Just be honest with yourself. That opens the door. Vernon Howard

What was your experience with books and writing as a child? Were either of your parents big readers?

My mother, who was widowed when I was 1 year old, gave me an assortment of books to read and emphasized the important of education. As a child, I was inspired by myths and legends of powerful female warriors, sorceresses, and goddesses. In third grade, when most of my friends were reading Nancy Drew mysteries, I was devouring books on Greek and Nordic mythology. By eighth grade, I was reading adult historical fiction such as The Egyptian and The Hunchback of Notre Dame with bigger than life characters from the past. Some of my characters in Apollo’s Raven were seeded during my childhood.

When did your fascination for Celtic lore first start? What is one your favourite myths or legends that you've read about?

My fascination with Celtic lore began when I travelled to the United Kingdom on my business trips. I was struck by the statue of Boudica and her daughters in a chariot along the Thames River. I discovered that in her Celtic culture, she had substantial power and influence as a woman to unite her people and to rebel against the Romans. The first century Roman historian, Tactitus, writes the Britons were used to women commanders in war. He offered detailed reports of Boudica’s exploits and those of another warrior queen. Cartimandua.

Welsh and Irish tales of mythological heroines reflect the Celtic acceptance of women’s power and influence. One of my favorite Irish tales is about Macha. She mysteriously appears and acts like a wife to King Cruinniuc , whose first wife had died. Macha promises to stay and bless him on the condition he does not speak of her to anyone. However, Cruinniuc breaks his promise at a festival sponsored by the king of Ulster and boasts his wife can beat the king’s horses. The king of Ulster orders Cruinniuc to be held on pain of death unless he makes good on his claim. Although Macha is heavily pregnant, she is brought to the gathering and the king forces her to race his horses. She wins the race, but then cries out in pain as she gives birth to twins at the finish line. She curses the men of Ulster to be overcome with weakness—as weak "as a woman in childbirth"—at the time of their greatest need.

How does one go from being a chemistry major to becoming a fantasy writer? In what ways do you think your degree has helped you write your books?

Since my childhood, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, although I’ve had varied interests. My interest in chemistry was sparked because I wanted to go into the medical field. During my career in the pharmaceuticals industry, I managed activities for gaining approval of new drugs in rare diseases. The discipline of managing large projects helped me as a writer to finish my novels and set deadlines. My degree in chemistry gave me the background to research topics in support of my writing historical fantasy.

Who is your favourite underrated mythological character?

One of my favorite mythological characters is Rhiannon. She is a Welsh goddess from the Otherworld who chooses to marry the mortal king Pwyll. After she finally gives birth to his son after three years of being barren, her newborn disappears under the care of maids. Terrified they will be put to death for their carelessness, the maids accuse Rhiannon of killing and eating her baby. However, Pwyll does not cast Rhiannon aside but rather accepts her penance of telling her unfortunate story to travelers at the castle gate. She must also offer to carry them on her back as a beast of burden. After several years, Rhiannon is reunited with her son and the truth as to what happened to him is revealed. This story touches me because it is about sacrificial love and the loyalty demonstrated between the mortal king and the goddess who must leave the Otherworld to be with him.

What are some of the most memorable places you've travelled to for the APOLLO’S RAVEN series?

I’ve visited several sites in southeast England which have given me a taste of what 1st century Britannia was like. One of my favorite activities was to hike the white cliffs overlooking the English Channel from Deal to Dover. My first scene in Apollo’s Raven reflects my awe of observing ships suddenly appearing out of the fog on the English Channel. History is frozen in time at Dover Castle with a Roman lighthouse, Saxon chapel, and medieval castle. There is also evidence there of a settlement that had been defended with earthworks during the Iron Age. I’ve also visited the spectacular Fishbourne Roman Palace and Roman baths at Bath, both dating from the 1st century. Another fascinating city I visited was Colchester where Boudica burned the temple dedicated to Claudius to the ground.

What makes your characters King Amren and Princess Catrin special? What do you love most about this father-daughter duo and the entire process of creating them?

When I first created the characters of King Amren and Princess Catrin, I envisioned them as having a special daughter-father bond; he guides her as an ancestral spirit through some of her travails. However, as I began writing the series, I realized Amren believed he had to display brutal strength as a king to maintain power. In Book 2: Empire’s Anvil of the Apollo’s Raven series, I explore the relationship between Amren and Catrin in more depth. After he accuses her of betraying him by sleeping with the Roman enemy under her charge, she must find a way to win back her father’s trust and love.

Was the Mark Antony in this book, grandfather of Marcellus, modelled after the famous Roman politician? What are some other hints of Roman history that you planted in this book?

The main character of Marcellus was modeled on the legacy of Mark Antony and his ill-fated relationship with Cleopatra, but with a Celtic twist. Marcellus’s father, Lucius Antonius, is based on an actual historical figure who was the son of Iullus Antonius and the grandson of Mark Antony. Lucius was banished to Gaul (modern day France) after his father, Iullus, was accused of treason for having an affair with Augustus’s daughter, Julia, and thus forced to commit suicide. The tragic events of Mark Antony’s legacy sparked the back story of Marcellus. As the son of Lucius Antonius, Marcellus lives under the shadow of his father’s bitterness of being unfairly punished for the sins of his forefathers. The actual historical events are sprinkled into Apollo’s Raven as back story and will be explored further in subsequent books in the series.

What do you love most about the 'forbidden love' trope? How do you keep this common theme from becoming repetitive or boring?

The trope of forbidden love is fascinating because it explores the driving emotion of passion between two people from different cultures that can overtake reasoning and duty to family and country. So that the trope of forbidden love does not become repetitive or boring, the Apollo’s Raven series will explore other aspects of love: sacrificial love, unrequited love, and duty-bound love. Other underlying themes of corruption of power and revenge will also be weaved into the tale. New characters will be introduced who provide obstacles for Catrin and Marcellus to be together and drive them to their fated rise in power in each of their respective homelands.

If you were to live out the rest of your days in your book, what kind of character would you want to play? What sort of magical powers would you want to possess?

I’d like to be a Druid with the power to communicate telepathically with animals and ancestral spirits to guide me in everyday life and to foretell the future. The abilities to shape-shift and disappear in a magical fog would be beneficial to escape dangers.

In what sort of ways do characters in a book reflect their author's personal characteristics? Do you find yourself relating to Catrin often?

Characters in a book can reflect an author’s characteristics or those of others. The character of Catrin has evolved since my childhood. I can relate to her challenges which are similar to those I’ve faced in my own life. In Apollo’s Raven, I can relate to her falling deeply in love, to her conflicts with her parents, and to her confusion when coming of age

Do you see your characters as beings of your creation that were based on your own traits or as separate entities that are independent and lead you in writing the story more often than not?

Characters can be a mixture of my own creation and traits I observe in myself and other people I know. When a character lives in my head, I allow them take control of the story even though I have the basic plot in mind. One of the minor Celtic warriors, Ferrex, in Apollo’s Raven takes on a much bigger role in subsequent books in the series. I fell in love with Ferrex after I wrote a scene with him in Book 3 and thus felt compelled to incorporate him in a love triangle with Catrin and Marcellus that is revealed in Book 2: Empire’s Anvil.

What helps motivate you to write even on your laziest days? What are some websites and tools you use to find out more about folklore?

Sometimes I have to push through the moments when it is most difficult for me to write. It is often a sign that I’m not approaching a scene correctly. The twists often come to mind when my original plot does not work and I surprise myself with where the story leads me next.

Reading nonfiction historical accounts (Tacticus, Julius Caesar, Geoffrey of Monmouth), archaeological books (Graham Webster and Barry Cunliffe), and books on mythology spark new ideas for me. A couple of website about myths, legends, folklore, and tales from around the world that I follow are:
· Under the influence by zteve t evans: https://ztevetevans.wordpress.com/
· La Audacia de Aquiles by Aquileana: https://aquileana.wordpress.com

As an author helps their readers through their writing, how have your readers helped you and in what ways?

What helps me the most as an author is to receive constructive reviews from readers. They give me feedback on what resonates with them and what may not work as well. I’ve been asked some questions about a situation that has sparked new ideas for my next books. One reader’s question that I answer in Empire’s Anvil is what happened to Agrona’s soul when Rhan possessed her body.

Share Linnea Tanner's interview