Kevin Hearne is the author of the Iron Druid Chronicles, a new Urban Fantasy series which debuted in May with HOUNDED, followed by HEXED this month, and HAMMERED on July 5th. Of COURSE I had to read his books, seeing as the main character Atticus is constantly finding himself in fights with living breathing gods and goddesses in modern day Arizona. In HOUNDED, he faced the Celtic Tuatha Dé Danann and in HAMMERED, it’s looking extremely likely that he’ll be toe to toe with the Norse gods, including Thor, god of thunder. How can you RESIST? Besides which, Atticus is pretty hilarious, and written with a fantastic voice.

 

Knowing me as a fellow lover of mythology, I was able to score an interview with Kevin Hearne about the mythology he’s nurturing and creating in his books, the first part of which I thought I’d share with you here! 

 

Amalia The Savage: Demons, werewolves, vampires, the Virgin Mary, Norse gods and Irish gods, witches, and references to other pantheons, all seeming to inhabit the same world. Can you tell us a little bit about the mythology behind The Iron Druid Chronicles and the myth-multiverse you’ve built?

 

Kevin Hearne: It started out with just the Celts, but once I realized that I was treating myth like history—or at least closely related to history—the question that I simply had to answer was, why treat only the Celts this way? What if everything were true, to some extent, and the gods are still with us, albeit hidden? So that’s what I’m exploring here. And I’m not limiting myself to “dead” gods, either; current religions are treated in the same way—those gods are all real and empowered by our faith in them.

 

ATS: Can you give us a general rundown of the major Irish deities in your books? Just a quick who are they and what do they do? And can you suggest any good primary or secondary sources to learn more about them (mostly this is for me, I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Nothing like going back to the source material!)?

 

KH: The deity that everyone seems to know is The Morrigan, and she appears in various tales in one or more of her three forms. One is that of a crone, one is that of a young seductress, one is the infamous battle crow. I’ve only presented her in the seductress and crow forms so far. She’s the Chooser of the Slain, a role very similar to that of the Valkyries in Norse tradition, but she’s handy in battle herself and something of a wild one in bed. Aside from her, I’m using Brighid, goddess of Poetry, the Forge, and Fire; Bres, a god of agriculture who’s married to Brighid; Aenghus Og, god of love; and Flidais, goddess of the hunt. I really like her because she’s so different from her Greek counterparts; she has an insatiable libido and isn’t afraid to show it. Some of the other Irish gods will show up in later books, like Manannan Mac Lir, Fand, Ogma, and Goibhniu.

 

In terms of source material, you want the Dictionary of Celtic Myth by James MacKillop as a starting point. Though he tends to skimp a bit on the Scottish stuff, he’s great with the Irish. You’ll probably have to pick this up used somewhere, but it’s not that hard to find. Also get yourself familiar with The Annals of the Four Masters and the Ulster and Fenian Cycles of Irish legend. Great stories in there.

 

ATS: Aenghus Og as the god of love– Is your interpretation of him as more about the vengeance and the darker emotions that come with love direct from the myths, or is this an interpretation you’ve read into them (like with Ratatosk)?  

 

KH: It’s based at least partially on his own actions. Those allusions in HOUNDED about Aenghus tricking his own father out of his home, etc. are straight from the old Irish stories. To be fair, he does some noble things in the old stories too, but Atticus kind of ignores those and focuses on the possessive, vindictive side of love that Aenghus exhibits to him.

 

ATS: What drew you to the Irish mythology, both in general and as the primary mythology in this series? Related: Why a Druid, and what kind of research did all this require?

 

KH: Part of it was interest in my own Irish background, and part of it was an appraisal of the marketplace. I’d been reading a lot of urban fantasy, and I noticed that the Irish stuff was wicked cool, but the extant fiction always featured either the Morrigan or the Wild Hunt, and that puzzled me. The rest of the figures are so interesting—why not have fun with them too? I realized after a while that it might come down to nothing more than the names. It’s easy to say “the Morrigan” or “the Wild Hunt,” but many people look at the rest of those Irish names and get intimidated by them. So that’s why I put those no-pressure pronunciation guides in the books, to let people know that it’s okay to pronounce ’em any way you want, but if you DO want to say the names semi-correctly, here’s how. As far as why a Druid specifically, it’s also a two-pronged answer: the market niche was there—I think there’s only one other Druid series out there and it’s completely different from mine; compare that with how many series there are about vampires—and since there is so little concrete information on the Druids, I got to make a lot of shit up. Druids are blank canvases compared to vampires and werewolves. The research required was much of what I already listed above, along with some examination of accounts by Caesar and Tacitus.

 

ATS: In HEXED Atticus says that most Celtic artworks are spells. Is this something you made up for the books, or something based on your research? (Because it is super cool!)

 

KH: I made that shit up. See? This is why I picked Druids! 

 

ATS: Who is your favorite god? Both from those in your books, and from mythology in general?

 

KH: I think I already gave away that I love Flidais more than is probably healthy. She fully embraces her wild side but she’s also a fierce steward of the forest, if fierce stewards are not an oxymoron. I think nature could use more fierce stewards; it certainly has more fierce exploiters than it needs. Generally speaking, I loooove the various versions of Coyote that are celebrated throughout Native America.  

 

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If you’re interested in learning more about Kevin and the gods and monsters he’s playing with, head over to my blog for the rest of the interview!