KING OF THE BLIND
by Caiseal Mor
In 1688 a plague of smallpox swept through Ireland. Like many others, eighteen year old Turlough O’Carolan was struck down. He was one of the lucky ones to survive. However, the sickness cost him his eyesight. Within two years of being blinded he’d learned to play the harp and taken to the road as a travelling musician. In time he’d be considered the greatest of all the Irish harpers. His music is still played all around the world today.
To the end of his days he always maintained that Otherworldly beings, known in Ireland as the Shee, had granted him the gift of music and were responsible for at least some of his compositions. This is a story from a time when the veil between the worlds was thinner and belief in the mystical “Good People”, was still strong.
‘And you think you can win back her affection by becoming a great harper yourself, do you?’
‘At least she might look at me if I was a musician and dressed in a fine coat and hat.’
‘What would you give for the chance to win her back?’
Turlough didn’t have to think about the answer. ‘I’d give anything, anything at all, to be a great musician and to have Bridget Cruise look on me as she looked on David Murphy this evening.’
‘A harper’s life is hard,’ Crilly warned. ‘I know, for I myself took to the road with harp and horse in days gone by. You might leave your home and not return for years at a time. You might walk the length and breadth of Ireland in twelve months and barely scratch a living in that whole time.’
‘I would suffer any discomfort to learn the craft of music. I don’t care if I never see the McDermott lands or their fat cows and spindly goats again as long as I live.’
Crilly raised his eyebrows and put a hand on the young lad’s shoulder. ‘You don’t know what you’re saying,’ he replied sternly. ‘It’s the excitement of youth that’s guiding your tongue. So, I’ll try to imagine those words never passed your lips.’
‘I truly would not be grieved if I never laid eyes on this parish again,’ Turlough repeated. ‘I mean you no offence, squire, but I want to be as far from this estate and Bridget’s father as possible.’
Crilly squeezed the lad’s upper arm hard. ‘Do not say such a thing. Not here. Not on a hill where the Fair Folk might hear you. Not on a moonless night when they like to wander from their homes.’
‘Would you teach me to play?’ Turlough asked.
‘Would you learn?’ the squire replied, loosening his grip.
‘If I had the chance I’d spend every waking moment behind that instrument. I’d devote myself to study and practise until I became a master. I’d earn the title of Chief Musician of Ireland.’
~Buy KING OF THE BLIND on Amazon
AN INTERVIEW WITH CAISEAL
-What inspired you to become a writer?
I never had the inspiration to be a writer. I’ve always had a passion for listening to stories but never thought I’d be a storyteller myself. It all happened by chance. Nearly thirty years ago I had a market stall in Sydney, Australia, where I sold t-shirts with screen printed designs I’d created and printed by hand. One day I met a woman who asked me to show the designs to her mother who was looking for Xmas gifts for her clients. I went to visit. Her mother turned out to be a literary agent. She told me I had a gift as a storyteller and asked me to write 8 chapters of a novel. I thought I’d give it a go but I really didn’t expect anything would come of it. It took me three weeks to write those eight chapters. Before I knew what had hit me I had a three book deal from Random House, based on those eight chapters. It took me a few years before I got used to being referred to as a writer but it has become my life. King of the Blind was my fifth novel, I think. I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller because I also create graphic novels and compose music.
-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
One day wouldn’t be enough. I’d want to listen to as many stories as possible. The late seventeenth century was a time when Ireland’s old Gaelic culture was being replaced by English ways. A lot of stories and music would have been floating around that are lost to us today. So, I’d be on the lookout for the keepers of those riches.
-It’s two in the morning. What does your protagonist reveal in confidence? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)
First of all, that he’s probably had too much to drink. Then in a hushed voice he’s going to tell me he gets all his best music from the “Good People” and don’t call them the Faeries- they hate being called the Faeries. If it wasn’t for the Good People who rescued him he wouldn’t have had much of a life at all.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
That’s so funny. All my characters are fairly hard drinkers. I don’t touch the stuff myself but I’d want to hear more stories from Hugh Connor, who is, indeed, the storyteller in this tale. Hugh has travelled extensively with Turlough O’Carolan, the main character and is a fine embellisher of the truth.
-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?
The trouble with dwarves is they’re so hot-headed. To be challenged implies I have the choice of weapons. I’d choose mangoes at twenty paces. My thinking is that by the time suitable fruits could be procured the whole thing will have blown over and the dwarf will have calmed down. Then I’d be demanding a refund on that bottle of dwarf repellent I bought from the wizard seated in the corner.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
I’m not much into the romance genre. Actually, full disclosure. I hate Romance writing. There. I’ve said it. It’s often so demeaning and disempowering of women, and men for that matter. I don’t know why it’s even called romance writing. There’s not much that’s really romantic about it. The whole genre is really just one painful infatuation after another leading to a sickly sweet happily ever after. I believe it creates unrealistic expectations and isn’t really an effective form of escapism either. I wouldn’t be able to do it with a straight face.
Caiseal Mor is an Australian sci-fi and fantasy novelist, artist and musician. Ancient Celtic Folklore has been a major inspiration for his thirteen published Fantasy novels. Mór also composes and records music, having produced seventeen albums since 1995. He is well known for his self-designed book and album covers and his intricate artworks in both traditional and digital mediums. Since 2013 he has been developing a distinctive graphic art style and creating digital sculptures in 3D.
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Caiseal Mor will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway