Today’s guest is soon-to-be-published urban fantasy author Jan DeLima! Jan worked at my local library, and we often get together to discuss books and exchange recommendations. I was very excited for her when she learned the first book in her series might be published, and even more so once it was official and she told me it was picked up by Ace (the same division of Penguin that publishes some of my favorite urban fantasy series, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs and Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews!). Jan’s book, Celtic Moon, will be available on September 24th, but I’ll let her tell you about more about it in her own words—along with how research on Celtic mythology, history, and society inspired her to write it.
Initially, I started this post with a very formal thank you to Kristen for inviting me to participate in her Second Annual Women in SF&F Month, but it seemed too impersonal. Let me explain. Kristen and I met long before the dear book review blogger knew I was a writer, when she thought I was just a harmless librarian at our local library. (She knows better now.) We worked a few city blocks away from each other and would often find ourselves in the same line at our favorite coffee shop. We began to meet for coffee and book talk on our lunch breaks, two of our favorite things. I’m still dragging her out for coffee and book talk, by the way, even though I have recently retired from the library to write full time.
However, since my debut novel is not due out until September 24th, and you have no idea what type of books I write, I thought perhaps I should give a brief overview of my series. I write urban fantasy for ACE. Celtic Moon is the first book in my series using Celtic mythology as the foundation for my fantasy world. My day job is partially to blame for providing me with this inspiration. At the time I worked in the cataloging department of my library when a book on Celtic artifacts came across my desk. It reviewed findings and theories of Celtic beliefs from Celtic art, with depictions of humans transforming into animals. Intrigued, I dove into researching Celtic mythology and found more material than I could possibly imagine on wolves and shape shifting. Let’s just say my paranormal writer’s radar was dinging loudly.
Since my series is based on actual human history combined with their folklore, only spun into a modern perspective, I will discuss how my characters evolved from this culture. Then to tie into Kristen’s wonderful theme of Women in SF&F, I will touch on Celtic women in history. I am an avid reader of most genres, especially fantasy and romance, and one of my personal pet peeves is a story that is inundated with historical references. I have not done that with mine! I am a character driven writer, and as I delved into learning about this powerful culture my characters quickly took control of the ride, and somehow ended in a much darker place than I had originally intended, but I will not digress into that topic or this post will go on forever. Instead, I will share how it all started.
Celtic Moon was born when I began to wonder…
What if this immortal race of shape shifters actually existed in present day? And, even better, what if they were gorgeous Celtic warriors? Since wolves have become extinct in their homeland, where would they have migrated over the years? And just to make things interesting, what if their race was dying? What if they were losing their ability to shift into a wolf with each new generation? How would a dominant race of immortal shifters react to their loss of power? My characters emerged soon after, demanding a place in this magical world. As always, they arrived with their own set of questions and choices. What if a woman, a human, met one of these warriors and had an affair, unaware of his secret? What if she conceived his child? What if he kept her guarded, protected, forcing her to remove all ties from her old life without giving her just cause? How would a modern woman react, if forced to choose among freedom, love, and the safety of her child? Mine chooses freedom and her child, not love—that is until fifteen years later, when she can no longer deny that her son has inherited more of his father than she had hoped. For the sake of her son, she returns to his father for help, unaware of an impending war brewing between the very creatures she ran away from all those years ago. Only this time she is not the same woman they once knew; she has learned how to protect herself and those she loves most—quite well, in fact. But can an ancient warrior forgive her for leaving with his son? And now that she’s returned, can his wolf resist his mate? More importantly, what if this human woman has given birth to the first shifter in over three hundred years?
I have written six novels; the first five are unpublished and will never be seen. Out of all my books to date, the reunion scene with Sophie and Dylan, the two main protagonists in Celtic Moon, was my favorite to write. Physical tension and conflict is always a balance. Dylan is an alpha wolf and a dominant temperament is an integral part of his character. His urge to protect and provide vs. Sophie’s self-sufficient attitude was a fun dynamic to play with. Fortunately, Dylan comes from a culture of strong men who also value independent-minded women.
During my research, one of the many things I grew to love about the Celts was their respect of women in their societies. Women had equal rights of men, they were warriors, they led armies, and better yet, they had the right to divorce their husbands if they were not performing as they should. The Celt’s deities were women as well as men, but the Divine Mother was a strong influence in their culture that has carried on to present day. Also, they were open and unashamed about their sexuality, as proven with this third century quote from a purported conversation between Julia Augusta, mother of the Roman emperor Caracalla, and the wife of the Caledonian chieftain, Argentocoxus…
When the empress was jesting with her… about the free intercourse of her sex with men in Britain, she replied: “We fulfill the demands of nature in a much better way than do you Roman women, for we consort openly with the best men, whereas you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest.”
-Boudicca’s Heirs: early woman in Britian, p.14
Oh, yeah… Can you see why I grew to love these Celtic women?
For the most part, I used Celtic perspectives to shape my characters, therefore their viewpoints are also Pagan, and the magical elements of my world are drawn from nature. I have Celtic tribes scattered across the globe in environments that support wolf habitats; the tribes are led by both men and women, as determined by their leadership qualities, and whether or not they have the ability to shift into a wolf. It is not perceived as extraordinary to have a woman in an authoritative position because their culture doesn’t view women as weak. My male characters are just as powerful, and perhaps a bit proud and dogmatic (an unavoidable side effect of their inner wolves I’m afraid) but they have enough self-assurance and aptitude to value a woman’s competence. Often times a person’s greatest strength is not their physical strength, but rather their conviction, what they are willing to sacrifice for their beliefs and for the people they love.
Well, I will stop there before I ramble on too much, which I have a tendency to do on topics I’m passionate about. I hope you enjoyed hearing about Celtic women in history as much as I enjoyed researching them. I will end by thanking Kristen for not only inviting me to be a guest author, as this is my first ever guest author post, but also for the shared hours of book talk and mocha lattes—and I look forward to many more lattes to come with her always wonderful book recommendations. (For the record, it’s all her fault that I hunted down Freda Warrington’s backlist for my library!)
Image Credit: Jan DeLima
Jan lives in central Maine with her husband of twenty years and their two teenage sons. Unlike many authors, Jan didn’t pen stories at an early age but has always been a dedicated reader. She loves stories and storytelling. It wasn’t until after her children entered school that she began writing. Raised in a military family, she lived in different countries such as Thailand and Germany, but home base has always been Maine. She brought a mixture of all her experiences to her first published novel, blending castles and Celtic lore with the wild nature of her home.
About Celtic Moon:
Like father, like son…
Sophie Thibodeau has been on the run from the father of her son for more than fifteen years. Now her son, Joshua, is changing, and her greatest fears are about to be realized. He’s going to end up being just like his father—a man who can change into a wolf.
Dylan Black has been hunting for Sophie since the night she ran from him—an obsession he cannot afford in the midst of an impending war. Dylan controls Rhuddin Village, an isolated town in Maine where he lives with an ancient Celtic tribe. One of the few of his clan who can still shift into a wolf, he must protect his people from the Guardians, vicious warriors who seek to destroy them.
When Sophie and Dylan come together for the sake of their son, their reunion reignites the fierce passion they once shared. For the first time in years, Dylan’s lost family is within his grasp. But will he lose them all over again? Are Joshua and Sophie strong enough to fight alongside Dylan in battle? Nothing less than the fate of his tribe depends on it…
Excerpt from Celtic Moon:
“I’m going for a run,” Dylan said dryly, taking off toward the woods. His people had wronged Sophie. He was convinced of that now. And still she had come home to him, of her own free will—for their son.
His wolf clawed at his spine for release. Its fury, its need—its desire for the woman who’d had the courage to return for their child was no longer controllable.
The wolf wanted out.
Having her near and within reach was akin to pain.
Perhaps it was a good thing Sophie hadn’t invited him to stay, Dylan thought as he entered the forest, ripping off clothes as he walked. For if she had, he wasn’t sure if he could have controlled his hunger.
It had been too long.