar with the first two books or newcomers to the series can grasp and enjoy. I loved watching how Laureano uses the five senses to draw me into the story’s setting. I really feel like I’m walking through this foreign land and joining Conor and Aine on this quest to save their world.

The conflict, obviously, is more amped up in The Sword and the Song because it is the final book in this series. There is more near death experiences and the evil surrounds and taunts them more than in the other two books. While the first two books play around with world building and watching the characters interactions between each other and learning how to harness their gifts. The Sword and the Song allows them to use their gifts to overcome the evil.
There were moments were the story dragged, but the last twenty percent of the book sped up pretty fast. Even through the ending that seemed kind of cheapened for me. I waited three books to see this dramatic battle, and it really wasn’t that dramatic at all. I was disappointed with the ending.

In a tale of good versus evil, which parallels God versus Satan, C. E. Laureano’s final book The Sword and the Song welcomes me back to a familiar world with memorable characters but the ending had me frustrated and grasping for something bigger. I still recommend everyone who enjoyed the first two books in The Song of Seare series to still read this one because they probably want to know what happens too.

I received a complimentary copy of The Sword and the Song from Tyndale Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

After reading The Sword and the Song, come back and tell me if you agree with my opinion on the ending. Maybe I’m alone in feeling this way. 

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