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  • Writer's pictureegradcliff

Research and The Hidden King

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

  • The ancient holiday of Beltane falls in May, and is a celebration of flames and fertility.

  • Áed is a name that means ‘fire’ and originally belonged to one of Ireland’s Tuatha dé Danann, the legendary pantheon of Celtic gods.

  • The veil between this world and the land of Faerie features in many a folktale, and measures--like setting aside a portion of food to offer to the fae beneath a hawthorn tree--historically ensured a peaceable relationship between the mortal and immortal realms.

These things are true.

They are also the basis for some key characteristics in The Hidden King, characteristics that lend the story a bit of credence and familiarity.

I know my book very well. I know exactly where the old legends end and my own ideas begin, and I know which historical connections went unused. For instance, it’s fairly obvious how the background of the name ‘Áed’ pertains to the character, but naturally, I didn’t use EVERY detail; for instance, in the Irish mythos, Áed was the god of the underworld. That historical fact did not shape the character of Áed in The Hidden King. And Boudicca, in real life, was an ancient Celtic queen of the Iceni who fought against Roman invaders, which has nothing to do with Boudicca the headstrong healer in The Hidden King. Sometimes, creative liberty is just creative liberty.

In other cases, however, the history and the story align almost perfectly. The Festival of Fire, for instance, parallels the real-world celebration of Beltane (one of four Celtic seasonal holidays that, along with Lughnasadh in high summer, Samhain near the beginning of winter, and Imbolc as spring first begins, organized the pagan calendar). Solid connections like this provided a foundation from which I could begin building a fictional world.

It’s very difficult to build a world, and even more difficult to build one that borrows nothing at all from reality. The important decisions, then, dictate how much of the narrative is actually factual. It’s a spectrum. Will facts form nothing but the background setting? Will certain characters act the way their real-life namesakes acted? Or, at the other end of the spectrum, are you just writing nonfiction? In The Hidden King, I chose to use facts where facts were suited, but I also wanted to make sure the facts I had were correct--if I wanted to bend the truth into a story, I at least had to know what the truth was.

So I researched.

I found fairy tales, I dug into Irish lore. I read adaptations of that lore that other authors had created before me. I researched tradition and superstition, ritual and rite, and then, armed with this knowledge, I chose my foundation stones.

And I started to build.

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