With The Poet King (hardcover, Kindle) writer Ilana C. Myer is concluding The Harp And Ring Sequence trilogy she began in 2015 with Last Song Before Night and continued in 2018’s Fire Dance. In the following email interview, she explains what influenced and inspired both this series and its finale.
Let’s start with a bit of background. What is The Harp And Ring Sequence about and what kind of world is it set in?
In the world of these novels, art and magic are intertwined, and poets hold magical and political power — with all the potential for corruption and abuses, as well as beauty, that that entails. I drew inspiration from a variety of influences, including Celtic literature, the troubadours, and — beginning from Fire Dance — Middle Eastern magic.
And is this a trilogy like how The Lord Of The Rings is a trilogy because it’s one story split into three books?
Each book tells its own self-contained story, while the three together tell an overarching story that is completed at the end.
So then what is The Poet King about and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous book, Fire Dance?
The first in the series, Last Song Before Night, is the tale of a quest to recover lost enchantments. The second, Fire Dance, explores the magical and political consequences of this recovery — some of which can be deadly. This theme carries through to the finale in The Poet King.
When in the process of writing these books did you come up with the idea for The Poet King and how did that idea evolve between when you first conceived it and when you finished this novel?
There is a moment, almost exactly midway through The Poet King, which I won’t spoil for obvious reasons but which formed the basis for the novel. The novel expanded outward and took shape from that moment, the way a clay pot takes shape on the wheel.
The Poet King, like the other books in The Harp And Ring Sequence, has been called an epic fantasy tale. Is that how you’d describe it?
One thing I love about writing fantasy is how much creative freedom it affords. My books are epic fantasy but I also employ elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and character-driven literary fiction.
So are there any writers, or specific novels or stories, that were a big influence on The Poet King but not on Last Song Before Night or Fire Dance?
For Last Song Before Night, I read Celtic myth and literature, including the staggeringly beautiful Sweeney Astray by Seamus Heaney and lesser-known Celtic tales. This was also when I read everything I could about medieval history with a focus on twelfth century France.
For Fire Dance, I turned to Moorish Spain — inspired by a trip to Cordoba and Seville — and incorporated elements of Middle Eastern magic. The book in essence turns like a spiral between two contrasting elements, Celtic and Middle Eastern, until the two are wound together.
The Poet King was a return home after Fire Dance — it meant going back to the original source material and taking a deeper plunge. The tale itself is a circling back to the roots of the poets’ ancient magic, to their origin story; that meant, for me, a return to Celtic myth and literature in all its forms — including Arthurian literature like Culhwch And Olwen, the stories of Chretien de Troyes, and more. I also continued what in recent years has been a developing fascination with Greek mythology and literature.
Finally, if someone wanted to make The Harp And Ring Sequence into a movie, show, or game, which would you prefer?
I have no idea what would work best, but as a kid of the ’80s and ’90s, I am a fan of the bygone Sierra adventure games and would happily see my books be turned into one of these. If the year were 1995.
On a more serious note, I’m enjoying the Golden Age of TV like everyone else, and think the capacity for great long-form storytelling on TV has been a highlight in an otherwise bleak political landscape.