Today, I’m delighted to welcome Cryssa Bazos to the blog with a post about her new book, Rebel’s Knot.
Your book, Rebel’s Knot, is set during the seventeenth century in Ireland, a period I know very little about. As a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories.
Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring your historical landscape to life?
Thank you for having me on your blog! Research can be an obsession. While only a small percentage ends up in the final copy, all those hours of research still colour between the lines.
I usually research in three major waves. The first is at the early stage before I write anything. I read historical non-fiction to give me an understanding of the era and subject. This is a general survey to determine where my story will sit within the history, and I look for signposts where I can lay my foundation.
When I feel that I have a good understanding, I start writing. I’m eager to get a taste for the characters and the story. By the time I hit the end of the first act, I often realize I need far more information about the setting and everyday details than I have. This leads me to my second wave of research, where I gather a hundred historical details that will be boiled down to only a few that stay in the text. I search out first-hand contemporary accounts, in letters or diaries, and try to get a sense of the world that my characters inhabit. This is where the characters lift off the page for me, and I can walk around in their shoes and understand what’s important in their life.
The last wave of research is my way of getting out of the dreaded middle slump. At this stage, the characters are walking around aimlessly, waiting for the events that will sweep them to the end. This is the rabbit hole stage of the process. Some might call it procrastination, and while it appears to be, what I’m actually doing is searching for inspiration from history. Where I often find the gold is in the footnotes. The list of goods stolen from a captured ship, for example, can be the lynchpin of a new subplot.
Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?
I have several favourite online resources. British History Online (https://www.british-history.ac.uk) is one welcome rabbit hole, and it’s easy to get seriously lost going through the transcribed content they have in there. British Civil Wars Project (http://bcw-project.org) is a great resource for anything to do with the War of the Three Kingdoms. I often pop in when I want to check on a date or a fact, and they have sections organized for Scotland and Ireland. I also love the articles available on JSTOR, and will usually head there to get more in-depth understanding on a topic.
When I was researching Rebel’s Knot, I relied on God’s Executioner by Micheál Ó Siochrú. It’s an insightful and balanced view of the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland, including the events leading up to it. My copy is now dogeared and marked up.
One of the historical figures that I feature in Rebel’s Knot is Edmund O’Dwyer, Commander-in-Chief of the Irish forces in Tipperary and Waterford. He’s mentioned only several times in the historical record and yet he played an important role in the defence of Tipperary. There’s very little known about him. I managed to find an old history of the O’Dwyers called The O’Dwyers of Kilnamanagh by Sir Michael O’Dwyer (1933), which not only compiled the scant information on Edmund O’Dwyer, but gave more information on his family and heritage.
Another major source of information was A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland, from 1641 to 1652 by Sir John Thomas Gilbert. This was a compilation of letters, diary entries and the record of the treaties in one volume. While the English Parliamentarians wrote most of the accounts, the information was still invaluable. I learned about the range of the English forces in Tipperary, and their favourable perspective on commanders such as O’Dwyer spoke volumes about his character.
I also tracked down a first-hand account of an English bookseller travelling through Ireland in the latter seventeenth-century called Teague Land or A Merry Ramble to the Wild Irish (1698) by John Dunton. It’s rare to find contemporary accounts of common people, so this was quite the find that the traveller captured his experiences with his Irish hosts. He seemed to be a bit of a foodie, because he left detailed information about what they offered him to eat and how they prepared his meals.
There were a myriad of other sources and old maps that I found helpful (let’s not get started on the maps), but the above resources were the material I kept returning to throughout writing my novel.
I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to chat about research! It’s a topic near to my heart.
Thank you so much for sharing your research with me. Good luck with the new book.
Here’s the blurb
Ireland 1652: In the desperate, final days of the English invasion of Ireland . . .
A fey young woman, Áine Callaghan, is the sole survivor of an attack by English marauders. When Irish soldier Niall O’Coneill discovers his own kin slaughtered in the same massacre, he vows to hunt down the men responsible. He takes Áine under his protection and together they reach the safety of an encampment held by the Irish forces in Tipperary.
Hardly a safe haven, the camp is rife with danger and intrigue. Áine is a stranger with the old stories stirring on her tongue and rumours follow her everywhere. The English cut off support to the brigade, and a traitor undermines the Irish cause, turning Niall from hunter to hunted.
When someone from Áine’s past arrives, her secrets boil to the surface—and she must slay her demons once and for all.
As the web of violence and treachery grows, Áine and Niall find solace in each other’s arms—but can their love survive long-buried secrets and the darkness of vengeance?
Violence, references to sexual/physical abuse.
Meet the Author
Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and a seventeenth century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction, a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel, Severed Knot, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chaucer Award. A forthcoming third book in the standalone series, Rebel’s Knot, was published November 2021.
Connect with Cryssa Bazos