Mckenzie: I am so excited to be interviewing one of my favorite authors, Darby Karchut, today. Thank you so much, Ms. Karchut, for visiting with me and answering my questions about The Adventures of Finn MacCullen series.
Darby: Mckenzie, it’s my pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me!
Mckenzie: One of my favorite things about this series is the history -- the Tuatha de Danaan come from different places, but the two you mentioned were Ireland and Africa. I imagine a lot of research went into this story. Have you always had an interest in Irish and/or African lore?
Darby: I’ve always been fascinated by world cultures and their various mythologies. In fact, my undergraduate degree is in Anthropology and I knew quite a bit about African folktales. But it wasn’t until my sister went on a safari to South Africa and Namibia and came back with a tale from the local people about fairy rings that the idea for a new book hit me. These fairy rings, which look like blast zones of barren earth, are found all over the African bush. Since I’ve been a rabid fan of Celtic and Bronze Age myths since I was your age (I blame it on The Lord of the Rings), the term “fairy rings” really caught my attention. I started doing research about fairies or Fey, which lead me to a legend about the Tuatha De Danaan of Ireland.
And while I was writing the early draft of the first book in the series, Finn Finnegan, my husband and I went on a bicycle tour of western Ireland. There, I heard more stories about the Tuatha De Danaan from the local people and visited several Bronze Age ruins. Since the Tuatha are supposedly the descendents of the warrior goddess, Danu, I thought it would be fun to make Finn and Gideon warriors and hunters.
Mckenzie: What was your inspiration for these characters, namely Finn and Gideon? You describe them and their attributes so well that they seem very real at times. Are they based on anyone you know?
Darby: This is a great question! Finn MacCullen is actually a blend of the many students I’ve had as a 7th grade social studies teacher. But, like all authors, there is always a bit of one’s self in our characters. For example, like Finn, I had a terrible temper when I was his age. And Gideon Lir (one of my most favorite characters I’ve ever written) is based on both the Welsh myth of Gwydion, who was a bit of a trickster. I tweaked that and gave my Gideon a sarcastic side. But, mostly, I created characters that portray a blend of the archetypal male personalities. For example, Finn is both Warrior and Pilgrim. Gideon is Warrior and Patriarch, with a touch of Trickster.
Back to my visit to Ireland: One evening, my husband and I went to a local pub for dinner and to listen to traditional music. This was in the tiny village of Dullin on the edge of the wilderness area called The Burren in County Clare. Dullin is famous for its musicians and that evening, in that tiny pub, I watched as a father and son play a duet together. The father played the uillean (or elbow) bagpipes and the son played the tin whistle, and they were rocking the room. Well, as you can guess, that scene morphed into the bar scene in Gideon’s Spear.
Mckenzie: I loved that scene! And your visit to Ireland sounds incredible – makes me want to go there someday!
Mckenzie: Two other characters I'm extremely intrigued by are Finn's dad, Fergus, and his mother. Finn is far from at peace with their deaths, and he only gives us a peek into what happened. Will Finn eventually tell us the whole story?
Darby: Another great question! Yes, we’ll learn about Finn’s family in Book Four and Five. I tried to figure out a way to tell you more in this interview, Mckenzie, but it might give away too much.
Mckenzie: Wait, wait, wait… book four and five? Oh my gosh, I could dance an Irish jig – I won’t, because it would be terrible, but still – this makes me so very happy! I can’t wait to read the rest of this series!!
Mckenzie: I won't go into too much detail about Kean or even mention who he is for fear of spoiling the series for someone who hasn't read it yet, but I will say that that part hit me hard. I felt so terrible for Gideon and what he went through with that, and it made his hate for Iona so much more understandable. Will we get to hear more of Kean's story in The Hound at the Gate?
Darby: Actually, in The Hound at the Gate, we’ll learn more about Gideon’s history, including some darker periods of this fine Knight’s life. All I can say is, thank goodness for Mac Roth!
Mckenzie: I'm going to go back a little and ask a question about Finn Finnegan. What was the reasoning behind what happened to Asher? Did you think that maybe he and Finn would never really be able to put aside their differences and become friends, or did you have the plan for Lochlan to be in his place all along?
Darby: I have to admit something: I never planned for Asher to die. He just died! I was writing that scene and BAM, before I knew it, the poor guy was history. Wow, did that change the direction of the book, let me tell you! But it allowed me to introduce an O’Neill that Finn could be friends with. I wanted Finn’s and Lochlan’s relationship to parallel Gideon’s and Mac Roth’s.
Lochlan’s mother, by the way, was named after my Irish grandmother, Etta Riley. We always called her Grandmother Riley.
Mckenzie: I know Finn felt guilty for what happened to Asher, but I'm curious as to why he gave him his torc. He didn't know Asher that long; and while he did, they most certainly couldn't be regarded as friends. So what made Finn want to do something so noble for someone he disliked so much?
Darby: While Finn did not consider Asher a friend, he did realize at the very end that Asher was a fellow warrior. I think Finn didn’t even know he was going to give Asher his torc until right that moment. But it was a lovely act and showed the kind of Knight Finn will grow up to be.
Mckenzie: I would absolutely adore seeing Finn Finnegan and Gideon’s Spear on the big screen. What are your thoughts on this series being made into movies?
Darby: Funny you should ask, as there has been interest from a major film studio. I’ve been directed by the editor-in-chief to not say anymore. However, getting a book turned into a movie is a very, very, very long shot. But, yes, like most authors, I would enjoy seeing my characters come to life. What would be even more cool is if it could be filmed here in Colorado.
Mckenzie: I’m so excited to hear that!! And yes, it would be perfect if it were filmed in Colorado!
Mckenzie: I’m so excited for the next installment of this wonderful series. Book three, The Hound at the Gate, will be released on January 13, 2015. Can you give us any glimpses into what that book will have in store for us?
Darby: I had such a kick writing this book! Be prepared for a hurling match, a massive goblin hunt, two new characters in the form of a female Knight and her young apprentice, and a truck used as a battering ram. Good times.
Mckenzie: I’ve been wondering if there were going to be any female warriors!! This sounds fantastic – I can’t wait to find out more!
Mckenzie: Thank you so much for stopping by and chatting with us about this incredible series.
Darby: Ah, thank YOU, Mckenzie. I really enjoyed your questions. You are quite the writer yourself! Folks, this is a future author you’ll want to keep your eyes on.
"Zulu or Celt, African or Irish, they all hear the call.
A different drum beat, perhaps, but the same magic."
In Gideon’s Spear, we pick up right where we left off in Finn Finnegan – with Finn training under his master and guardian Gideon to become a warrior and fight the battle against the Amandan – but Gideon’s Spear is more than just a continuation of Finn’s apprenticeship. This book contains spoilers for those who haven’t read Finn Finnegan, so I’m going to try to keep this review free of them.
The second installment of the Adventures of Finn MacCullen series was much more intense than its predecessor. While Finn Finnegan was incredible and extremely exciting and nerve-wracking... it had nothing on Gideon's Spear. This book was everything I looked for in the sequel -- some (but not all) loose ends tied up, action-packed pages, and the amazing characters I had come to love. There was so much of each of these things that I had to work extra hard not to include a myriad of quotes in my review.
My heart was racing for almost the entirety of this book. From the ever-present threat of the Amandan (and now a new enemy named Iona) to a frightening car crash, this book never stops. The pace is fast but not too fast. Gideon's Spear is also infused with touching moments, and it has its fair share of heart-break as well. In Gideon's Spear, Finn still has trouble with self-confidence and at times feels as though he's not good enough to be Gideon's apprentice.
"Sometimes, it seems like just yesterday he appeared at my front gate,
carrying a pitiful collection of clothes, his da's moonstone,
and a heart full of hope that I would take him.
And fear that I would not."
It breaks my heart to know that Finn has no idea how brave and strong he really he is. How many thirteen-year-old boys would put their own lives at risk more than once to save someone they've only known for a short time? Finn is a warrior beyond his years. But he most definitely still has his teenage boy moments that I couldn't help but laugh at:
"'The dogs of war. It's a metaphor.'
'But we don't have any dogs.' Finn's face brightened. 'Are we getting one?'
'No. It was simply an expression of...'
'Awesome! He could help us hunt.'
'No dogs. I can scarcely afford to keep you fed and...'
'He can sleep in my room. Heck, he can sleep in my bed!'
'We are not getting a bleedin' dog.' Gideon spoke through gritted teeth."
Aside from all the other aspects of this series, I can't go without mentioning the humor. Finn and his master are both hilarious, not to mention Mac Roth and his new apprentice Lochlan O'Neill -- Asher's cousin. At first, Finn is understandably not happy about this new arrangement, considering the way he and Asher got along (or didn't, rather).
"If they think I'm going to be friends with Asher's cousin, they better check the Weather Channel to see if you-know-where froze over."
However, Finn soon realizes that Lochlan is absolutely nothing like his cousin. At all. A complete opposite. I was so relieved when I discovered this. It was about time for Finn to have a friend he could relate to as a Tuatha de Danaan aside from Gideon and Mac Roth. Finn also soon realized that Lochlan had a lot to learn, which made him feel a lot better about himself as an apprentice. He had definitely learned a lot more than Lochlan in his time training with Gideon. For starters, Finn knew it would never be a good idea to give his master a nickname. Unfortunately, Lochlan didn’t get that memo:
"They turned around at an angry bark from Mac Roth.
'And just what do you think ye're doing, Lochlan O'Neill?' ...
'Eating... That's kind of the whole purpose of buying a pizza, Big Mac.' He took another bite.
Finn's jaw dropped. Next to him, Gideon coughed, trying to smother his laughter.
The redheaded Knight blinked. 'Big Mac?' Lochlan grinned. 'I thought it up this morning. Pretty good, uh?' His smile dimmed as his master's face grew as fiery as his beard.
Lochlan definitely provided a lot of entertainment throughout the book. He was a welcome addition to our regular beloved cast of characters.
Speaking of those beloved characters -- it's time for my favorite part of reviewing: the character break-down!
--Finn and Gideon: As our regulars, they did not disappoint in the least. They were just as funny, intriguing, lovable, and brave as in the last book. I will always love these characters long after I've finished the series. Their relationship is my favorite. Sometimes they remind me of father and son and at other times, an older and younger brother with their smarting off and bickering at each other and – as a result – cracking me up. But they also have their sentimental moments.
"The house was dark and empty and not-home.
It was simply a house. Gideon made it home."
--Lochlan O'Neill: Where on earth do I start with Lochlan? I have to give major props to Finn and Gideon -- and my goodness, especially Mac Roth (who is also a favorite of mine) -- for putting up with Lochlan. I myself might have "accidentally" left him in the forest with a group of Amandan once... or twice. Regardless of his at-times overconfident, forgetful ways, Lochlan quickly became a well-loved character of mine. I really felt for him – especially because of how much his father pressured him to become an exceptional warrior and earn his torc by the end of the summer. Lochlan really does try. And Mac Roth is an excellent trainer and guardian and helps him as much as he can, but Lochlan still has a very long way to go before he reaches Finn's level of training… and maturity.
--Rafe and Savannah Steel: The Steel twins were able to shine more in this book than in the last. They began training with Finn when their parents weren't around -- because believe me, Rufus Steel is most assuredly on Gideon's case in this book... even more so than in the first book, if that's possible. There was a worrying scene regarding his calling social services that really irritated me. I could see where he was coming from; but it made him very difficult to warm up to, something I wasn't able to do until the very end of Gideon's Spear. Anyway, back to Rafe and Savannah. They really proved themselves in this sequel, and I was proud of them for not letting their fear get the best of them during some particularly brutal moments. Finn has good friends in these two.
This book was phenomenal. There's just not a better way to put it. I am absolutely in love with this series. It will always be a favorite of mine. I've loved every word of it from the start. Anyone who loves adventure, comedy, and an extremely likable main character will adore The Adventures of Finn MacCullen. I would highly recommend it to readers of all ages and genres :)
Mckenzie's Rating: ★★★★★
I want to give a HUGE thank-you to the author of this series, Darby Karchut, for sending me a signed copy of this beautiful book. Thank you so much, Ms. Karchut, for this treasure!