“Well, they’re totally different. That’s not even a fair comparison,” I said with a sniff.
“Fair enough,” Finn said, wistful. “Really, nothing can compare with hurling.”
of his leather jacket, and my blood pulsed in my ears at the sight of him, dancing from foot to foot as he practiced his swing.
three-thousand-year-old art form and you’re nattering on about the fecking Cubs.”
head as I climbed the wall.
the stone wall and tumbled to the ground.
I laughed as he came to his feet, his hair loose, chasing me.
“Tanner’s up to bat.” I climbed a set of old stairs to nowhere and tossed up the stone. I popped out my hips and, following through on the turn, sent the stone flying over the hill and down the cliffs below. I jumped down, swinging my baseball/hurley bat. “Homerun by Tanner! And the Cubs win the pennant!”
With a devilish grin, Finn tickled my armpit, and I curled up in a fit of giggles. He made a grab for my wrist, pinning me to the ground, and his gray eyes danced as he looked down at me. My laughter faded, and running my other hand through his hair, I pulled his face to mine. He kissed me, a low moan rumbling deep in his throat.
Finding Inspiration in Irish Mythology
My introduction into the world of Irish mythology happened on the very first night I traveled to Ireland when, after consuming several pints, I fell into step with a young man from Cork on my way back to my room. In the middle of a rambling joke involving a duck and a hurley stick, he digressed into the story of the Irish demi-god Cuchulain. Later on that trip, someone would recite to me the Song of Amergin in the common room of a hostel, and later an old woman who kindly picked me up on the side of the road would tell me the story of Maeve on the way up to Donegal.
What became clear to me during my travels in Ireland is these stories are not tales that sit on a dusty shelf, but are very much alive and continue to grow and change with every retelling. I feel that at their core, these myths have something crucial to say about love and loyalty, honor and kindness, and the boundaries that separate us and define us for who we are. It’s why the Irish still tell these stories, and it’s why they captured my imagination so many years ago.
The more I read Irish writers, the more I realized how even contemporary works draw from the deep wells of mythology. In ancient times, there were four provinces of Ireland: Munster, Leinster, Ulster, and Connacht. But there was also a space called “The Fifth Province” which was a sort of “in-between” space of magic. This is Tír na nÓg, or the Faerie realm, and this space still lingers in the imaginations of many Irish writers.
For instance, the characters in James Joyce’s Ulysses wander through Dublin on a very ordinary day on June 16th, 1904, but on this other level, they’re playing out entire epics. WB Yeats and his wife would do this weird sort of “automatic writing” thing to channel spirits, and these séances would later help him write some of the greatest poems of the 20th century. One of my favorite Irish writers Éilís Ní Dhuibhne splices in traditional Irish folklore in her contemporary stories to explore female experiences that might otherwise be “unspeakable.” These authors led me to want to better understand the cultural origins of this impulse, and eventually, as I read more folklore and myth, a whole world began to take shape in my mind with a concrete history and a wide cast of magical characters.
The origins of Through the Veil, though, lie within a tiny line in Lady Gregory’s collection of Irish myth called Gods and Fighting Men. This book is a treasure trove of inspiration for me. It chronicles the magical invasions of Ireland and the many adventures of the Fianna, a band of Celtic warriors with real historical origins. According to myth, the Fianna protected the mortal world from some of the darker beings from the Faerie realm, but they eventually died out. However, at the end of Gods and Fighting Men, we learn that perhaps they didn’t fade out of existence but are living among us still. Reading this line sent my imagination spinning, and I wondered what would happen if the Fianna were still living today, if they were still protect humans from the Dark Fae. It seemed a story I needed to tell, and so I set out exploring what would happen if one these hot Fianna dudes ended up having to help a lost graduate student…who happened to find a magic book…and then Finn and Elizabeth were born.
While Through the Veil draws from Irish mythology, I love bringing these stories into a contemporary context. I don’t know if there is such thing as a “Fifth Province,” but I like to believe that there is some other, in-between world all around us. It’s the place where we keep our memories, where we keep our love, our joy, and our passion. And I think sometimes we have to delve into these ancient tales to remember our modern world still contains a little magic.