An Interview with Darby Karchut

Darby KarchutBW - authorDarby Karchut is the author of the Spencer Hill Middle Grade series THE ADVENTURES OF FINN MacCULLEN. We tied her down recently and made her give us the scoop on what it’s like to be a writer.

SHPMG: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

DK:Unlike a lot of writers, I never once thought about penning anything, much less a book, until I was fifty years old. It was either write a novel or run a marathon. You know – that whole mid-life crisis thing. (Why, yes. I am planning on living until I’m a hundred years old.)

While I do run cross country a lot (as well as mountain biking, skiing, and mountaineering), the marathon seemed like too much of a commitment, so, I went with the book thing. I know. I KNOW! What was I thinking?

Five years later, I’m wrapping up my 14th book. And, until last spring, I also taught social studies at a junior high school here in Colorado Springs, where I live with my husband. Nope, no kids.

What do I write? Mostly middle grade adventure fantasy, young adult urban fantasy, and under the pen name of Darby Kaye, urban fantasy for adults.

SHPMG: For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you

Finn Finnegan by Darby Karchut

Finn Finnegan by Darby Karchut, the first in the series

write? What can readers expect from THE ADVENTUERS OF FINN MacCULLEN series?

DK: Based on Celtic mythology, but set in a suburban neighborhood in modern-day Colorado, this series is a coming-of-age tale full of adventure and monster hunting. But the heart and soul of the series is the father and son relationship forged between apprentice monster-hunter, Finn MacCullen, and his gruff, but affectionate master, the Knight, Gideon Lir. Readers of the series will find both young teen and adult heroes and heroines to cheer for.

 

SHPMG: What character did you love or hate the most while writing?

DK: Gideon Lir. The guy is a blend of chivalrous Knight, fierce Celtic warrior, and a father figure to his apprentice. True, he’s not perfect – he’s got a bit o’ the famous Irish temper. But, when push gets knocked on its tush by shove, Gideon Lir is the guy I would want at my back in any situation. Since the series is told from the viewpoints of dual protagonists (Finn and Gideon), watching both of them grow as characters is a delight.

Gideon's Spear by Darby Karchut

Gideon’s Spear by Darby Karchut

SHPMG: What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome it?

DK: The first draft. Oh, how I detest the first draft. I’ve tried elaborate plotting. I’ve tried just winging it. I’ve tried everything in between. But, the first draft is a bloodletting for me. I think it’s because Demon Failure sits on my shoulder the entire time, whispering in my ear that all my other novels were a fluke, and that I really don’t have what it takes to finish a book.

But writing a book is a lot like running uphill. You put your head down and concentrate on a steady stride; a pace you can maintain the entire distance. Telling yourself that the only way to reach the top is one step after another. One word after another. Sure, sometimes, you have to slow down, or even walk, but you keep going. And then, finally, you reach the top of the hill. The end of the book.

 

Repeat for the next hill/book. And the next.

SHPMG: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?

DK: Keep reading. Reading is what first got me into writing, and reading is still something I do a few hours each evening before bed. I read everything, but I read in my genre the most. Reading great middle grade books is one of the best ways to improve my craft. And while I may give up writing some day, I will never give up reading.

SHPMG: What are your passions when you’re not writing?houndatthegate-web

As I mentioned before, I love the Colorado lifestyle – running, skiing, biking, hiking, backpacking, climbing, and I have recently gotten into stand up paddle boarding and yoga. (Not at the same time. Yet.) I also read a lot. I used to knit. Gave it up. Don’t know why.

Oh, wait, I do know why.

I started writing…

Darby loves visiting with readerly and writerly folks. You can stalk her at:

Her Website

Her Blog

Friend her on Facebook

Follow her on Twitter

or Goodreads!

You can also find out more about the author on her author page.

Find Darby’s books at:

Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and at independent bookstore everywhere.

 

The Story behind the Story: Our author Darby Karchut and the inspiration behind the Adventures of Finn MacCullen

Authors are thieves. We pinch ideas from whatever source we can, and certainly, without remorse. Except we call it inspiration. Influenced by. A variation on a theme. Sure. Okay. I’ll go with that. For, in truth, there really is nothing new under the sun. (I totally pilfered that.)

 

While it is quite obvious that the Adventures of Finn MacCullen series is based on Celtic mythology, some readers may also notice how much of the hero’s journey is reflected in the books as well. Like so many writers, especially writers of fantasy, I have been influenced by Joseph Campbell’s pivotal work, The Hero’s Journey. It was the part where the hero meets up with his mentor, and who travels alongside, teaching and instructing his young protégé, that has always fired my imagination. Obi-Wan Kenobi and young Luke Skywalker; Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter; Ranger Halt and Will; Gandalf and just about everyone in the Fellowship are all great examples.

 

 

I decided in my Adventures of Finn MacCullen series to focus on young Finn’s apprenticeship under the tutelage of the Knight, Gideon Lir. You see, I have often thought that this was such an important phase in the hero’s journey; the relationship that will shape so much of the protagonist’s personality. Which was a blast to write, as I could explore not only Finn’s coming-of-age, but also the developing “father/son” relationship between the two.

 

Taking the basic concept of the hero’s journey, I overlaid some of the characters and stories from Celtic mythology, a culture I have long been fascinated with. That fascination was fueled by a trip to Ireland in 2011. What follows is a brief listing that I have included in the Author’s Notes in the back of each book:

 

Finnegan MacCullen: My protagonist is based loosely on the Irish legend of Finn McCool or Fionn mac Cumhail. This story cycle, called The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn mac Cumhail, follows the adventures of Finn as he grows from boy to legendary warrior.

 

Lir: The warrior-father from The Children of Lir story cycle. All I really took from that cycle was the name Lir. However, Gideon’s name is a nod to the legendary Welsh figure Gwydion. That character was a warrior, but also a bit of a trickster. I took that trait and gave Gideon a sarcastic bent.

 

Mac Roth: A friend and strong right arm to one of the early kings of Ireland. A fitting name for Gideon’s old friend and avuncular figure to Finn.

 

Scáthach: A formidable warrior and instructor of the young heroes. She trained many a famous figure from Celtic mythology, including the legendary warrior, Cúchulainne. “Cu-Chulainne,” by the way, means “The Hound of Culain.” He is often referred to as the Achilles of Celtic mythology.

 

Rath: A fortified ringfort. Ruins of raths can still be found scattered throughout Ireland. And, yes, is another word for Ruler or King.

 

warp spasm: This, too is a part of Celtic lore. This battle frenzy gave warriors extra strength and speed and helped them ignore injuries until after the conflict.

 

torc: A neck ring made from strands of metal twisted together. Most are open-ended at the front and were worn as a sign of nobility and high social status. Many examples of these have been found in European Bronze Age graves and burial sites.

 

deadnettle: A plant used as a curative tea amongst various peoples in northern Europe and the British isles.

 

Amandán: Mythical Irish and Scottish figures which are said to reside in fairy mounds. They are feared because it is believed their touch (called the fairy stroke or poc sidhe) is said to cause paralysis or death.

 

The Song of the Tuatha De Danaan: The words that open all the books, and that are recited throughout, are a portion of the famous early Irish “Song of Amergin.” This translation is from the article “Echoes of Antiquity in the Early Irish ‘Song of Amergin’” by Lloyd D. Graham, 2010.

Learn more about Darby by visiting her author page.