Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Signe Pike Interview - The Forgotten Kingdom

Photo Credit: Tiffany Mizzell Photography

Signe Pike was born in born in Ithaca, NY, and graduated from Cornell University with her Bachelor of Science in Communication.

She worked as an acquisitions editor at Random House and then Penguin, before leaving to write her first book, Faery Tale: One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World. Pike has spent the past ten years researching and writing about Celtic history, myth, folklore and tradition. Her love of history, the great outdoors, early medieval and ancient archeology, and her dedication to historical accuracy has made her social media feeds an informative delight to her readers.

Signe teaches seminars and workshops internationally on writing and publishing, as well as on folklore and tradition. Her writing has been published by Salon, Charleston City Paper, Book Riot and NPR.org.


Tell us your latest news.
I’m gearing up for the on-sale of my new book while battening down the hatches for another season of inevitable distance learning with my five-year-old, but trying to look on the bright side. If I start from the beginning, I’m hoping to finally learn math by the end of the year. More importantly, I’m searching for ways to make a difference in this hard-won moment of transformation America is undergoing just now. We are living in a Tolkien novel, and I’m not siding with Sauron. It’s time to get that f******* ring to Mount Doom.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I’m inspired by epic stories that have gone untold. There’s that moment of discovery where you think, “How is it possible no one knows about this? How is that just?” That’s what moved me to write The Lost Queen. When it comes to writing itself, I come from a family of teachers and word-workers who instilled their love of reading, so I think every beautiful thing I’ve absorbed as a reader has influenced me in some way, from Earnest Hemingway and Mercer Mayer to Jane Austen and Neil Gaiman. When you boil a story down to its constructs, there is truly nothing new under the sun. And as prose writers we are double-bound, stuck with the constructs of words. As such, we are standing on the backs of every storyteller in history who has come before. My father used to speak of the world being made in that way. When we were outdoors somewhere up high, we’d cry out, “It’s turtles all the way down!” My biggest hope is that I can be a useful turtle for the next generation.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
The most rewarding thing someone who writes about history can hope for is that they can shine a light on something – or someone – forgotten. So the biggest compliment I can receive is that my books send readers down a rabbit hole. My hope for those who might read my work is that my books will spark an interest, something that stirs them to undertake their own journey to find out more. Whether writing non-fiction or fiction, that has always been my goal. When people take a story inside of themselves and transform it into their own form of expressive action, that’s the realest sort of magic. Some people travel to Celtic places. Some people make art or rediscover something lost. It can take a hundred different forms, a thousand. But it’s always astonishing to see.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
The internet. Then the pandemic. There’s always something. We can only do the best we can and refuse to give up, no matter what. Sometimes things just take longer under terrible circumstances. But it doesn’t mean they can’t be done.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Languoreth and Lailoken?
I learned that I don’t have to be in control all the time. The most astonishing things happened on the page when I was able to surrender. I hope I can recapture that lesson as I return to writing, trying to create book three.

Can you tell us when you started THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM, how that came about?
Lines found in the prologue of The Forgotten Kingdom came to me when I was driving my son to school, or doing some mundane thing. It was the words, “I wait. I watch. And I remember.” I heard them so clearly. And suddenly I wasn’t in the heat of autumn in South Carolina, I was standing high on a boulder overlooking the winter hills of Moffat, Scotland in the year 574 AD. I knew this novel needed to pick up in the middle of the action, right where we left off in the previous book, The Lost Queen. So when these words arrived, I knew what Lailoken meant. This was the gateway into the story.

Which of your characters do you feel has grown the most since book one and in what way have they changed?
All the characters in book two are growing as if on steroids, propelled into evolution by the events they have to face. That’s what made writing this book so exciting! I don’t want to say too much in fear of giving things away to those who might be invested in these characters, but I will say it was both beautiful and hard to write this book. I tried to become some strange kind of method-actor or skin walker, and I really traveled there in whatever ways I could. I hope some of that translated to the page.

  • 1. Languoreth, one of the main characters in this novel and the previous book, was a real, 6th century historical queen who has since been lost to history.
  • 2. There were four main peoples inhabiting 6th century Scotland: The Britons, The Picts, The Scots, and the Angles (Anglo-Saxons).
  • 3. Languoreth was a Briton. She had a brother, Lailoken, who some scholars now believe inspired the character of Merlin, King Arthur’s counsellor — and “wizard”— from the Arthurian legend.
  • 4. Sound fantastical? Well, The Lost Queen and The Forgotten Kingdom are historical fiction, not fantasy.
  • 5. Also, Lailoken was not a wizard. He was a warrior, politician, nobleman and Druid. Druids were merely the non-Christian intellectual caste of Ireland, Gaul and Britain. While some were associated with priestly duties, others were the doctors, teachers and law-givers of ancient times.
  • 6. The book centers on one of the most brutal battles in Scottish history that no one remembers, The Battle of Arderydd, which took place in 573 AD, and the aftermath of that fight.
  • 7. In this battle, Lailoken fought against his own young nephew as well as his own brother by marriage.
  • 8. Scots in the 6th century were not natives of Scotland. They actually hailed from Ireland. Ireland was called “Scotia” by Rome, after the tribe they referred to as the “Scotii” who lived there. The name “Scotia” referred to Ireland as late as 500 AD.
  • 9. There were four main peoples inhabiting Scotland in the 6th century: The Britons, The Picts, The Scots, and the Angles (Anglo-Saxons).
  • 10. People in the early medieval time period believed in the power of curses, prayer, and even the ability to influence the weather, Christians and pagans alike.
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch), is a Welsh word I definitely can’t spell from memory, but it translates roughly to "St. Mary's Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave."

What according to you is your most treasured possession?
My books, some of which belonged to my grandparents on both sides of my family. My maternal grandmother, Hilma, died when I was two, and I never met my paternal grandfather, Ned. But my fingers can touch theirs on the same paper, across worlds and time.

Best date you’ve ever had?
Someone once took me on a walk beside a river on a full moon to feed swans. It was one of the most beautiful things. I felt so “seen.”

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Ha-ha! Next question.

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
The death of my father when I was 26. It spurred me to leave my job in publishing and take a wild and heart-filled adventure that became my travel memoir entitled Faery Tale. The things I learned on that journey changed my life forever.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?

Giant waves in shark infested waters.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
My best is also my worst. I was on deadline and weeping in my writing chair with The Forgotten Kingdom manuscript open on my computer at two or three in the morning, trying to write in the few hours I had while my son was sleeping upstairs, and all I could think was, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it!” I was physically and emotionally exhausted from things going on in my personal life and having to crush through word count as if nothing else mattered. I looked at the framed picture of my father I keep on my desk, and heard his voice in my mind, clear as day. He said, “You just have to get down the mountain.” It made me flash back to a time when I was little and he and I were downhill skiing. I got stuck on a hill riddled with moguls, and every time I tried to get down, I fell. Eventually I was just there, frozen, crying “I can’t, I can’t!” And he told me, “Never say can’t. You just have to get down the mountain.”

So I took his advice, and I did get down the metaphorical mountain, eventually.

But in that moment, when I was alone and writing, with my father gone for nearly fourteen years, I realized I wasn’t alone after all.

Where can readers find you?
SignePike.com has links to my social media and a place where readers can reach me via email. I love hearing from readers, especially those who still use some form of salutation. I really appreciate that. Just a “Dear so-and-so,” no matter the content. I realize we live in a world of texts and emojis and a general disregard of grammatical principles, but I’m on a quiet campaign to at least carry manners into the 21st century. That, and the ring to Mount Doom. I don’t think that’s asking for too much.

The story continues in The Forgotten Kingdom, the second book in the astonishing Lost Queen trilogy, already hailed as “Outlander meets Camelot” (Kirsty Logan) and “The Mists of Avalon for a new generation” (Linnea Hartsuyker).

AD 573. Imprisoned in her chamber, Languoreth awaits news in torment. Her husband and son have ridden off to wage war against her brother, Lailoken. She doesn’t yet know that her young daughter, Angharad, who was training with Lailoken to become a Wisdom Keeper, has been lost in the chaos. As one of the bloodiest battles of early medieval Scottish history scatters its survivors to the wind, Lailoken and his men must flee to exile in the mountains of the Lowlands, while nine-year-old Angharad must summon all Lailoken has taught her and follow her own destiny through the mysterious, mystical land of the Picts.

In the aftermath of the battle, old political alliances unravel, opening the way for the ambitious adherents of the new religion: Christianity. Lailoken is half-mad with battle sickness, and Languoreth must hide her allegiance to the Old Way to survive her marriage to the next Christian king of Strathclyde. Worst yet, the new King of the Angles is bent on expanding his kingdom at any cost. Now the exiled Lailoken, with the help of a young warrior named Artur, may be the only man who can bring the Christians and the pagans together to defeat the encroaching Angles. But to do so, he must claim the role that will forever transform him. He must become the man known to history as “Myrddin.”

Bitter rivalries are ignited, lost loves are found, new loves are born, and old enemies come face-to-face with their reckoning in this compellingly fresh look at one of the most enduring legends of all time.

You can purchase The Forgotten Kingdom at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SIGNE PIKE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike.


  1. "Last thing you bought?" Hmm. An ugly rock. I collect ugly rocks in the hope that they'll turn out to be amazing treasure.