Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celtic Wisdom: an Interview

In time for St. Patrick's Day, I wanted to introduce you to my friend Cindy Thomson and her beautiful book Celtic Wisdom. This is the kind of book you can display on a coffee table, yet small enough to enjoy in a few sittings. And it is a fascinating look at how the Irish found the Christian faith. Without further ado, let's get to the interview...

Cindy, Celtic Wisdom is a beautiful book filled with treasures of from Ireland. How did you get the idea for the book and what was your aim when you wrote it?

Thanks, Cara. As you know, when you write historical novels you do a lot of research that never makes it into the book. I knew all these little tidbits that people kept telling me surprised them. Things like St. Patrick was not Irish, the Loch Ness monster was first written about in an ancient manuscript in connection with St. Columba, The words of Be Thou My Vision, that inspiring old hymn, actually comes from an 8th century Irish I thought why not make a fun book, a gift book, something people would learn from but also want to give as a gift.
I pitched it and then the editor helped me develop it into the kind of book they would want to publish. Of course, there was much more research, and documentation, to do with this book. It is certainly not just a collection of things I had leftover from writing a novel, but that’s where the idea came from.

You have a love for all things Irish. Where did that love and passion get birthed?

Out of my love for genealogy research. This hobby eventually led me to my Irish roots. As I began to learn more about the country’s past, I found a home in the Celtic view of Christianity and the ancient Christians that kept the faith alive (just like Thomas Cahill described in HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION.

This book is gorgeous! In fact it’s sitting on my coffee table since it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day. Did you have the photos and design ideas or did your publisher do some of that work, too?

Thank you! I think it’s gorgeous too! I did not design the book. Lion (my publisher) excels at these kinds of books. They did ask for my feedback on the design and wanted to know if there were certain themes I wanted in the photographs, so I had a small hand in it, but they have wonderful designers over there. If readers would like to get a peek inside at the color photographs, Lion has a sample here.

What do you hope they will uncover as they read this book?

I hope readers will learn something about the ancient Irish Christians that they didn’t know before. I hope they will be inspired by their stories and examples and embark on their own spiritual journey. And, like you said, the photos are inspiring as well.

You’ve also written a novel. Tell us a bit about Brigid of Ireland.

BRIGID OF IRELAND is based on 5th century legends surrounding the life of St. Brigid. Brigid, who has her own chapter in CELTIC WISDOM, is one of the three patron saints of Ireland, and was a major influence in the spread of Christianity right after St. Patrick’s time. One of the legends about her intrigued me: Her mother was a slave to her father. Before Brigid was born, her father’s wife urged him to sell this pregnant slave. He did, but he would not give two slaves for the price of one, so he ordered Brigid to return to his household. I imagined that this separation caused Brigid some grief. The legend also says that her mother was a Christian. Other legends talk about Brigid being extremely generous (much to her father’s chagrin) and about her founding a duel monastery (for men and women.) She was a strong leader, but I wondered how she got to that place. I imagined that she had to struggle with her faith and I connected that with her search for her mother. Of course, there’s always a villain, and in this story it’s a druid named Ardan who does not like the growing influence Brigid is having in the land. He sees her weakness (her longing for her mother) and tries to use that to control her.

It sounds like a great book. I love how one idea can take root and grow into a richly layered novel. Last question, if you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be and who would you take?

Here’s something a lot of people don’t know: I have never been to Ireland. So of course that’s where I want to go and take my husband Tom.

Thanks so much for joining us, Cindy

You can learn more about Cindy and her books here: and

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