I wrote up a more extended answer to post on my original webpage, but it was lost somewhere between my old site and the new one. A new version now appears on my "Q&A" page. But I recently found a copy of the original, and found I prefer it, even though it's far too long and touches on subjects that have nothing to do with the books. So I'm leaving the second version where it is. But I thought I'd post an updated version of the original on my blog, since I now have a whole new generation of readers who have started asking the same questions:
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Triads of Tir na n'Og series?
A: Okay, I confess: I didn't come up with all this on my own. Huge, vast, inflated amounts of credit go to my husband, Dameon Willich.
The Triads of Tir na n’Og series and the stories from Tales from Opa are based on the world and concepts invented by Dameon. Back in the 80s, he, along with a few old friends, created the first version of this universe for a series of LARPs (Live-Action Role Playing, for you non-gamers) for The Fantasy Alternative (TFA), wherein a large number of hard-core and hyperactive role-players, survivalists, martial artists, ex-navy seals, and other elements of society best kept safely occupied, ran around in the woods in full armor and elaborate costumes shooting arrows at one another, laying traps, casting spells, and bashing one another with shanai. It was all good, clean fun, and almost no one got hurt. Well, not often, anyway.
TFA was the longest-running continuous LARP in the US for many years, a record I believe it still holds. Out of the hundreds of games held by the TFA, the ones Dameon wrote are widely remembered as among the most fun and exciting. I am still amazed by the number of people, many of them adults now with children of their own, who come up to us and tell us of games they vividly remember playing when they were kids growing up in TFA.
At the time, Dameon was an artist for DC comics, working with Mike Grell on a number of different titles. He wrote up a proposal for a comic that was to be called The Ironlords, based on the history he invented for his game world. DC passed on the idea, but Dameon held onto it. He developed a tabletop RPG based in the same world, honing and refining some of the concepts. When I met him, he had been running Triad games in Tir na n’Og around the gaming table (as well as in the LARPs) for several years.
Once we married, he enlisted my help writing scripts for the Seattle Knight shows based in the same universe. I found it complex and fascinating, filled with endless story potential. But it seemed incomplete. I started asking questions. “If everyone leaves home at 16, who keeps society going?” “Are Triads ever just Broken by the Fey without anyone dying?” “Where is Anagni in relation to Killaloe?” “How does the whole ‘time’ thing work?” “What do the color Factions actually stand for?” Dameon re-thought some of his initial concepts and together we refined the society, the culture, the world. Some of those show scripts would make great stories for the Tales from Opa series. Who knows? They may show up there.
One day, while digging around for information to use in a script, I came upon his story treatment for The Ironlords. I was hooked. I asked him if someday I could write a story based in his world, and he said yes.
It wasn’t for another couple of years, after The Strawberry Roan had been snagged by an agent willing to peddle it, that I picked up the idea again. I wanted to do a story that would introduce readers to a lot of the world’s background. “What if,” I thought, “a young priest from, say, the 1300’s, was to find himself in Tir na n’Og, dealing with this incredible kaleidoscope of strangeness that would violate his entire sense of reality?” Eventually, the young priest became a young religious scholar named Jean LeFleur, an admirer of Jean Froissart. I turned him loose in Tir na n’Og to see what he’d do. I think I learned as much along the way as he did. Eventually, the story became “Heart of a Cavalier,” the first story in Tales from Opa.
The second story, "Sign of the Golden Archer," I wrote mostly for laughs, but the third one, "Westmere", was actually based on a real-live (sort of) incident. Dameon wrote a LARP game for friends of his, and we spent the weekend at their property -- largely forest and swamp out in the middle of nowhere -- with better than a dozen good friends, playing it out. It turned out to be the most memorable and riveting game I've ever participated in, one the participants still talk about whenever we get together.
Unfortunately, due to a torrential rainstorm that started Saturday night and never let up, we were unable to finish the game. So Dameon gathered us all into "the bar," and told the rest of the tale.
We'll never know exactly how it would have ended -- after all, the players decide how the story goes once it gets started -- but I came away from that game with the basic germ of the story of Westmere. The only problem I had in writing it was sticking with one person's point of view. There's so much Ton-Kel never witnessed or knew of. Still so much of the story untold. Ah, well. I did what I could.
The Triads of Tir na n’Og was the second book I wrote about this world, after Tales from Opa. It started as a treatment for a movie script; a long-standing ambition of Dameon’s. We based it on the original story from The Ironlords, but, thinking we had a great idea for an ongoing series, we decided to keep that original main story thread as a background, and weave different, multiple story lines through it, each of which would be a single episode. I still think it was a great idea.
However, the proposal was turned down (I forget by which production company now) and the treatment moldered in the computer for a year or so before I looked at it and thought, “Hmmm. There’s a book in there.”
In those days I was still heavily involved in the actual performance end of the Seattle Knight shows, being one of only four women jousters, and very much in demand. Being on the road 6 months out of the year for the shows played havoc with my writing schedule. Never prolific, I stopped even trying to write during show season – which generally ran from May to October.
Thus, it took me at least 2 years and a bit to write a book each time. Once I finished Tales from Opa, I decided to give myself a leg up on the next project by tackling the script treatment, figuring that with an outline already in place, it would speed things along. I was so wrong. Ah, well, live and learn.
Eventually, I completely departed from the original movie outline – sometimes an idea that sounds good on paper doesn’t work out when you turn the characters loose on it. I’m more interested in the characters and what they endure and learn than in the sword-swinging and blood-letting, so those elements take first place. I pulled in some characters I'd created for other stories who were just too good not to use, and cautiously borrowed a few of the characters created by various actors in the Seattle Knights and players in TFA. With permission, of course.
So far, only one person has ever made me promise not to kill them. Most people have given me more-or-less free rein. The usual caveat: "just so I die well, with piles of bodies around me."
The Triads of Tir na n’Og you can read today is almost completely divorced from the movie treatment that spawned the idea. It was originally the first book of the series of the same name, and I sold it as such. The publisher that bought it didn’t follow through, however, and eventually I got the rights back and started sending it elsewhere.
Then another editor from a major publisher asked me to write a prequel, so I did. It took me sixth months, a record at that time. The result was Ironwolfe, the action in which takes place around ten years, give or take, before the events in Triads.
The editor didn’t buy it after all, but Ironwolfe became Book One of The Triads of Tir na n’Og, and The Triads of Tir na n’Og turned into Book Two. The Red Triad is number three, The Green Triad the fourth, The Blue Triad fifth. The last two books, The Ironlords and The Gate, were originally one book, but it was just too big; I didn't want to produce another expensive doorstopper like Ironwolfe, so split it into Book Six and Book Seven. I'd intended to have the whole series finished before 2012, for reasons that are obvious to anyone who has read the series. But that didn't happen. The Gate finally came out very early in 2014. Dameon published the official tabletop version of TRIAD: The Game around the same time.
There are still a number story threads I'd meant to weave back into the central tale. I'm still rather disgruntled that I had to drop some of the elements, such as where DeVasa's staff actually came from and how it got into that tomb for him to find, or how Yaqut's soul ended up in Tohil's scepter. Or what the necklace of bells has in store for Bae Twan, and the true extent of the power plays going on within the Knights of Ohma. And exactly what was keeping all the Fey factions so preoccupied that they didn't contact their Triads or notice the Trolkien invasion until it happened, and so forth. But alas, such things will have to remain tantalizing, unanswered questions for the reader. Unless I turn some of them into short stories. Hmmmm…
I write a bit faster these days, now that I’m out of the saddle and have hung my sword on the wall.