The Oath

Welcome to A. M. Linden for an interview and spotlight on The Oath – the first in a series based in eighth century Britain

The Oath

(The Druid Chronicles, Book One)

By A. M. Linden – June 2021 / 319 Pages

When the last of members of a secretive Druid cult are forced to abandon their hidden sanctuary, they send the youngest of their remaining priests in search of Annwr, their chief priestess’s sister, who was abducted by a Saxon war band fifteen years ago. With only a rudimentary grasp of English and the ambiguous guidance of an oracle’s prophecy, Caelym manages to find Annwr living in a hut on the grounds of a Christian convent.

Annwr has spent her years of captivity caring for the timid Aleswina, an orphaned Saxon princess who was consigned to the cloistered convent by her cousin, King Gilberth, after he assumed her father’s throne. Just as Caelym and Annwr are about leave together, Aleswina learns that Gilberth, a tyrant known for his cruelty and vicious temper, means to take her out of the convent and marry her. Terrified, she flees with the two Druids—beginning a heart-pounding adventure that unfolds in ways none of them could have anticipated.

“Linden’s well-researched tale eloquently brings to life a lesser-known period of transition in Britain. . . . The author has created a strong foundation for her series with well-developed characters whom readers can embrace. . . . [a] layered, gripping historical fiction.” – —Kirkus Reviews

“The story rolls along at a lively pace, rich with details of the times and a wide cast of characters. [The] plotting, shifting points of view of the three engaging protagonists, and evocative writing style make The Oath a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.” – —Historical Novel Review

“Linden uses a fairy tale-like style almost as though this story has been passed down orally over the centuries.” —Booklist Review

Author Bio:

Ann Margaret Linden was born in Seattle, Washington, but grew up on the east coast of the United States before returning to the Pacific Northwest as a young adult. She has undergraduate degrees in anthropology and in nursing and a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner. After working in a variety of acute care and community health settings, she took a position in a program for children with special health care needs where her responsibilities included writing clinical reports, parent educational materials, provider newsletters, grant submissions and other program related materials. The Druid Chronicles began as a somewhat whimsical decision to write something for fun and ended up becoming a lengthy journey that involved Linden taking adult education creative writing courses, researching early British history, and traveling to England, Scotland, and Wales. Retired from nursing, she lives with her husband and their cat and dog in the northwest corner of Washington State.

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Here’s the text of a revealing interview with Ann Margret

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thank you. I very much appreciate your interest.

Can you tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

I have undergraduate degrees in anthropology and in nursing, and a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner, and have worked in a variety of acute care and community health settings. My writing was all but entirely work-related until I got the idea of writing something for fun and sketched out a draft of what started out to be a tongue-in-cheek historical murder mystery and ended up as a foot-high stack of close-to-illegible scrawl. With that on my desk, I signed up for my first—and fundamental—creative writing course through my local university extension program. I was still working full-time at that point, but continued taking adult education courses, and eventually had the privilege of attending the University of Oxford Creative Writing Summer School—an intense three-week experience which I credit with giving me the confidence to think of myself as a writer. Since retiring, I’ve had the opportunity to complete the first four books in the series and to see the first one in print.

Tell us a bit about your writing process.

I generally follow a process adapted from Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, starting the section I’m planning with freewriting, then clustering and/or diagramming particular scenes or dialogues before I turn on my computer and write the working draft. Sometimes that flows easily, other times it doesn’t, in which case I may try again from a different character’s point of view. I’m fortunate to have a writing partner with whom I trade work weekly. Before the pandemic, we met at a local café; now we do our exchange electronically and share our comments and suggestions by phone. After what we refer to as our “writers’ discourse,” I fix what needs fixing and go on to the next section.

Tell us about your novels. Why should everyone buy them?

The Oath is the first book in The Druid Chronicles, a five-part historical fiction series based on the premise that the remnants of a once powerful pagan cult have survived into the last years of the eighth century, a time when the conversion to Christianity is all but complete throughout the rest of the British Isles. A significant part of the overarching story concerns the clash between early Christianity and the pre-Christian polytheistic religion espoused by several of the main characters.

Books 1, 3, 4, and 5 follow those characters when they venture outside of their cult’s hidden sanctuary. Book 2, The Valley, begins a generation earlier and recounts the events that set the main story in motion.

While I’ve been encouraged by the positive reviews that The Oath and The Valley have received, I never expected that my admittedly quirky characters and their troubles would be the stuff of mass market appeal and am happy anytime I hear that somebody has enjoyed meeting them.

What is your all-time favourite novel/book? What makes it special?

That’s a toss-up between Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, and Alice in Wonderland. Although I haven’t read them in years, the characters in those books remain as alive to me as my family and friends, and I remember the hundred-acre wood, Toad Hall, and the other side of the looking glass as though they were places I had really been.

What author would you love to have dinner with?

Assuming this is not limited to living authors: Ursula Le Guin; if it is: Margaret Atwood.

What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or passions?

While not by nature a political activist, I am deeply worried about the rise of violent extremism and authoritarianism, along with the daily reminders of ethnic, religious and racial bigotry. I follow rational news sources, all too aware that I can turn them off when it seems too much to take, while the people suffering unprovoked attacks don’t have that luxury. My current reaction is to lend my support to protecting voting rights. For mental health, I have my husband, our cat and dog, our garden, and some truly wonderful friends and family.

It was important to me to respect the history of the time and place in which I put my characters and to understand when I was bending that history to fit the needs of their story. There is, for instance, no historical record of Druids beyond the first centuries A. D. and, despite being mentioned in folklore, there is no documentation that there were any left by the time the Anglo-Saxons had been Christianized. This potential problem for my main plotline is offset by the fact that there are sufficiently large gaps in what is known about this period that there was room for me to insert my fictional cult and its priests and priestesses without anyone being able to prove that they couldn’t have been there. While I did my best to avoid anachronisms—having cottages with fireplaces instead of hearths or characters who are wearing clothes with pockets—I definitely took liberties with the landscape and put rivers in where I needed them.

What are you reading at the moment?

Eleanor, a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt by David Michaelis

Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?

Do enjoy the journey.

Don’t give up your day job.

What are your future plans as an author?

That’s an interesting question. Once the fifth book is finished, I might go back to Caelym’s boyhood and adolescence, and write a short story or novella filling the “off stage” part of that account from his point of view.

Thanks to Ann Margaret Linden for her fascinating post about The Oath, her background and books and writing in general

@shewritespress @maryanneyarde #HistoricalFiction #Medieval #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub

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