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Rebel’s Knot

Author Cryssa Bazos brings 17th century Ireland to thrilling life

Today I’m welcoming Canadian author Cryssa Bazos to the blog in celebration of her new novel Rebel’s Knot. Cryssa is a 17th-century enthusiast, and her Quest for the Three Kingdoms series has hooked me. The backdrop is the English Civil War that pitched Royalists against Parliamentarians and spilled over into Ireland and Scotland. Rebel’s Knot is a gripping story of love, loyalty, and betrayal, brilliantly bringing to life the agonizing final days of England’s 17th-century invasion of Ireland.

I’ve already devoured two of the other novels in this series of stand-alone books, Severed Knot and Traitor’s Knot. I love Cryssa’s knack for combining pulse-pounding action, searing romance, and fascinating history. Rebel’s Knot is just as captivating as the other books in the series. It’s a beautiful and haunting story with a deeply satisfying ending. Read on for more details about Rebel’s Knot and Cryssa’s research and writing process.

Cryssa, welcome!

CB: Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to your blog.

AM: What’s the tagline or ‘elevator pitch’ for your book?

CB: My tagline is “Love. Betrayal. Revenge. War is fought on many fronts.” I really wish I could take credit for it because it encompasses everything crucial about the story, but I can’t. My strategy for creating taglines is to bounce a few poor ideas off on my writerly friends and eventually one of them, far more clever than I, will come up with something brilliant.

AM: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

CB: The War of the Three Kingdoms (English Civil War) expanded beyond England to Scotland and Ireland, as well as the English colonies. England’s conquest of Ireland was a particularly heartbreaking chapter of that conflict. It fascinated me by how the Irish brigades used their knowledge of the land to fight the English, using strike-and-run guerilla tactics, until Irish resources ran out and they were forced to surrender. The desperation of their situation intrigued me, and I wanted to explore it further. [Below: Cork’s North Gate bridge.]

AM: What inspired you to write about that particular era or character?

CB: When I was creating the character of Mairead O’Coneill in Severed Knot, one way I used to get to know the character better was to scribble down memories she might have. One in particular kept staying with me, being one of her and her older brother Niall as children in the marketplace. Niall had been impatient to move her along while she wanted to loiter. Even though Niall grew exasperated with having to herd his distracted sister, I realized that despite this little conflict, they were incredibly close. When I finished Severed Knot, I kept thinking of Niall and wondered what would happen if he came by their uncle’s place for a bit of rest and to catch up with family but found death and destruction instead. What would he do? How far would he go to avenge them? All these possibilities seemed to be the start of an interesting journey.

AM: How did you create a realistic setting for your story?

CB: Normally, I like to visit the places that I write about to get a feel for the setting, but with COVID, travelling was out of the question. I never realized how important setting was to my writing process until I could no longer explore the setting of my story. I become an armchair traveller, studying topography through Google satellite and travellers’ journals. I had to substitute the forest close to me for the sights and smells and details of the one I was writing about. Websites devoted to native flora and fauna were also very helpful, as was speaking to people who had visited Cork and the Rock of Cashel.

Rock Of Cashel, Co.Tipperary, Ireland

AM: What surprised you in the course of your research?

CB: Given how fierce religious lines had been drawn in Ireland, I never expected Irish Catholics to become English informants or to cross lines to join the English forces. They did so as a matter of survival and a way to preserve their interests, no doubt hoping for favourable treatment from the English.

Another surprise was how dairy-rich the Irish diet was in the seventeenth century. I assumed, at first, that it would have been similar to the English diet, but dairy products were the main staple for Irish families, used both fresh and curdled.

AM: Do your research findings guide the plot, or do you plan out the plot first and flesh it out with research? (Or perhaps both?)

CB: Historical timelines guide the plot for me. I usually have a good idea of the time and setting and a general sense of what happens. I have done enough research to get started on my first draft, but invariably, I get stuck (usually in the middle) when I realize my characters are aimlessly wandering around waiting for the next historical signpost. That’s my cue to stop and go into super-nerdy research mode. New subplots bubble to the surface and get my characters moving forward.

AM: Do you prefer to write in silence or with background music? If music, what kind and why?

CB: I always write to music and without a soundtrack, the writing doesn’t flow as well. Music inspires me, and it helps me to tap into the creative well. When I find the right song, the melody and lyrics allow me to tune into the emotions my characters are feeling.

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