Author Interview: Sheila Gilluly

Sheila Guilhuly

Sheila Gilluly

Interviewed by

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Writer Sheila Gilluly believes that Cicero probably had it right: If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Now retired from thirty years of teaching English, Sheila has not only the organic garden and a quartet of hens bossing her around; she has an elderly house in mid-coast Maine to shelter that library. There’s also a funny cat named Gracie who has taught Sheila how to retrieve catnip mice. A woman of many talents, she’s both resident carpenter and a squirrel whisperer.

She is the author of two fantasy trilogies, The Greenbriar Queen: Greenbriar Queen, The Crystal Keep, and Ritnym’s Daughter (NAL/Signet/Roc and Headline) and The Books of the Painter: The Boy From the Burren, The Giant of Inishkerry, and The Emperor of Earth-Above (Headline).

Q: Your multi-volume story The Books of the Painter: The Boy From the Burren, The Giant of Inishkerry and The Emperor of Earth-Above was published in the UK, but not the United States. What made you think that it was time to bring this intriguing story out in ebook?

A: Actually, The Boy From the Burren was published in the US, but it was the end of a contract I had with Roc, and they declined the rest of the planned series. Shortly thereafter, the trilogy was picked up by the UK publisher Headline. There were some very nice reviews of Burren here in the US in which people said they’d like to read the rest of the story, but couldn’t find the other two volumes. With digital publishing, I’m hoping to respond to them at last and to introduce the series to a whole new set of readers, too.

Q: Where did The Boy From the Burren start for you?

A: I had been noodling ideas for a new book after I finished writing The Greenbriar Queen trilogy and had come up with a few things—sand-painting as a magical medium, a lad who’s no innocent when it comes to the harder side of life, but who has the soul of an artist. But the whole thing jelled when I took my first trip to the west coast of Ireland, from the Dingle peninsula up to Connemara. Something about that landscape—the patchwork fields with their rock wall borders, the stiff salt winds coming off the 700 foot Cliffs of Moher, the smell of peat smoke and the cuttings where men were still digging turf by hand, the black tarred currachs I saw lying up-turned on the beach—all of that resonated with me. My father’s people were from Ireland, and I had a deep sense of connection to the place. When I came home and turned to the writing again, the story spun itself out of those threads.

Q: Have you explored this entire world yet? Will there be other stories in it?

A: There was always supposed to be at least a fourth book, so we’ll see!

Q: Will The Greenbriar Queen trilogy be re-released in ebook? When can we look for it?

A: Yes, it will be coming out within the next year, I hope. Thanks for asking!

Q: What do you like about writing fiction?

A: Well, first, to be honest, I like having written a whole lot better than actually writing. I am not one of those blessed writers who enjoys the process in and of itself. (Although there are occasionally the good moments when you lose yourself in the story, see things appearing on the screen as your fingers are flying across the keyboard, and think, “OK, I have no idea where that came from, but, damn, it’s good!”)

As to why I write fiction, I’ve never really thought about it. It just seems to be my native habitat. I’ve been writing stories since before anyone could read the scribbles, and I’ve always loved to read, so I suppose there’s something there about the wonderful power of stories to let us be other people, to see through other eyes, and have experiences we would never have any other way.

Q: Do you think your voice, the thing that stamps your writing as uniquely yours, changes from book to book, story to story, or can you already see themes that reoccur in your work?

A: There’s a definite change in voice between the Greenbriar series, which I wrote first, and the Painter trilogy. The earlier books were heavily influenced by Tolkien (the Professor casts a long shadow even today). When I moved to the second series, I found a truer voice for me—a little harder-edged, but still with enough lyric quality that the prose has a sense of rhythm and flow which fits the story well.

As to the common threads, I know at least a couple of them: that the earth is sacred and powerful, and that tending this sacredness is a privilege; and that having a gift for something is a two-edged sword, very often both a blessing and a curse.

Q: You’re working on a new fantasy. I know it takes place during the forgotten plague, Justinian’s Plague in the sixth century, and is a most unusual Grail Quest. Does this have any connection to The Books of the Painter or The Greenbriar Queen books?

A: No, this is new territory for me, historical fantasy rather than high fantasy. All sorts of fascinating research has gone into it. And, no, I’m not ready to spill the beans on it yet. 🙂

Q: What made you want to join Book View Café? What is it about the BVC organization that appeals to you?

A: I wanted to join an organization that works on a gift economy rather than a monetary one. Let me explain. In traditional publishing, the person who’s actually doing the work of writing winds up getting a very small piece of the pie, I’ve always thought, and gives up nearly all quality control of their ‘product.’ By contrast, at BVC all the members donate their skills, time, and attention to help each other produce the very best ebooks possible, and individual authors retain both creative control and all but a very small sliver of the pie that is donated back to the co-op to cover operating costs and such. It’s a wonderful model. And besides, look at the Hive Mind available here! Scan down our list of authors and just imagine the resources available in our forum discussions!


About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


Author Interview: Sheila Gilluly — 9 Comments

  1. I’m so thrilled that you’re here, Sheila. I read “The Boy From the Burren” years ago when it first came out as a paperback and enjoyed it so much. I always wondered why I never encountered a sequel, and now I know. I’m looking forward to having a chance to read your other work here through BVC.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Mary, and I’m glad you enjoyed the book. It’s so good to be able to connect with readers in a way I never could before. The second volume in the series, THE GIANT OF INISHKERRY, will be coming from BVC in May.

  2. Great interview, Sheila. I’m very intrigued by the title “Justinian’s Plague” and look forward to that book when it comes out. In the meantime, however, there’s plenty of good reading in the books you’re releasing through the Cafe. I highly recommend them!

  3. I’m so looking forward to hearing more about your new book and I look forward to reading it when it appears.

    • I’m looking forward to reading it myself, actually. 🙂 This one has been taking forever.

  4. I’m another of those that read The Boy from the Burren a long time ago, and looked for years for a sequel. I was so disappointed I never found one! Now I know why, and will be watching for them to come out so I can finally read them! Guess I’ll have to reread Boy from the Burren first though! So excited to hear about this! Thank-you!

  5. Hello, Sheila. I haven’t read any of your work yet — I didn’t even know about it until your Greenbriar trilogy was mentioned on the fantasy website, Black Gate. Each volume of the trilogy was pictured, and there’s a very nice appreciation of the books. The writer, however, mentioned that the exquisite artwork on the covers is uncredited. I’ve seen the name “Stephen Bradbury” connected with the art for some British paperback of yours, but I’m wondering if you know who did the gorgeous work for the Signet titles. I’ve just purchased the books through Amazon, and I’m looking forward to reading them this summer. Thanks!

    • Hi, Tom. You’re right about Stephen Bradbury doing the covers for the UK editions, but I never did know who Signet got to do the American editions. They’re nice, aren’t they? I like the handling of light on them.

      Hope you enjoy the books!