The Story Within The Story
What makes a “good read”? The answer appears simple: An enthralling story. However, we’re then left to wonder: What kinds of stories captivate readers?
I believe that a primary characteristic that gives a story richness and depth is relevant subthemes. So, in addition to an intriguing plot, memorable characters, and solid story structure, I give equal attention to the subthemes. Mine are gender equality, particularly women’s rights, and environmental sustainability.
These two subthemes are related because it is clear that women like Anne Hidalgo, Petra Kelly, and Greta Thunberg are leading efforts to address climate change around the world. We have profound economic, political, and environmental issues that must be addressed now. But most efforts stand little chance of yielding solutions unless there is an accompanying change in mental attitudes. The first, most impactful, and crucial step is to ensure the women of the world are finally embraced as entirely equal to men.
My commitment to incorporate the subthemes of women’s rights and environmental sustainability within my stories led me to Celtic history. Between 600 B.C. and 50 A.D. women in this confederation of Indo-European tribes blossomed in ways inconsistent with the patriarchal tenets that dominated surrounding societies.
The Celts enjoyed a harmony between the roles and rights or men and women that was not based upon the superiority of one sex over another. Celtic women, in general, enjoyed rights and freedoms unheard of in those times. Take Celtic marriage, which was viewed as a partnership between men and women. Women chose their husbands and never married against their will. A wife was allowed to leave her husband if he committed adultery or abused her and take any property she had brought into the marriage and acquired during it.
In the world of the Celts, women were warriors, poets, and even Druids, the latter being more powerful than any monarch. A king or chieftain would not make any important decision without the counsel of a Druid. And, interestingly enough, Druid rituals and wisdom were inspired by Nature. Druids and Celts saw themselves as part of the larger Natural world and treated it with reverence and respect. Yes, the Celts were the perfect vehicle through which I could incorporate both my chosen subthemes.
While I might have written stories set in the time of the Celts, it was more fun and fascinating to bring the Celtic ethics and beliefs into the modern era to draw a sharper contrast. But, to do this required that I break from the genre that launched my writing career, Sherlock Holmes pastiches, to introduce a young Irish lass named Tessa Wiggins.
The three novels following Sherlock Holmes – The Golden Years are set just before and after the First World War in Britain. Irregular Lives, The Celtic Phoenix, and The Magnificent Madness of Tessa Wiggins role out chronologically as Tessa grows from a six-year-old London street urchin into a powerful Celtic woman and Druid priestess. Within these three stories, readers are introduced to the Celtic ethos, and using a little magical realism, readers meet a diverse cadre of other formidable Celtic women.
I plan to continue writing in the mystery-suspense genre, with Tessa as my lady detective with a psychic vibe, in the hope that contrasting a much-neglected historical period with ours will help make way for a broader, more inclusive human society where men and women no longer need to indulge in an unwholesome gender rivalry that has undermined human beings for centuries.