Interview with Caiseal Mor, author of King of the Blind

Welcome to the tour for King of the Blind by Caiseal Mor. Today he is telling us all about his book and writing process, plus tells us some stories about his fascinating life! Please enjoy getting to know him better and then enjoy downloading the book. Remember to follow the tour for even more fun! Plus you get even more chances to enter the giveaway.

What was the inspiration behind this book?

I’ve been a huge fan of the music of the blind 17th Century harper Turlough O’Carolan since I was a boy. My mother had an old 78 rpm record of some of Carolan’s music played on the Irish harp and it fascinated me. In my twenties I was travelling through Ireland listening to stories from traditional storytellers. I heard a few tales about O’Carolan and just started collecting them. I never really intended to write a novel about him. I was just interested in his music, his life and that period of Irish history.

What kind of research did you have to do for it?

I travelled on foot throughout Ireland in 1983, learning the Irish language and visiting storytellers. At that time young Irish people weren’t much interested in the culture so most of the storytellers I met were very happy to tell me all their tales. By a strange chance I met the famous harpist Derek Bell who played with the Chieftains and he told me a string of stories about O’Carolan. Derek was a very inspiring man. He encouraged me to collect more. After that I asked for stories about O’Carolan wherever I went. I committed most of my stories to memory just like the traditional storytellers. I also kept a notebook, but it got stolen a couple of years later in Italy, so the memory training proved very beneficial. I’ve woven many of the tales I heard into the narrative of King of the Blind.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Well, Hugh O’Connor is my favourite character. He’s a storyteller and a master of mischief. I suppose he’s very much like me, except that I don’t drink. In fact, he’s probably the closest character to me that I’ve ever written. Mischievous, gift of the gab and a generous host all rolled into one. I also have an Irish temper and a desire to control my immediate environment, though I’d never go so far as to manipulate people the way he does. I just don’t have that in me. I love hearing and telling stories so Hugh is the character I relate to most. He has a pretty good life from my point of view.

What was one of your favorite scenes?

There’s so many. My absolute favourites are the ones that still make me laugh. I’m very fond of the scene that includes the Hurling match between the People of the Big Hill and the Folk of the Little Hill. However, it’s one scene where Hugh and Turlough are discussing whiskey ( or the lack thereof that is my absolute favourite. I grew up around men who’d been traumatised by war and had turned to drink to cope. I always saw the funny side of their antics. Here’s that scene. Just remember Turlough is blind.

From long experience of travelling the roads Turlough had learned the trick of sleeping soundly in the saddle. It was late afternoon about an hour before sunset when he suddenly awoke from a deep and restful slumber. He shuddered so violently he almost lost his balance and slipped off the horse.

From long experience of travelling the roads Turlough had learned the trick of sleeping soundly in the saddle. It was late afternoon about an hour before sunset when he suddenly awoke from a deep and restful slumber. He shuddered so violently he almost lost his balance and slipped off the horse.
‘Hugh!’ he called. ‘There’s trouble up ahead.’
‘Is there?’
‘Can’t you hear it?
‘No.’
‘Listen. I hear voices raised and threats of harm.’
Hugh stepped in front of the mare to stop her. He cocked his head but he couldn’t hear anything.
‘Are you sure?’
‘What’s the road like ahead?’
‘There’s a sharp bend just there.’
‘Get the pistols,’ Carolan advised. ‘I have a terrible feeling about this.’
‘I’m sure it’s nothing.’
‘Do as I say!’
Hugh rolled his eyes, sure his master was letting his imagination get the better of him. But to make him happy he went to the saddlebag, rummaged about and pulled out the pistols Squire Jones had loaned him. Quickly, he primed the pans from the little powder flask, closed the frizzens and stuck weapons in his belt. Then with shaking hands he carefully concealed the pistols under his coat.
‘Try not to tremble so much,’ Carolan told him. ‘They’ll think you’re frightened.’
‘There’s nobody on the road ahead, master.’
‘Then why are you shaking so much?’
‘We haven’t had a drink for three days,’ Hugh countered. ‘It’s not fear that’s got me shaking. It’s the Dee-Tees. I need a whiskey to steady my nerves.’
‘What are you talking about? What’s the Dee-Tees anyway?’
‘Doctor Delany explained it to me,’ Hugh went on, as he led the mare along. ‘If a man drinks every day his body gets used to the stuff, so much so that when he’s forced to stop for a few days he’ll get desperately ill yearning for the companionship of the spirit, as the good doctor called it.’
‘I know that feeling well enough,’ Carolan replied.
‘The Dee-Tees is short for delirium tremens,’ Hugh continued. ‘It’ll make your heart beat wildly. A man’s hands will start to shake. Fevers and sweats follow. He’ll act out of character and may take foolish risks. Such a man can become easily distracted.’
‘As I believe you are now,’ Turlough pointed out beginning to lose patience with the discussion. ‘We’ve all been there. I didn’t know there was a word for it. Stop it now. You’re making me thirsty and you need to ready yourself for the danger ahead.’
‘But there’s more,’ Hugh went on. ‘A man suffering this malady will see and hear things that others cannot.’
Carolan was silent but the servant could tell by the way the harper frowned that he was considering the information carefully.
‘Some men go completely mad. Some men die. And there’s no cure for it.’
‘Except a drink,’ Turlough pointed out.
‘I suppose so,’ Hugh agreed. ‘I hadn’t thought of it that way.’
‘Keep your mind on the job at hand,’ the harper snapped, ‘Enough of this talk. You’ve got me worried my life is at risk whenever I go through a bout of sobriety. If you can’t stop shaking at least try to control yourself. There’s trouble on the road ahead and we have to keep our wits about us.’

Will we see these characters again?

Yes, there’s a sequel of sorts concerning Hugh’s adventures during the Jacobite Rising in Scotland in 1744-46. I’ve had that on the boil for a while now and it should be ready mid-2019.

Why should we read your book?

This novel is really about the awesome power of gratitude. It’s about focusing on the opportunities in life rather than the setbacks. Indeed, I personally don’t believe in setbacks. As far as I’m concerned there are only opportunities. The story is unique because it’s based on a mixture of history and myth. A great deal is known about Turlough O’Carolan but there’s a lot more said about him in traditional stories. Unravelling fact from fiction was a challenge. In the end “King of the Blind” became a story about storytelling. So, it’s quite different from most fiction out there at the moment.

What do you hope people will get out of your book?

It is said our lives on this Earth are brief and filled with insufferable anguish. But there’s a way to avoid all the trials and tribulations of mortal existence. Those who know this secret are always merry and forever blessed with good fortune. They are well-loved and welcomed.

A very wise old man once told me if you carry a pocketful of this magic ingredient with you, you’ll never go hungry and you’ll never want for laughter, music and good company. The secret that unlocks all these wonders is a simple one.

Gratitude.

This is the story of a man who learned how to be grateful.

How do you make yourself stand out in this genre?

Well, I’ve never considered that. I just write about the things I love and tell the stories that inspire me. I suppose what. Makes my work stand out is that I’m not trying to copy anyone else’s style. I’m just being me.

Tell us about your other published works.

I’ve had thirteen novels published- all of them were classified as historical fantasy, except in the U.S. where they were classed as Dark Fantasy for some reason I’ve never been able to fathom. I enjoy blending fact with fiction and seeing how far I can push it. I like to question the nature of reality and that’s why I’ve written so much about the Irish Shee folk or Faeries. I’m fascinated by dreaming and dream states and the liminal ground between waking and sleeping. My other novels are set in fifth century Ireland and twelfth century Ireland. I’m a fifth generation Australian of Irish stock but my family kept the storytelling alive. My grandmother was a fine storyteller herself, so long before I visited Ireland I knew a lot about the place. It still fascinates me.

On what are you currently working?

“King of the Blind” is the first part of a story centred on Red Hugh, the storyteller. I never got around to writing the next part of his tale but I’m planning to do that early next year as there has been some interest from a producer who wants to make a series based on the first novel. I suppose it’d be a cross between Outlander and Pan’s Labyrinth.

Right now, I’m working on writing and illustrating a Sci-Fi graphic novel called “Veil of the Gods”. Chapter One is already out on Kindle and Chapter Two is about to be published. It’s just been translated into Spanish and other translations will follow.

What is your writing routine?

I write full time. I’m a very focused person. I write a 180,000 word novel in three to four months. I sit down at it for between 12 to fifteen hours a day until I’m finished. I immerse myself in the world of the story. It’s like stepping through a time portal into another place and period. The “real” world may interrupt this process now and then but I still put in long hours. I absolutely love my work and I’m extremely grateful I get to do this thing I love every day. I’ve also got a lot of stories inside me waiting to be told. I’m very lucky to have a couple of people who drag me out into the sunshine now and then so I don’t die of vitamin D deficiency.

I originally wrote “King of the Blind” in 1997. It took three months. I worked 12 hours a day with one hour for lunch, one hour for siesta and one hour for walking by the ocean near where I lived at the time in Sydney, Australia. Each week I’d take a day off, though if inspired I prefer to keep working. Sometimes ten or twelve days would go by without a break. I was living alone so it wasn’t so difficult to finish the novel quite quickly. I don’t plan very much. I tend to just look over my notes and start writing a novel. I rarely ever start at the beginning of the story. The ending is much more important and interesting, in my opinion.

What is the best writing advice you ever received?

One of my mentors once told me that you can only write about what you know. I would say “King of the Blind” is 100% a reflection of my interests and obsessions. Traditional Irish music and humour have always been central obsessions for me. I love a good laugh and I’m inclined to be inspired by people who’ve succeeded against the odds. Indeed, I’m one of those people who thrived despite having the cards stacked against me in life. O’Carolan’s story is powerful because even though he was disabled he managed to rise above the limitations others saw in him to become the greatest musician of his age.

Who is your writing muse?

That’s an interesting question. I’ve never thought about it much except when people ask me. I’m actually inspired by many people- anyone who tells me a story or has a good story to tell inspires me. I’m one of those people who folks will spill their life story to a few minutes after meeting. I guess I know the right questions to ask to get them started. Most of my inspiration comes from chance meetings.

What are you currently reading? Up next on your TBR?

I’m reading Grant Morrison’s “Supergods” right now. It’s a fascinating social history of American comic book heroes. Brilliant writer. Books arrive as they need to be read. I have a dozen on my iPad waiting for me to get to. Top of the list is “Real Magic” by Dean Radin. I’ve read it once already but want to go back over it again.

When not writing, what can we find you doing?

Until this year I spent a lot of time touring as a musician. I’ve released 18 albums in the last 20 years and I’ve got a few fans all over the world. I play a lot of instruments. My favourite is the Turkish Yayli Tanbur, a kind of bowed banjo with a very deep, mellow voice.

Let’s say I’m coming for a visit to your area. What are some must-see places?

Perth, Western Australia is the most remote city on Earth. It’s also one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The beaches are amazing. Many people come here just to surf the pristine waters. The Indian Ocean is breathtaking. A few hours drive east and you’re at the edge of the Great Central Desert that stretches across the continent. The wildflowers are spectacular. The native animals are unique to this part of the country and this part of the world. Perth is a quiet place and things run a little slower than the rest of the world, so if you enjoy a relaxed pace of life then Western Australia might be your kind of place.

What is something on your bucket list you have accomplished? Want to accomplish?

Three years ago, my partner and I went to Mongolia for a month. We crossed the Steppe with a group of shamans and visited many sacred places. We learned so much about traditional shamanism and experienced so many incredible and miraculous events. I’m still processing it all. It was an experience that can’t be fully put into words. The hospitality of the Mongolian people is unmatched anywhere in the world. They are generous with their time and their hearts.

My next goal I have is for King of the Blind to be made into a movie or t.v. series. A Hollywood producer is currently looking at it and there’s been a lot of interest from others. So, let’s see what happens.

What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?

I was diagnosed as severely autistic when I was seven years old. It was assumed I’d never be able to do anything with my life because the doctors believed I was mentally retarded. In those days only 1 in 100 000 were diagnosed autistic. Now it’s 1 in 100. Autism wasn’t much understood back then. I only went to school to be babysat. My poor mother couldn’t cope with me. I failed almost every subject from grade one to grade twelve. I just wasn’t interested in school and my teachers weren’t interested in me.

However, there’s more to me than autism. I had to learn to survive in this hostile world using only the gifts I was given. I have a degree in Theatre Performance and Practice. I’ve travelled almost everywhere on Earth. I’ve managed to write 13 novels, 3 non-fiction books and two graphic novels- as well as my music. I really believe you can achieve anything you want to if you make up your mind to do so. Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t support your dreams and ambitions 1000%. Qualifications mean nothing. The things that make your heart sing mean everything.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I started writing quite by chance back in 1994. Through my work as an artist I met a literary agent. She asked me to write eight chapters of a novel to see if I was any good at it. I’d never really considered being a writer but I thought I’d give it a shot. I took three weeks to write those eight chapters. The agent was surprised to say the least. She quietly showed it to a couple of publishers. Random House and Pan Macmillan got into a bidding war over them. Within six weeks of beginning to write I had a three book deal from Random House. I had no idea it was supposed to be difficult to get published until I met Terry Pratchett at WorldCon in 1999 and he explained it to me.

I’ve had 18 books published since then. Now the rights have reverted to me and I’ve formed my own publishing company in partnership with a very dear friend. I’m polishing all the old books up a bit and re-releasing them, one at a time but I’m also getting into new territory with the graphic novel series.

So, to all those aspiring writers out there I have a message. Don’t believe writing or getting published is supposed to be difficult or a struggle. If you concentrate on doing what you love and don’t criticise yourself too much along the way, doors will open for you.


In 1688 a plague of smallpox swept through Ireland. Like many others, eighteen year old Turlough O’Carolan was struck down. He was one of the lucky ones to survive. However, the sickness cost him his eyesight. Within two years of being blinded he’d learned to play the harp and taken to the road as a travelling musician. In time he’d be considered the greatest of all the Irish harpers. His music is still played all around the world today. To the end of his days he always maintained that Otherworldly beings, known in Ireland as the Shee, had granted him the gift of music and were responsible for at least some of his compositions. This is a story from a time when the veil between the worlds was thinner and belief in the mystical “Good People”, was still strong.

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Caiseal Mor is an Australian sci-fi and fantasy novelist, artist and musician. Ancient Celtic Folklore has been a major inspiration for his thirteen published Fantasy novels. Mór also composes and records music, having produced seventeen albums since 1995. He is well known for his self-designed book and album covers and his intricate artworks in both traditional and digital mediums. Since 2013 he has been developing a distinctive graphic art style and creating digital sculptures in 3D.

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Caiseal Mor will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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