I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed ‘Through the Veil’ by Colleen Halverson so when I had the opportunity to interview her, I jumped to take it! Here are her responses to my questions:
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
The series is called The Aisling Chronicles, and it follows my heroine Elizabeth Tanner as she comes into her powers as a half-Fae. Elizabeth is an aisling, which in Irish means “dream” or “vision.” I borrowed this term from what are called “The Aisling Poems,” a type of poem that was extremely popular in Ireland in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. In these poems, the narrator describes a beautiful vision involving a woman who appears to him and calls him to fight against foreign invaders. I always wondered where this woman came from. What was her story? How did she get these awesome powers that allowed her to travel through the veil of reality? That is how Elizabeth’s tale began.
What is your writing process?
I have two small children and I usually write at our kitchen table. It’s very hard sometimes to turn off the domestic, mommy brain and focus on writing, but what helps me a lot is listening to music. My husband bought me a pair of sound-cancelling headphones, and I couldn’t survive without them. Much of Through the Veil was written with Florence + the Machine in the background, her passionate voice and the lilting harp mixed with the distorted guitars creating the perfect soundtrack for this novel.
But to produce a book, I know it will take me several rounds of revision. The first round is me just telling the story to myself. My characters like to surprise me, and they’ll take me on a journey with me racing after them, scribbling down notes of their adventures. The next draft is where I figure out the emotional arcs of the characters, where I fill in what they’re thinking and feeling. The next draft is where I focus on voice, crafting jokes and making sure the language is as punchy as possible. And then of course, there are several rounds of beta reading with my friends checking for things like pacing, tension, and agency. This is all before the book ever lands in the hands of my editor, and then a whole new cycle begins. It’s a lot of work, but I love it. It’s the first thing I want to do when I wake up (after coffee), and the last thing I want to do before going to bed.
Who is your favourite character out of your stories and why?
My favorite character is probably Grainne, an ex-pirate and warrior in the Fianna (which, in my book, is the secret organization that polices the mortal world from Fae baddies). She was very much inspired by my Irish language professor, and I hear her voice whenever I’m writing her dialogue. She was so warm and caring, but she could cut you with a word. She didn’t suffer fools gladly at all. But she was also a really supportive friend in one of the darkest periods of my life, and I think Grainne serves as that person for my heroine, Elizabeth. Grainne is always there for her when she needs strength, especially when she needs to draw upon a particular kind of female strength to face the challenges ahead of her.
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
I would like to say Elizabeth because it would be so much fun to make out with Finn, but like any heroine, she has to go through so many trials, I’m not sure I would have the same kind of courage she has to face them. I think the role I would play now is this character Una, who arrives at the darkest point in the story and offers Elizabeth unconditional support and loyalty. Una has been through so much, and she’s always there to remind my heroine that she will survive, that she has the strength to make it through such incredible challenges. Una was the friend I wish I had in my twenties and early thirties when so much of my life was falling apart. There was a time just after the birth of my first child when I was commuting two hours several times a week to keep my fellowship, teaching classes, and trying to finish my dissertation. I pulled off the side of the road to pump breastmilk for my infant who I was missing so terribly, and I just leaned my head against the steering wheel and cried and cried. I was so exhausted, and I felt I was letting everyone down—my baby, my students, my advisor. I wish someone had been there to hold my hand and remind me to just keep going, keep fighting, keep placing one foot in front of the other. I teach online now, and a lot of my students are young mothers, and I can hear the stress in their voices over the phone, the desperation and embarrassment they feel when they have to miss a deadline or can’t make a call because their baby’s crying or a child became sick. Sometimes all they need is someone to say, “I’ve been exactly where you are, and you are amazing. You will get through this.”I feel very blessed that I am in a position now to help other women, and I think that’s the role I would want to play in my novel. It’s probably why I wrote Una into existence in the first place. We all need an Una.
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
Elizabeth Tanner came to me all at once, fully formed. But Finn O’Connell is a combination of two significant Irish figures: Fionn mac Cumhaill and Daniel O’Connell. Fionn mac Cumhaill is a mythological hero and one of the greatest, most legendary warriors of the ancient world. Daniel O’Connell was a great politician and orator, and he is often called “The Liberator” as his efforts led to Catholic Emancipation in Ireland in the early nineteenth century. I like to think Finn is a combination of these two personalities: the warrior and the man of law. These two facets of his psyche are often a great source of inner-conflict for him, and of course his steadfast commitment to the letter of law coupled with his strong alpha male tendencies drive Elizabeth absolutely bonkers.
Many thanks to Colleen for agreeing to be interviewed and providing such interesting responses!