Today's reader question pertains to my Spring 2014 release, Shadow Hand. This reader asks: "Did you get your idea of Cren Cru from the Irish deity Crom Cruach?"
For those of you who have not read Shadow Hand, Cren Cru features as the primary villain of that tale. And . . . otherwise you probably shouldn't read this post for fear of spoilers, which would be a shame. But that is your choice!
Crom Cruach is an ancient Irish deity--an angry, gory, violent deity, propitiated by firstborn sacrifice. One of the possible interpretations of the name "Crom Cruach" is "crooked one of the mound." The deity is personified as a golden image surrounded by twelve gold figures, though one 9th century source describes the central gold figure being surrounded by twelve bronze statues. One famous story about Crom Cruach tells of a High King, Tigernmas, who died along with three quarters of the men of Ireland while worshiping Crom Cruach.
There, however, is where inspiration ended and imagination took over. The storyline of Meadhbh was my own invention, though she was loosely inspired by Queen Medb (also of Irish mythology). The origin of Cren Cru and his assuming of other lost souls in order to create an identity was mine, as is his lost wandering in search of a new home. The notion of "living land" is not a new one by any means, but the form Cren Cru takes as the lost soul of a nation is relatively unique.
Ultimately, Cren Cru is a splice of many ideas coming together into something new. He is an excellent example of my favorite part of writing fantasy: the reuse and re-imagining of classic mythology. Shadow Hand boasts several examples of this sort of mythological recycling, including Cren Cru and triune "goddess" Nidawi the Everblooming. Neither of these figures are exact replicas of their sources but are similar enough to make the reader sense that elusive familiarity . . . which somehow makes these characters feel both more real and more original all at the same time.
There is no genre that allows better for this kind of creativity. For this linking back through ancient history to touch fingers with the imaginative minds of the past and, in so doing, to create something new and exciting. This is what the great fantasy writers have been doing for ages--since Tolkien, since MacDonald, since Shakespeare, since Mallory, since the poet who first sang Beowulf to his enthralled audience.