Greetings! Back in 2015 author Sheila R. Lamb (she/her) had a Meet the Writer interview, which corresponded with a book blog tour I organized for her historical fiction Brigid of Ireland trilogy. Honestly, I still think about Lamb’s series, not only because I was drawn into it, but also because I knew so little about Ireland before Catholicism. In addition, I’ve gotten some questions right on Jeopardy! with my new knowledge. Now she’s back and re-releasing the Brigid books. I asked her some questions about what it’s like to decide to reintroduce books to the world, how to publish them, and in what ways the process is different.
Grab the Lapels: Sheila, you and I met years ago when I organized a virtual book tour for your Brigid Trilogy. Can you tell folks what that series is about?
Sheila Lamb: The Brigid of Ireland trilogy is about Brigid, who is known as a goddess, druid, and saint. Each book focuses on one of those aspects, fictionalized, of course! Brigid has a timeless connection with Patrick, and the two of them cross paths, time after time. Together, they represent the druid and Christian aspects of ancient Ireland and the story depicts their lives before they were saints.
GTL: And the books went out of print, which is unfortunate, because I still remember them vividly from when we were working together on the tour. Can you tell me about what made you decide to reintroduce Brigid to readers?
SL: This trilogy has been the love of my life, so to speak. A common piece of advice among writers is to put aside the old work and begin something new. I did. I have a short story collection in draft form. Stories from that collection-in-progress have been published — one in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers and another in the Appalachian Review as well as several other short stories. I also have another historical novel set in the Virginia Blue Ridge that I’m querying. But I’ve always returned to Brigid and Patrick. I love their story and their connection. When I was researching the book years ago, the quote that she and Patrick were of “one heart and one mind” stuck with me and became the catalyst for the trilogy.
GTL: Part of your decision to publish the Brigid books again included a large revision. Tell me more about what you felt needed changed.
SL: As I’ve written more, I’ve returned to these early works and saw where I wanted to make changes. In Once A Goddess, there were a lot of, what I felt, soap opera moments between Brigid and Padraic (also once Adriac, now Padraic), a lot of eyes meeting and shoulder grabbing. I really wanted to pare that kind of thing down. The biggest change story-wise is in Fiery Arrow. I had been very focused on sticking to the historically accurate age difference between Brigid and Patrick. So to do that, I created Brigid as a Voice and otherworldly. To be honest, that just isn’t my jam. I know. I wrote it but was never quite comfortable with it. And I was letting historical facts control the story instead of letting the story and love between Brigid and Patrick flow. So in Fiery Arrow, Brigid and Patrick do meet and spend time together in real life.
GTL: When writers take self-publishing very seriously instead of choosing that route due to impatience, I’m all for it! In fact, I’ve met some folks whom I’ve encouraged to self-publish so their book gets the care it deserves. What made you choose to self-publish instead of seeking a different press?
SL: Well, first, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to find a publisher that will take previously published work unless you’ve had millions of sales.
As for the rest, there was a lot of synchronicity at play here. I’d gone back and forth with this for quite some time. Then, my dad wrote a nonfiction book, Religions of the World: A Question of Faith. I started Triple Fire Press as an LLC, created a logo, and found an amazing cover artist for him to help get his book out in the world. I was still on the fence about self-publishing my own work. I hear you about the “take it seriously” part. I get that publishers are “gatekeepers” for a lot of work, particularly when it comes to revisions, editing, and quality cover design. So I was wondering, should I put it out there or just Let. It. Go. Then I received an email via my website from a reader who said she loved Once a Goddess and was looking for a copy of Church of the Oak, the final book in the series. And that did it. I jumped off the fence and went all in.
GTL: How was the process different on your own? Or did you have anyone else involved?
SL: I feel like I’m more critical of my own work than previous publishers have been, so there was a lot of revision and editing on my own, reading passages aloud. I did share sections and blurbs with my English teacher friends who gave excellent feedback.
GTL: You mentioned being excited about the cover art for the new Brigid books. What’s got you fired up? Who created them? If it was someone else, were you involved in the decision making process?
SL: Through publishing Religions of the World and working with Alexandra Amor on that book, I was introduced to a fantastic cover artist, Amy Chae. She created the Triple Fire Press logo and the covers. I wanted the covers to be symbolic, rather than literal characters on the cover for this go round. Amy took my ideas and vision for new book covers and made them reality. I couldn’t be happier!