Monday, October 21, 2013

Kimberley's Book Buzz: An Interview with Kersten Hamilton of THE GOBLIN WARS + Three-Book Giveaway!

What started your interest/research/love affair with Celtic Mythology?

As a child, I needed stories as much as I needed food or water, and the Celtic stories resonated with and partially formed my worldview. Celtic music pounds in my blood; I feel Celtic stories in my bones. It is so powerful it almost makes me a believer in racial memory.

How much research did you need to do? Any fun facts or interesting alleys the research led you to? 

The trilogy needed two detailed physical landscapes: Chicago and Mag Mell. I traveled to the National Zoo in Washington DC and several arboretums to find the inspiration for the plants, trees and strange creatures of Mag Mell. I fell in love with Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago one chill, drizzling day when my husband and I wandered through it. The cemetery and neighborhood around it became the Chicago setting.

It also needed an emotional landscape. I used the Celtic myths and legends I love so well to form the world of GOBLIN WARS. I took that created world and rooted it in actual history to create the worldviews of my characters. 

I ran down lots of research alleys as I was writing, and they sometimes changed characters or action. 

Discovering that that Edgar Allen Poe was Irish, or that Jack the Ripper’s last victim was an Irish girl named Mary, whose father was a blacksmith back in Ireland, sent the plot spinning off in a new direction.

What were the challenges in writing this sprawling, epic trilogy? 

The greatest challenge was dragging myself back into the real world at the end of each day. It didn’t feel sprawling while I was writing it—I suspect that is because I was in the moment with my characters taking one step at a time. It was exciting to wake up each morning and find out what happened next. Looking back at it, however, I think great googly-moogly! How did I keep all of that straight?  

What are some ways teachers and librarians can use these books in the classroom? Projects? 

T.S. Eliot said, “The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an objective correlative, in other words a set of objects, a chain of events, which shall be the formula of that particular emotion.”

THE GOBLIN WARS books evoke powerful emotion. I worked hard to find the chain of events that would leave my readers with exactly the emotional takeaway I wanted them to have in each and every scene.

After I explain this, I have students choose a scene from the books that makes them feel strong emotion—be it angerdisgustfearhappiness,sadness or surprise— and explain why it made them feel that way. In other words, they explore the chain of events that created the emotion.

Surprise, for instance, happens when you have certain expectations—but things take a very different turn.

I ask the students to describe times when they were surprised in real life. What was the chain of events? What did they expect to happen? What really happened? What was something in THE GOBLIN WARS books that surprised them? What did they expect to happen instead? Why?

After we have discussed the ‘formulas’ for creating other emotions, I have students choose an emotion they would like another person to feel, and write a story—a chain of events— that creates that emotion in their reader. 

Why do you think it's important for kids/students to learn about other cultures and lands and people? Can they gain an appreciation and empathy and understanding without traveling there? 

Story is better than travel. You can travel to another land, experience it as alien and exotic, and never connect deeply with someone of that culture. But you cannot be immersed in someone’s story and not connect with them. Story cuts through differences and lays open hearts. It is impossible to hate someone if you know their story.

Quite simply, is the best way for students to not just to learn about but to learn to care deeply about people very different from themselves.

Enter to win an autographed set of Kersten Hamilton's THE GOBLIN WARS by leaving a comment on the Spellbinders Blog or emailing me. The winner will be randomly selected and announced November 18.


  1. I love your suggestions for how to elicit specific emotions from the reader. Great ideas!!

  2. I appreciate the suggestions as well. I had to check to make sure my order list is complete with the entire trilogy. Thanks.

  3. Great interview. I'm adding the T.S. Eliot quotation to
    my commonplace book.