I’ve Got Questions for Paul Duffy

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound by Paul Duffy
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound is a work of fiction, published by the Cennan imprint of Cynren Books. The official publication date was 11th October 2022

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

Simply put, it’s the story of the twelfth-century Norman invasion of Gaelic Ireland as experienced by Alberic, the son of a Norman slave in Gaelic society. Alberic experiences the chaos and opportunity presented by the breaking of an ancient order and the resultant. As he navigates a land of war, his own conflicted and shifting loyalties are complicated by his love for a Gaelic woman – Ness, and his oath to a Norman knight – de Lacy.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

The book is historical fiction on the ‘literary’ side of that genre’s broad spectrum.

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

Elizabeth Chadwick, one of the pre-eminent authors of Medieval Fiction, said that the book is a ‘shining example of what historical fiction should be’ adding that it is ‘definitely one of my books of the year’. That was pretty nice!

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

The lyricism and reflectiveness bedded in the Irish landscape, I think, comes from JP Donleavy whose style (as opposed to subject matter) marked me as a young adult. The sudden and explosive scenes of action bedded within carefully observed humanity and authenticity/duty of care to the period owe a debt to Patrick O’Brien….so, I suppose, as absurd as it sounds, the Ginger Man meets Master and Commander! Though perhaps that’s not so strange given that both Donleavy and O’Brien were, by their own admission, heavily in debt to Joyce, an unavoidable presence on any literary journey through Dublin…even one set in the twelfth century.

  • Why this book? Why now?

This book arises from an unexpected meeting with another Irishman – Hugh de Lacy -almost 20 years ago in a library on a backstreet in Toulouse. For my part, I was researching the medieval fortifications of that city during the crusade against the Cathars, while he was leading a charge against the walls! My research into how he ended up in the pages of a medieval Occitan poem, his exile from Ireland and his years as a crusader lord unearthed a story I’ve been writing about ever since. Having published on these fascinating events in academic books, journals, and conferences, I was drawn to explore the possibility of telling the story in a different, more compelling way – giving rise to the novel, which has, I suppose, ended up as a kind of ‘origin story’.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

In my day job, I work as an archaeologist directing large excavations, mainly in Medieval Dublin, though I’ve worked in Britain, France, and Australia also. While it’s not always as exciting and glamorous as you might imagine, it is always a privilege to be tasked with unearthing and curating the past and the stories of the people who dwell there.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

The medieval period is so often portrayed as a blood-soaked tableau of violent quests for glory and honour amid proto-nationalistic fervor. I want the reader to glimpse a period alive and humorous and full of conflicted, complicated people who lived, loved and survived in whatever way was available to them.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

This is the playlist that I wrote the book to, late at night. Atmospheric, charged music with mood and, crucially…forward momentum!

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

I was three years writing this book and, in that time, I didn’t read any historical fiction, especially none that was set in medieval Europe for fear of unconsciously taking on another author’s voice or treatment. I’m catching up now, reading and very much enjoying the convincingly bucolic dialects of To Calais in Ordinary Time by James Meek.

Paul Duffy

Learn more about Paul on his website.

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Buy the book from the publisher, Amazon, or Bookshop.org.

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