Interview with Kristin Gleeson   1 comment

photo by Catherine KetchKristin Gleeson is the author of Selkie Dreams, an historical fiction novel with some fantasy elements set in Alaska that got my attention on Authonomy. She has also written Anahareo, A Wilderness Spirit, a biography of a First Nations Canadian woman and environmentalist who was Grey Owl’s wife. She has just released a new novel, Along the Far Shores, set in the 12th century about an Irish woman who stows away on the legendary voyage to America of Prince Madog of Wales.


Tell us something about yourself, Kristin.

I’m originally from Philadelphia but I married a man from Cornwall, England (Celtic area) and have lived in various places in England and America. Now I’ve settled in Ireland and have lived here for the past 10 years teaching art, working in libraries in the summer and writing. I live in a rural mountainy area and I love it.


Tell us about the harp in your author photo.

I love music and have played the harp for about 20 years. I mainly play traditional Celtic music but I also play a bit of classical too, mostly medieval that is in a modal format. About 15 years ago I also started telling stories with the harp, as a sort of idea of how a bard might have done it years ago. I’ve performed the storytelling and the music on its own at festivals, galleries, weddings, restaurants, etc. in America, England and Ireland.


There is a harpist here in Fairbanks who plays in the local coffee shops occasionally and my husband is forced to go with me to listen at least a couple of times a year.

Along the Far Shores-Book Cover (1)When did you first start writing and what was the story?

I was probably about 11 years old when I first wrote down a story. Professor Dealy’s Inventions, it was called and it even had chapters and illustrations. My mother saved it and it’s around in my house somewhere. Very silly altogether but I loved doing it.


What is your favorite genre … to read and to write and if they are different, why?

I read quite widely but I guess I would have more books read that were historical fiction. I do love fantasy, literary novels, some romance and women’s fiction and thrillers too. I write mostly historical fiction that might have a thread of fantasy through it, since I am so taken with cultural myths and legends (the selkie myth, the legend of Madog).


You’ve lived so many different places. What is your favorite place in the world?

Gosh, what an interesting question. I would say overall here on the west coast of Ireland, but I also have found Sitka a real favorite and also Chimney Rock in New Mexico amazing too.


Selkie Dreams coverSitka is gorgeous! I live in the dry Interior and would probably not enjoy all the rain that makes Sitka so gorgeous, but it’s a fascinating place to visit. Where did you get the idea for Selkie Dreams and Along the Far Shores?

The idea for Selkie Dreams started when I used to work in a historical society in Philadelphia and I helped some Alaskan Tlingit reclaim some land. I became quite friendly with one of the elders who told me tales. I also realized that there were no records in the archives of the Native experience, only the missionaries’ views and reports. So I thought by writing a novel I might put their side. The framework came to me as I sang the Selkie Song one time and realized the story within the song would make a perfect novel that I made into the theme of a woman believing her mother had turned into a selkie as a way of coping with her death.

Along the Far Shores has a loose connection to Selkie Dreams that will be revealed in another novel that is forthcoming, Raven Brought the Light. Each novel has one character who possesses a silver medallion that has been handed down for centuries. I needed to get the medallion in Irish hands in Along the Far Shores and the Madog legend seemed a perfect opportunity to get an Irish woman across the ocean.


Anahareo book coverTell us about Anahareo, A Wilderness Spirit.

I was inspired to write about Anahareo after watching Richard Attenborough’s film, Grey Owl, one Christmas at my mother-in-law’s house. I was fascinated by Anahareo and wanted to know what happened in her life after the point the film ended. My husband told me to write her biography and find out. I was certain that had already been done, but it hadn’t. I went to Canada several times to do research and interview her two living daughters and the more I found out the more I really admired Anahareo. She challenged the Indian women stereotypes in the 1930s and all the way up to her death in the 1980s by her manner of dress and speech. No blankets, braids and fringe buckskin dresses for her. She also worked passionately in environmental issues long before it was fashionable. A real role model for women in general, but especially First Nations/Native American women.


What are your writing plans for the future?

I have so many stories in my head and I hope to continue to keep putting them out there. As I mentioned I have Raven Brought the Light coming out soon. It’s two parallel stories, one present day and one in 1500 B.C. like Kate Mosse’s Labyrynth and creates a story out of the discovery of some red-headed plaid-wearing mummies found in the Urumchi area of western China in the 1990s.


I remember that discovery. That’s a great connection!

I have also have co-authored a book set in 15th century England just before the Wars of The Roses, centered around the Duchess of Gloucester’s trial as a witch. There are some elements of supernatural there with a streetwise clairvoyant teen boy as one of the central characters.

Anything else you would like to add.

Links for books (U.S.)


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