Interview and giveaway with authors Heather Poinsett Dunbar and Christopher Dunbar
We will be interviewing two new authors, Heather Poinsett Dunbar and Christopher Dunbar, who co-write their dark fantasy, historical fiction, and fantasy adventure novels together. So far, they have written Morrigan’s Brood and its sequel, Morrigan’s Brood: Crone of War. Now without further adieu, here are Heather and Chris.
Heather: Hello Paranormal Haven!
Paranormal Haven: Thank you for participating in this interview. Instead of having you tell us about yourselves, can you tell us a little about each other?
Chris: Sure! I think I should start this one so I can drop the bombshell. I do enjoy stealing the limelight. Not only is Heather my co-author, she is also my wife of 11+ years. She is as insane as I am, so that makes us a good match. She is creative, in a demented sort of way, as I am. This wife of mine got me interested in all things Celtic and Scottish. She encouraged me to take up writing, leather crafting, and western martial arts, among other things. Therefore, if it were not for her encouragement, I would not have the confidence and wherewithal to create. Aside from being an author and my wife, she is also a librarian and a soap maker. So, I am married to someone who keeps everything organized and smelly, in a good way.
Heather: I met Christopher Dunbar over 18 years ago, and he was strange enough to catch my attention. Since then, he’s been my best friend, my support, and my husband. He’s also my co-author. He makes me laugh and think. He’s passionate about much of what I consider important in our world, and I’m pretty sure that the universe in our book series would not be as vibrant as it is without him. A lot of our characters would be unrecognizable, as he has breathed life into many of them. He’s quite skilled at crafts that I cannot fathom. He’s a great artist, a talented actor, and I am amazed with every new talent he develops.
PH: Why did you two decide to write together?
Heather: I think I was frustrated one day after getting a strange response from an editor about my urban fantasy manuscript that I was attempting to get published. I asked Chris what he thought about the changes the editor suggested, and his ideas were excellent. Together, we managed to turn a flashback into a novel-length story.
Chris: Working together became natural. We’ve done it ever since that editor provided us with those suggestions for changing the manuscript.
PH: How is writing with a partner different from writing by yourself? How is the work divided up?
Chris: I’ve never written fiction by myself before. My solo writing is limited to either professional or school-related works.
Heather: Honestly, I can’t really remember what that was like. I do remember being hunched over a keyboard in a dark room with incense burning, Dead Can Dance playing in the background, and two katkids wishing for attention, but that’s about it. We’ve been writing this way for a decade, so my memories are a tad fuzzy.
Chris: Heather usually is the one to come up with the major storylines. When we sit down together, it’s usually over a meal, and I see the manuscript as if it were a film. I get to be the director or editor and watch the dailies. We work through what I see, touch, hear, taste, think, and smell.
Heather: I think we work through what feels right. I write everything down longhand, for the most part, and then I transcribe it to one of the computers. After that, I begin adding in details, like scenery, atmosphere, and the historical stuff.
Chris: After a few more passes, we send it to our editor, Sally. When we get it back from her, we incorporate her recommendations into the manuscript. I then do the layout, and after another pass or two, I send it to the copyeditor, Jillian. Heather and I both contribute ideas for the cover design, which is handled by the wonderfully talented Khanada Taylor. The final step I perform is the last reading, which I usually do after I order a proof; I find it easier to catch things if I am reading an actual book. I also handle most of the marketing and promotional efforts.
PH: Can you tell us about your series Morrigan’s Brood?
Heather: Originally, Morrigan’s Brood was a flashback from a manuscript I wrote titled Philosopher’s Stone. It was sort of a run-of-the-mill urban fantasy with vampires. Anyway, one day an editor took a look at it and said that my flashback to sixth century Ireland was entertaining and that it was better than the rest of the story. I knew that my modern-day story was kind of dull, and I loved putting my research skills to the test. With some encouragement from Chris, we began to rewrite the manuscript. The story became an all-consuming project, and we’re such history nerds to begin with that the idea became to make a ‘vampire’ series set in the past that would correspond with historical events.
Chris: However, it’s not just historical. We took a lot of different mythologies surrounding beings that consume the life-essences of mortals. It’s a fantasy story with elements of history and mythology set in our ancient past. It involves betrayal, the acquisition of power, redemption, isolation, vengeance, and balance. It’s also very gritty and true to the history. We both believe that one should not sugarcoat history. The period we write about is a violent and brutal time.
Heather: With some hot gypsies thrown in, like in Edmund: a butler’s tale.
PH: Your series has Roman and Celtic history and folklore in it with elements of vampirism. Why did you decide to write about these subjects?
Heather: Well, when I was an undergrad student, I lucked out one summer and managed to wheedle my way into an internship program that placed me in London. I spent half of the summer working and the other half backpacking through Europe. That journey changed my perspective on a lot of things. One of my coworkers took me to what had been Boudicca’s last stand against the Roman invaders in the first century CE. I could practically hear the wheels of many chariots rattle past us. I felt proud to have a Celtic heritage (my family is primarily Germanic and Irish). I also spent a great deal of my trip in Bath, studying the Roman ruins there. After my travels, I went back home to Texas and began to study everything I could about the Celtic tribes of Europe. A lot of them suffered during the Roman era due to the constant invasion, and their culture faded and merged with the Romans, except in Scotland and Ireland.
One night, I had a typical incubus nightmare where I felt a weight on my chest and couldn’t take a steady breath. I’d been reading Celtic myths about vampires, and after my dream, I had turned on the lights, reassured myself I was alone. I then started re-reading a myth about an Irish blood-drinker, or vampire if you will, called Deargh Du. I decided that more books needed to explore the different vampiric myths, so I thought it would be great to write about actual myths myself.
The actual story of the creation of the first Deargh Du is very short, since most of the tales were lost because bards who told these stories and seldom wrote them down, and later when monks recorded these stories in writing, they did so in an adulterated fashion. However, I decided it would be interesting if the Deargh Du were a creation that came forth during the Mílesian invasion of Ireland, as that is one of my favorite legends.
Chris: I have always had a fascination for history and mythology. I believe historical events may not have occurred as they are written in history books, and rarely does history delve into motivations behind these events. Mythology has a basis in our reality, and I love seeing the interplay between history and mythology in different cultures. We’ve both read historical fiction and fantasy that incorporated mythology, yet few of these works get the history and the mythology right. Both of us strive for accuracy.
We both really enjoy the history and mythology of the ancient era surrounding the Celts and the Romans, so it felt natural to write about that era.
PH: How many books are planned for this series?
Heather: I have no idea!
Chris: We’ve already discussed book ideas for ten to twelve sequels, as well as books that are in the same universe but not part of the series. Some of these sequels will involve the Norman invasion, Brian Boru’s consolidation of Eire (Ireland), and we already have written an arc of three books that involve the Frankish Empire and Emperor Charles (Charlemagne). Also, we are currently writing another two or three book story arc (books 6, 7, and possibly 8 of the series) involving Viking, West African, Chinese, and Japanese elements.
PH: What genre would you place your series in?
Chris: That is very hard to answer, as there seems to be more than one genre within which the series fits. It has elements of dark fantasy, historical fiction, and adventure.
Heather: I’ve heard some people even classify it as horror.
Chris: Really? Huh.
Heather: I took some classes on what librarians call reader’s advisory, where you help patrons find books based on genres they’re interested in, and I remember studying all the genre descriptions and then trying to find a classification that covered what Morrigan’s Brood is, and I couldn’t find anything that covered it completely. Then again, urban fantasy and paranormal romance used to have the same problems, in terms of classification. So maybe there is a classification or genre that will fit, but hasn’t been identified yet.
PH: There are so many interesting characters in your books. Do both of you have your favorites?
Heather: It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite. I love them all, even the naughty ones. I do admit that I enjoy writing for the three M’s – Marcus, Maél Muire, and Mandubratius; however, I do like Mac Alpin and Berti too. As I said, it’s hard to pick.
Chris: I like Mandubratius, because he is a challenging character to get into from a writing perspective. He has been betrayed, beaten, tortured, crucified, brought to the edge of death, and transformed into a bloodthirsty being… how could these circumstances not produce someone with an evil bent? Even though he is evil, or at least performs evil acts, there is still a pain, a longing for something, beneath his haughty veneer. Mandubratius may not be one of the most popular characters in the first two books, but he completes the plot. Without him, there would be no story.
I also enjoy writing Seosaimhín, since she is the most demented character we have. By the way, Heather recently pointed out that she thought Seosaimhín looked like Deborah Kara Unger’s portrayal of Dahlia Gillespie in the 2006 movie Silent Hill. Nice hair.
PH: Thank you for answering our questions.
Heather: You’re welcome!
Chris: It was our pleasure.
Again, we want to thank both Heather and Chris for stopping by and talking to us about their writing and their series. Heather and Chris have brought along books and more to giveaway to one winner. Here is some more information about the books that are being given away plus where you can find Heather and Christ around the web.
Eire is invaded by a race of blood-drinkers seeking an artifact they believe will restore them to power. Yet the Deargh Du, the protectors of Eire, are not prepared to defend the island. Only with the help of a Roman general from an earlier time can they hope to rise up against the invaders.
The Lamia expeditionary force has gained a foothold in Eire and has formed an alliance with a powerful Irish chieftain and his malevolent mother. To reinforce them, a massive Lamia army, which is departing Rome, will soon give them enough power to conquer Eire and find their lost treasure. Will the Deargh Du and their newfound friends be able to protect Eire from the invaders, or will the Deargh Du’s suspicion of other blood-drinkers allow their enemies to be victorious?
Along with winning SIGNED copies of both these books, you will also win some bookmarks. This giveaway is open internationally. Here is how to enter.
1. Fill out this form
2. Leave a comment/question for Heather and Chris in a comment on this post.
Winner will be announced November 17th and they will have 3 days to respond to our email with their shipping information or another will be chosen. Good luck everyone!