Author Q&A with Siobhán Lally
Why did you write this book?
This story is loosely based on real events that occurred early in 2013 when I was on maternity leave with my fourth child, Daisy. My husband, Andy, arrived home one day with two new-born lambs that his brother asked him to take because their mother had died. Despite my protests about having enough for doing, my other children, Daniel, Caitlin and Lucy, fell in love with them and within minutes the lambs were adopted and christened – Leo and Shane. A few days later Leo became very unwell, and it was suggested by well-meaning sheep experts locally that it was a waste of time trying to save him as they don’t usually survive. I was horrified and being a Nurse went into the ‘NOT ON MY WATCH’ mode.
Around the same time, I had developed an interest in spirituality and energy healing. I had just completed a course in Reiki so, after a trip to the Vets, Leo was started on a course of antibiotics, two hourly feeds, Reiki treatments and chest physio. To my own and everyone else’ amazement he survived! He became such a pet. He was so used to human interaction that he was like a puppy playing with the kids and looking for cuddles. Eventually Leo was big enough to be moved out to grass in the field behind our house where himself and Shane could be seen and were accessible to us.
Then one day he just died! I was heartbroken and then became really annoyed with spirituality. I decided I was finished with all that Reiki and Angel nonsense. I was convinced the universe was out to get me but one day I was packing all my books about spiritually, Reiki and Angels into a box, when a small book about fairies by Doreen Virtue fell out onto the floor. It was opened at a page about Fairy Queen Oonagh from Ireland. I had never heard of her before, so I Googled her and a picture of a beautiful woman with long blond hair down to her toes with a lamb at her side, popped up on the screen. One search led to another and another until I uncovered a range of old Irish mythical characters of An Tuatha de Danann who are now known as the Sidhe. Over the next couple of months, I read everything I could and visited sacred sites around Ireland that were connected to this mystical race. I had never considered myself a writer but in the Summer of 2014, drawing on my own characters – my children and their pets, An Tuatha de Danann and a great deal of imagination, The Violet Mist started to take shape.
What surprised you most as you researched this book?
I was surprised in the beginning about the lack of information and stories about An Tuatha De Danann and the Mythological Cycle in Irish history. There was a huge amount about Cuchuallain, Fionn mac Cumhail and the Fianna but very little information about their predecessors with the exception of The Children of Lir who turned out to be the last of the Tuatha de Dannan before the Milesians came. Even though I loved the Fianna stories I was more interested in the more peaceful and mystical race that are responsible for building the mysterious mounds at Bru Na Boinne and other astronomical structures all over the country. They are still relatively unrecognised except for the occasional cameo appearance in the tales of the Fianna. Thankfully, since I started writing this book I have found more and more websites and literature are being dedicated to them.
Also, when I first started to visit associated sites, many were inaccessible and required much jumping of walls, electric fences and brambles which was very difficult with four children in tow. When we first visited the Hill of Uisneach it was a working farm but the owner, David Clarke, very kindly gave us permission to walk on his land to see the Catstone and all the other structures. At the time, there were no guided tours like there are now so it was very difficult to find anything. When we first went to the hill of Knockma in Tuam, the summit where the Cairns and the ruins of Finvarra’s castle are, was mainly inaccessible except by more scaling of walls and prickly hedges. Thankfully, the Hill of Uisneach now has its own visitor centre and the summit of the Hill of Knockma has been cleared and made accessible to the public.
Because there was so little record of the Sidhe I was lucky to come across authors who were mystics and described their encounters with the Sidhe. It was from the works of George AE Russell that I obtained most of my information and material in his book ‘The Candle of Visions.’ written in 1908. Also, John Matthews’ book ‘The Sidhe’ provided invaluable insights into the peaceful and loving nature of the Sidhe who they believe still exist beneath the mounds in the Irish countryside.
What do you think will surprise readers the most?
I think readers might be surprised to find that even though the story is essentially a fairy tale, many of the characters and places mentioned in the book have their foundations in Irelands history and folklore and can easily be explored. Tir Na Nog, I suppose, is not as easy to reach but a little imagination might get you there.
What’s the most important lesson or message readers will get from it?
I would hope the message is that good friends come in all shapes and sizes and you don’t have to be the most popular or cool to have the best adventures in life. Also, there is subtle hint of gender equality running through which depicts women as warriors fighting shoulder to shoulder with men which was the way of An Tuatha de Danann
Did writing this book change your life in any way?
Yes, I had never contemplated being a writer and my main experience in writing was in nursing academia which had to be factual and practical. However, there was one area called ‘Reflective practice’ where I discovered my descriptive ability. In Reflective practice we had to describe events you came across in your practice that were not taught in nursing textbooks or lectures. The idea was to describe the occurrence with as much detail as possible in order to educate your colleagues if faced with a similar situation. My tutors said I had a great descriptive quality to my reflective practice essays for which I always got A’s.
I started writing this book in 2014 in bursts when ideas came to me. It was only meant for my own entertainment and not to be made available to the public. It was only in 2018 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer that I decided to give it structure. I was listening to a podcast by Wayne Dyer – 5 lessons in life – he said ‘Don’t die with your music still in you’. And so I threw myself into finishing the book which was a great distraction while going through treatment.
What do you hope will come from others reading it?
I would like to see more people familiarise themselves with our ancient Irish history. An Tuatha de Danann were hugely intelligent and Ireland prospered under their rule. The monuments they built all over the country are older and are just as important as the Pyramids of Giza. Unfortunately, with the exception of Bru Na Boinne, many are falling into ruin. There is very little mention of them in the history books and so our young people are not taught about them in school. There seems to be a greater emphasis on our more recent history i.e the Famine, the 1916 rising, War of independence etc … which, of course are hugely important but, wouldn’t it be wonderful to learn about the brilliance of our ancestors as well. As I already mentioned I studied the works of George AE Russell while researching this book. Although AE was a poet and mystic, he was also a great political influencer and writer. He wrote in his book – ‘Imaginations and Reveries’ in 1925 that our literature focuses on ‘Irish people going forth into battle but always fell’ but he stated that ‘no country can ever hope to rise beyond mediocrity where there is not unbounded confidence in what its people can do.’
What are you working on at the moment?
The sequel … during a global pandemic I’m hoping the Sidhe will help us find a cure…