I met Melissa Stroh (aka MN Stroh) through the Jerry B. Jenkins Writers Guild years ago and have had the privilege ever since to count her a dear friend and sister in Christ. She is supportive, sweet, insanely knowledgeable, hardworking, and a fabulous listener. Melissa writes edgy Christian historical fiction (romance and adventure stories) set in Medieval Ireland in the 10th century. After two decades of blood, sweat, and tears, Melissa is now able to offer this book series to you and me!!! I am wildly excited to see these books become tangible realities after years of prayer, and I hope this series blesses you like it has me!
Melissa’s writing resonates with me in a way that makes me want to shout from the rooftops on her behalf! Her first book in the Tale of the Clans series, Man of Sorrows, grapples with the issue of works versus grace, which strikes close to home personally. Her second book in the Tale of the Clans series can be preordered now – Rise of Betrayal. I just preordered my paperback copy two days ago AND IT ARRIVED ON MY DOORSTEP TODAY!!! There are four books in this series (so far) and all four are scheduled to be published by year end, so if you’re like me – you won’t have to wait long to read all of them!!! (Christmas gift ideas??)
Stay tuned below to read an interview with the wonderful M.N. Stroh! (Or just click the images below to get her books!)
Interview with M.N. Stroh
- Why does this particular period in time interest you?
From childhood I’ve loved the middle ages. So anything medieval captivates me. When I set out to write this series, I knew virtually nothing about medieval Ireland. So the research allowed me to embark on a discovery of the place and time period.
- Do you share any of the same ethnicities as your characters?
Yes! Though we’re predominantly a blending of German heritage, there’s quite a bit of Irish on my mom’s side. Then there’s a good mingling of Scandinavian on my dad’s side, mostly Norwegian and Swedish.
- Which character do you most closely identify with?
Well, no single character in this book is exactly like me, though in a sense, they all have a bit of me imbued in them. If we go by Myers-Briggs personality, Danu and I are the closest match. I have virtually no skill with clothes-making. So she’s got me beat there. But I can handle blood and wounds better than she can, so there’s that.
- What sparked the idea for Rise of Betrayal? Was it always a trilogy or did that evolve?
Rise of Betrayal started out as a fantasy novel. It was originally intended to be a standalone. But as it evolved it became a little too trope-ish and didn’t gel like I wanted. That was back in 2001. At the time I began to really dig deep into Christian historical fiction as a reader, and it dawned on me, “Why can’t my novel become a historical fiction?”
So I began to explore that. Once I decided on a place, medieval Ireland, I began researching the general history to find a period that fit my plot. The perfect match came within the lifetime of Brian Boru. So I transformed the novel into a piece set in the 10th century around Brian’s early years as an up-and-coming warrior. I didn’t want to focus on Brian Boru himself because that had already been done, and there’s less creative freedom involved. So I based it on fictional characters. I finished the revised draft in 2002. From there, it developed into a series. God willing, the series will extend beyond the four books releasing this year. I hope to add several more in the coming years.
- Which character did you create first?
Nessa was my first character. Of course, that wasn’t her name originally. She was Jessa back then. I’ll tell you, that name change was difficult, and it literally transformed the character into someone very different from my original creation. The only thing that really stuck with her was her archery skills and her relationship dynamic with Gideon.
- How long did it take from conception to now? Do you have any words of encouragement to offer fellow aspiring writers?
Well, as you’ve seen from the previous answers, the original story began in 2001. Honestly, I had the concept of the story in mind while I was still in high school. But I never fully fleshed out the story until the fall of 2001 when my husband and I returned to Bible college. Then after it received its historical overhaul in 2002, I took it to my first writers conference in 2003. That whole process is a story in itself.
Long story short, I nearly gave up on it in 2003, but God did a working there and set me on a path to let my story grow with me as a writer. There were many road blocks and rabbit trails along the way, and several years of near complete inactivity due to an illness I struggled with in each of my pregnancies. I faced a lot of spiritual warfare along the way and cannot tell you how many times I wanted to give up.
But here we are, over twenty years later, with four books launching, and four more in various stages of the planning/rough draft process. So God really taught me a lot about perseverance, trust in His plan, and reaching out to others. My biggest piece of advice to others, especially those pursuing writing, is to never give up, never stop learning, and don’t be afraid to network with other writers. You cannot succeed in this business if you try to go it alone.
- What is your favorite quote from Rise of Betrayal?
There is a saying that speaks to a common thread throughout the entire series. God bore this day before you. Together you bear it now.
Apart from redemption, which is a big theme for me, is the truth that God not only knows us and everything about us in the most intimate detail, but He, being outside of time, actually bore our every moment of life before we came to live it. Every burden, every struggle, every thought, He knew and knows. There is nothing we are going through that He hasn’t already gone through before us. As we experience these things, good or bad, God walks with us through them. So there’s this comfort in knowing that we don’t have to shoulder our burdens alone. Christ is there to help us bear the load, and still more, He has equipped us to face each trial in our life through His strength.
- What is the main thing you hope your readers come away with?
That no matter your history, no matter your pain or suffering, you have an advocate who loves you unconditionally. Christ doesn’t withhold his love and salvation because of who you are or what you did. He stands with open arms, ready to accept you and transform your life. There is redemption through Christ, and He is worthy of your trust.
My books are written to offer an escape from reality. But they’re ultimately meant to show readers that Christ is your true escape. If you’re struggling in your circumstances, then maybe it’s time to run to Him.
- What do you love to read for fun?
Apart from historical fiction, I am a total fantasy and spec fiction nut. So I’ll read a lot in those genres. I’m also a hopeless romantic, so if the book doesn’t focus on romance or have at least a romantic thread somewhere in it, I’m not as likely to get into the story.
- How do you select the names of your characters?
I depend a lot on original sources for names. During my research I created lists of male and female names listed in hero tales and annals from around my chosen time-period. Then, as much as possible, I’d pick out the most favorable names and learn their meanings and pronunciations. The best ones ended up in my books.
Rise of Betrayal was a particular challenge because it started out as a fantasy novel. So almost every character had a made up or mixed cultural name. When I overhauled the book, all but two characters were given Irish names. Gideon and Titus kept their names because I couldn’t find Irish equivalents for them that I liked. So I created backstory to justify keeping their names. Plus, I already had an agenda for giving those characters those specific names in the first place.
- What was your hardest scene to write?
You know, that’s a difficult question to answer because several years have passed since I wrote Rise of Betrayal. Overall, I think the scenes surrounding the battle of Sulcoit were probably the most challenging, for a multitude of reasons.
First, the only detailed account of that battle is given in the book: The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, which is considered by historians to be a propaganda piece written to glorify the O’Brian family and the exploits of Brian Boru. It was written hundreds of years after the actual event, and actually incorporates battle details that weren’t common to Ireland until the 1100’s when the book was believed to be written.
So there’s a lot of question as to how the battle actually took place, whether it was out in an open field, or fought guerrilla style in Sulcoit Wood itself. Some even argue whether horses were used. The typical practice of the day, for both Irish and Scandinavians, was to leave horses in the care of horse boys and fight on foot, because horses were too valuable to risk in battle. Others argue that Sulcoit is an example where Brian broke with tradition and actually utilized cavalry units for the first time in Irish warfare. So I was forced to get creative with those scenes. I did a lot of head nods to The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, but also incorporated some scenarios that might’ve been truer to the period and the Dal Cais’ combat methods.
- Do you hide any secrets in your book that only a few will find?
Absolutely! I love discovering Easter eggs in books, so I’ve planted quite a few in mine. Readers likely won’t find my Easter eggs unless they reread the book. Especially after reading later books in the series. You’ll learn that I hide a lot of clues, make ironic references to past events, and do quite a bit of foreshadowing. I also have cameo character appearances. So never presume any secondary character is totally insignificant. That character just might pop on the scene in the next book as a primary character later on.
Because I’m such a history geek, I also sneak in subtle history references which might go over the average reader’s head. But if this series sparks your curiosity of the time period, and sends you researching, you just might get the references later on.
- What is your favorite childhood book(s)?
Ooh! That’s a tough one! I’ve always loved folklore, fairytales, fables and myths. Dean’s A Book of Fairytales was one of my favorites for visuals and retellings. But I think the book that has stuck with me the longest is Robin Hood and His Merry Men by Howard Pyle.
- What is your favorite stress reliever?
Playing Sims 4 on my computer. I’ve always been a bit of a Sims addict ever since the first games came out. It gives me the chance, not only to make up characters, create some of their setting, and “live out” their lives, but it also feeds my instant gratification in doing so. The process of story creation is so much faster and visual in a computer game, as opposed to the blank screen of a word document.
M.N. Stroh is fueled by her love for storytelling and history. She writes Christian Historical Fiction with an edge, to inspire the downtrodden and outcasts through adventure-laden escapes leading them back to their First Love.
Apart from forays in Viking-era Ireland—found currently in her Tale of the Clans series—M. N. Serves as Director of Communications for Serious Writer, Inc. affiliate Writers Chat. She is also the director of Serious Writer Book Club, a member of ACFW and Historical Novel Society’s Interviews Admin Team.
When not steeped in writing, M.N. prefers to spend her days with her husband and three children on their family ranch in Wyoming. To learn more, visit mnstroh.com and discover all her books on her Amazon Author Page. For publication updates, special promotions, and the occasional freebie, join the Clan Newsletter.