THE OATH: An Interview with A.M. Linden

(Photo courtesy Canva)

Few novelists tackle writing epic storylines on par with Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time saga, particularly right out of the starting gate. But that is exactly what newcomer A.M. Linden has done. Today she stops by to chat with us about her path to publication, the history behind the saga itself, and the characters who took on a life of their own and changed the trajectory of her tale. We hope you find this exclusive interview with the author as compelling as we did. Enjoy! —J&H


J&H: When people think about Druids today, the term may conjure up visions of Celtic magicians and sorcerers. But did you know that they were originally respected as teachers, judges, and priests before the Romans—and later, the Christians—suppressed them? This fascinating slice of history is the premise for author A.M. Linden’s epic new series, The Druid Chronicles. Today, she drops by to chat about her first book in the series, The Oath. A.M. Linden, welcome!

AML: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

J&H: The Oath is your debut novel, but it is the first in a five-novel series. What did you do prior to writing and when did you realize that you wanted to pursue a literary career?

AML: This is my third major shift in direction. My first degree was in anthropology, but as fascinating as learning about human cultures was—and remains—to me, volunteer work I did in a “free clinic” serving marginalized, and often stigmatized, patients was compelling in a way that drew me to nursing. After completing a second undergraduate degree, and later a master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner, I worked in a variety of acute care and community settings, spending the last and longest part of my professional life in a public health program for children with special health care needs. I started what was to become the Druid Chronicles while I was still working full-time, and at that point I wasn’t thinking of it as the start of a literary career, but as a change from clinical reports and grant submissions. By the time I retired, however, the characters in what was originally going to be a kind of silly medieval murder mystery had taken on lives of their own, so here I am.

J&H: How did you become interested in Druids?

AML: I’ve never had a good explanation for why, when I first envisioned the three main characters of The Oath, I was so sure that two of them were Druids, but assume that the idea came from pictures I’d seen of modern-day Druids celebrating the summer solstice at Stone Henge. Finding out that most of what little is known about the original Druids comes through outside and often hostile sources, I became intrigued by how these enigmatic and vilified figures could re-emerge to evoke environmentally enlightened principles so many centuries after the last historic account of their existence.

J&H: In the author’s note at the beginning of this book, you mention that your depiction of the Druids ventures away from the historical record a bit. How so?

AML: Roman accounts, written at a time when Druids were viewed as a dangerously unifying force in the Celtic resistance, depict Druids as presiding over horrific human sacrifices. Besides noticing that this is in keeping with the recurring practice of invaders to justify taking over occupied lands by denigrating the native inhabitants, I found it a bit rich coming from commentators who apparently didn’t have a problem with executing people by crucifixion or finding it entertaining to watch people being ripped apart and eaten by lions, and I elected to make my particular Druids much more the forerunners to their modern adherents.

J&H: This book centers around three characters: Caelym, Annwr, and Aleswina. Tell us briefly about them and what you hope readers will think of them.

AML: Caelym, a young Druid priest, has come to rescue Annwr, who was abducted by Saxons fifteen years earlier. He is exceptionally handsome and extraordinarily gifted, and knowing it, he is prone to showing off despite the highly dangerous mission he has undertaken. Aleswina is the orphaned daughter of the Saxon king who died in the aftermath of a battle between Caelym’s people and hers. Shy, fearful and high-strung, she is now a novice nun, having been consigned to a convent by the cousin who assumed her father’s throne. At nineteen, Aleswina remains emotionally dependent on Annwr, who has served as her nursemaid since she was four. Annwr, the sister of the shrine’s chief priestess, was once beautiful and high-spirited, but fifteen years in slavery have left her prematurely aged, jading her
outlook and souring her disposition. Underneath her grim exterior, however, she is a woman with a caring heart and she is torn between her love for Aleswina, and her longing to return to her people and to be reunited with her own daughter. It’s my hope that readers will reserve judgment about these three less than perfect characters until they’ve had time to show what they are capable of.

J&H: When Annwr initially becomes Aleswina’s nursemaid, she is really a stranger in a strange land. How do you think her experience may mirror that of immigrants today?

AML: The history of human migration has been one of challenge and hardship. In every age, survivors of natural and man-made disasters have been forced to leave their homes and the lives they knew and make their way into an unknown future. It is my hope that in describing Annwr’s courage and resilience I have been able to mirror some of the challenges immigrants face today in a way that conveys my respect and admiration for them.

J&H: When the trio takes to the river to evade the Saxons, Caelym and Annwr discuss what they may legitimately take from the boatman’s dock. How and why do you think their idea of right and wrong seems to differ?

AML: That is a really interesting question, and one I honestly had not thought about when I wrote the scene. Now that I do, I can see the difference between them is that Caelym had no personal connection with the drunken boatman, and sees taking his axe along with his boat as justifiable. Annwr, on the other hand, knows the boatman and for her, he is a neighbor and not just a nameless drunkard, so she sticks to her declaration that she will only take “what she’s owed,” but then gives Caelym the chance to make a trade she knows the boatman would accept.

J&H: The deeper we get into this story, it becomes clear that prejudice is a thread that runs through your characters’ lives. Was this a conscious decision you made to address this early on in your writing process? And why did you feel that this was an important topic for you to address?

AML: It was a conscious decision. The struggle to address racial, ethnic and religious prejudice is among the most important issues we are currently facing as a society and it is a theme I have tried to explore through my characters’ experiences and interactions.

J&H: So what is next for these characters in your second volume of this series and when can we expect it?

AML: The Valley begins a generation earlier than the other four books in the series. In it, Annwr is a young and beautiful priestess who makes a fateful decision about which of the shrine’s priests she will choose to join her in a sacred fertility ritual, while Caelym first appears as a young boy entering his Druidic training and immediately becomes the center of contentions between competing Druid masters. Aleswina does not appear in this book at all, although the events it depicts will ultimately change her life. The Valley will be published by She Writes Press June 28, 2021.

J&H: A.M. Linden, thank you so much for stopping by today. We loved our time together and we look forward to our next visit.

AML: Again, thank you so much for having me. Your questions have been insightful, and in answering them I feel like I learned more about Caelym, Annwr, and Aleswina than I knew when we started.

J&H: The book is The Oath by A.M. Linden, available now from fine retailers everywhere.

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ABOUT THE OATH

A.M. Linden's THE OATH
She Writes Press

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.

PRAISE

“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

“Linden uses a fairy tale-like style almost as though this story has been passed down orally over the centuries. Though the kingdoms are fictional, Linden’s tale draws on meticulous historical research, especially in her dramatization of the Christian persecution of the druids.”
Booklist

“The story rolls along at a lively pace, rich with details of the times and a wide cast of characters….Those interested in goddess-worshipping religions will be drawn to the novel. Any reader curious about 8th-century Britain will enjoy Linden’s innovative focus on the little-known Druids as well as early medieval Christians. Her plotting, shifting points of view of the three engaging protagonists, and evocative writing style make The Oath a pleasure to read. Highly recommended!”
Historical Novels Review

The Oath urges readers along on a richly textured quest among the Saxons and Celts of 8th-century Britain. Young and rather humorously naïve Druid priest-healer Caelym swears to ‘rescue’ a damsel in distress who turns out to be neither a young damsel nor in distress. With a feminist slant, this engaging tale brings the conflict between Druids and early Christians to vivid life through sympathetic and well-rounded characters. I particularly enjoyed the ironic voice of the aging midwife Annwr. Brava!”
–Sara Stamey, author of The Ariadne Connection

“Thrilling historical fiction with heart and soul.”
–Tim Pears, author of The West Country trilogy

The Oath will appeal to a wide-ranging readership, reflecting Linden’s rich imagination and gift for weaving tales within tales evoking the romance of medieval Britain. Vibrant, determined, and relatable characters with disparate ethnic and religious identities discover their own strengths, and each other’s, as the intricate and engaging plot unfolds.”
–Anne Marie Tietjen, PhD, clinical psychologist and instructor at Western Washington University

“Linden’s knowledge and passion for history is soaked into every word of The Oath, combined with an obvious skill at storytelling. Linden succeeds at every level, but the world building is truly spectacular. Historical fantasy is hard to do well, but Linden makes it look easy. What could be dry details are presented so effectively that the world is elevated to almost being a character of its own. And in a cast of characters as well drawn as these, that’s saying something. I can’t wait to see what else this skilled author comes up with!”
–Bishop O’Connell, author of the American Faerie Tale series

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ann Margaret Linden was born in Seattle, Washington, but grew up on the East Coast 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 Oath is the first installment of The Druid Chronicles, a five-volume series that 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, dogs, and cat in the Pacific Northwest.

THE OATH
By A.M. Linden
336 pp. She Writes Press. $17.95

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Purchase The Oath direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Target, or Walmart.

The Oath is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

The Oath Blog Tour

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to THE OATH: An Interview with A.M. Linden

  1. Amy Bruno says:

    What a great interview, thank you Jathan and Heather!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

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