What would it be like to be one minute in our own modern time and the next minute inside a tree that leads to an ancient land of gnomes, faeries, warriors and witches? Just ask Briana Brennan. Up until five years ago, Briana was a young landscape designer from Camden, Maine with no real claim to fame. A magical trip through an oak tree changed her life in ways unimaginable for most of us mundanes. I’ve wanted to interview Briana for years, but it’s obviously not easy to do since she lives in an entirely different kingdom. To my delight and honor, Queen Briana entered my office today and offered to chat about her life, her thoughts about Uisneach, her hopes and dreams for the future.
Me: Welcome, Your Majesty, and thank you for this privilege.
Briana: I’m happy to be here, but I don’t suppose we could just go with Briana. Your Majesty always sounds so pretentious to me.
M: Briana it is. I have a lot of things I’d like to ask, so I hope you have time to spend here.
B: I can be here as long as you like, but just to be clear, there are some questions I might not be able to answer.
M: Why’s that?
B: Well, because I assume some of your readers have not read the whole series yet, so we wouldn’t want to give away too much.
M: Good point. I’ll try and ask questions that give us insight into you as a person, but not specifics about what’s happening in Uisneach. Fair enough?
B: Fair enough.
M: Briana, what is your full name with titles?
B: Briana Edwina Brennan Taranian, Queen of Uisneach and Tuathla of Evalon.
M: Is that it?
B: Well, that’s my formal name. And already, you’re fishing. Clever, but I’m on to you.
M: Can’t blame an interviewer for trying. So, in addition to your long formal name and title, do you have a nickname?
B: Well, my father called me Bri, as does Brath sometimes. I’m not sure if you count a mhuirnin as a nickname, but that’s what Silas often calls me.
M: I know the answer to this, but tell us, what does that bit of Gaelic mean?
M: You’re smiling. Are you—sweethearts?
B: We’re way more than that. We’re what’s known as twin flames. We share a soul. Silas could call me laddie, and I’d love it just as much.
M: Let’s go back to a time before the trip through the tree. We know you were born and raised in Camden, Maine. What did you like about living there and did you ever consider living somewhere else?
B: Maine is awesome. I’ve always felt blessed to live near the ocean. Camden, in particular, is pretty special. Touristy, for sure, and the summers can be a pain with the downtown traffic, but overall, it’s small enough that everyone knows who you are. It’s close enough to Portland to go shopping, or concerts and lots of good restaurants. And it’s a landscaper’s paradise. Lots of natural beauty to work with. I never considered living anywhere else. Had I not walked through the tree, I’d still be there.
M: But you’d have missed out on a lot of things. What’s the biggest upside to having gone to Uisneach?
B: Hmm…Uisneach’s beautiful and other than what we’ve been through with Shamwa, it’s idyllic. But I guess I’d have to say that it’s the people who keep me there. I can’t imagine life without any of my friends and those who’ve become family.
M: It seems like you gained a whole new world of friends and family. Of all the people you met there, who’s had the most influence on you?
B: That is almost impossible to answer. Literally, every single person has changed my life. (Long pause) I suppose Brath has had the most influence in terms of me understanding my life purpose, teaching me what it means to sacrifice for the greater good and that love has many faces. For a young guy, he’s pretty wise. And if it hadn’t been for him, I might have tried to come back to Maine.
M: He’s pretty sexy too, at least that’s what I hear from people following your story.
B: (Fanning herself and laughing) Yeah, he is that. In spades. To think, I thought he was going to be a horrid, decrepit old man.
M: If your story is to be believed, he was your first sexual experience—
B: Getting kind of personal aren’t you?
M: Indulge me. There’s a reason for the question. When was your first kiss and with whom?
B: My first kiss, or the first kiss that mattered?
M: Is there a difference?
B: Sure. I was twenty-five when I went to Uisneach. Obviously, I’d been kissed, but the first kiss that mattered was with a druid on the sea cliffs of Winge Mansion. (She goes quiet with a faraway look in her eyes)
M: What do you look for in a potential lover?
B: I’m not looking for a lover. I have one and he’s all I want. Can we talk about something a little less personal?
M: This interview is meant to be personal, but we can talk about things less intimate.
M: What is your favorite color?
M: Favorite food?
B: Uh, I’m pretty sure the whole world knows it’s pizza. I see the question pendulum is swinging far to the other side.
M: Touché. What is your most treasured possession?
B: Hard not to say Nuada, my magical Evalonian sword. She’s beautiful, powerful and has certainly gotten me out of a lot of scrapes. However, honestly, I have these medieval action figures that I’ve loved since childhood. For the first year of my life in Uisneach, I missed those guys. But, happily, they’ve been returned. I would never part with them. It’s silly, I know, but they mean a lot to me.
M: Not so silly, maybe. They led to a great story.
B: (smiles) Thanks.
M: I suspect we could relate some of those figures to people in Uisneach, but who would you say you’ve looked up to as role models?
B: Shall I go down the list? Everyone has taught me something. I’ve tried my best to follow Brath’s example in leading our people forward. That said, Lady Isabella certainly gave her best to teach me how to run a household. Which is a skill I didn’t know I’d need.
M: Without “ordering servants about”?
B: (Laughing) Exactly!
M: Anyone else that stands out?
B: Cailleach, for sure. She’s hounded me, well, maybe that’s a harsh word, but she’s certainly mothered me in all the ways I needed to become the queen I am. Without her guidance and example, I’d have probably run off with Silas long before I ever got to Ard Darach.
M: Do you think Silas would have let that happen?
B: Probably not. They all believed so strongly in the prophecy that I don’t think he and I ever stood a chance. (She pauses thoughtfully). I can’t forget what I’ve learned from Sigel.
M: What’s that?
B: His tough love has taught me to take responsibility for my own actions and to see the difference in fighting boldly beside the men and leading from the throne. He, more than any other has taught me about the evil that exists in the world and the importance of maintaining Uisneach justice. Brath taught me that monarchs govern best with mercy and Sigel taught me that sometimes there’s no substitute for the sharp edge of a sword.
M: Uisneach justice. Interesting statement. Has what you’ve learned in Uisneach given you something to live by? A motto?
B: Hmm…let me think a minute. (Long pause) I might be getting ahead of myself but I can think of two. One, trust in destiny. Two, destiny relies on the work of your own two hands.
M: Wow! That’s pretty profound.
B: Hey, I can think a little deep when the situation calls for it.
M: No doubt, Your Majesty. What do you consider the most important event of your life so far?
B: I need to be careful here. Can’t be giving things away. (Takes a sip of tea) I guess marrying Brath. It took a lot of soul-searching to open my heart to him and had I not been able to do that, things would look very different in Uisneach. Geeze- I hope that was vague enough not to give anything away.
M: It’s fine, I think. What is your greatest regret so far, why? Has this regret formed you into the person you are today? If so, why?
B: My biggest regret led to great joy, but I can’t answer the question without giving away things that should remain a mystery for now. Let me say that I regret leaving my mother with no awareness of what happened to me. I don’t regret coming to Uisneach and I wouldn’t choose to go back to Maine, much as I miss my mom and friends, but I hated hurting my mother.
M: You’ve been described as being pretty fearless. Is that true? Do you have fears? Does anyone know about those fears?
B: Me, fearless? Uh, not. Good grief, I was a walking basket case when I first got to Uisneach. I would say that it was only after obtaining Nua that I found anything resembling courage. It’s amazing what a powerful, magic weapon will do for your bravado. As to who knows my fears. I’m a pretty open book. Probably the whole kingdom knows my every thought. But, I confide most in Sigel and of course, Silas. I think I was a little more guarded with Brath because I always feared that my innermost thoughts would hurt him. And try as I might, I have never been able to keep things from Cailleach. That witch has an uncanny way of reading my mind, even when I’m doing my best to keep things from her.
M: It’s been a bit difficult to grasp your religious views, Briana. Do you consider yourself religious?
B: Religious? No, not really. More spiritual. (She laughs) Everyone says that, don’t they? I believe in some kind of higher power. But it sure isn’t some bearded dude in the sky. For me, it’s more like an energy or something that powers the universe. Somehow, and damned if I know how, it creates a playing field for destiny to unfold.
M: Destiny seems like a large concept in your worldview. You’ve mentioned it many times. Can you say more about that?
B: If me, walking through a tree to an ancient kingdom and discovering the prophecy isn’t destiny, you tell me what it is. I sure don’t know what else to call it. It is the engine that drove every single thing that has happened to me in my life, from the dreams to the tree to a coronation.
M: But that would presume you had no choice in the matter.
B: Not at all. I had choices. Lots of them; but in my mind, destiny knew the choices I would make.
M: In some theological circles they would call that pre-destination and you don’t strike me as someone who believes you are helpless in the face of some kind of cosmic plan.
B: Well, I am and I’m not. I do believe in free will, but I also believe that we come into our incarnations with some sort of plan. Like, maybe I agreed to come to Uisneach before I even was born. Oh, I don’t know. I’m no theologian, and I certainly don’t consider myself a victim of some kind of random universe. This really is a question beyond my pay grade, if you know what I mean.
M: Meaning that you’d like me to move on, but before I do, I have to follow up with this idea of destiny in love. Do you really believe in the idea of soul mates?
B: You’re seriously going to ask me that? Of course I do. It’s been pretty well documented that Silas and I are twin flames, which I guess you could think of as the highest form of soul mates. But, I think that many souls can be connected on a very deep level. I once heard that souls travel together over many lifetimes and live in many types of relationships. I like that idea, except I don’t want to think of Silas and I having been, say, father and daughter. Ick.
M: Ick is right. Let’s move on. How do you measure success?
B: Well, that could be measured in a number of ways, professionally and personally, but I guess I will have considered myself successful if I can protect Uisneach from all evil-doers and bring the kingdom into a state of financial and emotional wellbeing. If we can truly be a united kingdom, including faerie Evalon, then I, we, will have accomplished something important.
M: We should think of wrapping this interview up. I’m sure you have other things to do. Let’s do some rapid-fire questions. What makes you laugh?
B: Rippa’s youthful wit and Silas’ sense of humor. That man could talk wool off sheep.
M: What shocks or offends you?
B: Women hitting on other women’s men. Or vica versa.
M: What makes you happy?
B: Lots of things make me happy, but beating Sigel, at anything, is at the top of my list!
M: Really? Are you competitive?
B: Only with him!
M: Speaking of Sigel; a lot of women have found him to be one of the most attractive, sexiest men in the book. Do you agree?
B: What! Sigel! I can’t even go there. I suppose he’s good looking. Most men in Uisneach are, but that’s as far as I can comment. To me, he’s just Sigel. Father figure maybe, but more like a general pain in my a… oops, butt.
M: What makes you sad?
B: Seeing people, or animals, suffer.
M: What makes you angry?
B: Injustice or cruelty. Can you spell Shamwa?
M: What is your greatest strength?
B: Give me a second. Need to think about that. Hmm…maybe it’s my willingness to learn from my mistakes. And I’ve made a lot.
M: What is your greatest weakness?
B: I’ve been called impulsive, reckless and irrational. All true at times. I’d like to think that I’ve learned to control that a bit, but I still tend to react more than respond. Luckily, I have people around me that hold me accountable and prevent me from making a total mess of things.
M: I think you’ve made good decisions, Briana. None of them easy. But, let’s end our interview on a lighter note. Let’s do a song association. I’m going to name a person and you tell me what song comes to mind.
B: Modern songs or Uisneach songs?
M: Either. Brath?
B: Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion
B: Crossroads. He was and ever will be, all about the prophecy. Maybe Four Green Fields which also speaks to a kingdom being saved and restored.
B: You’ve probably never heard of him, but there’s a guy I remember called Damh the Bard and he had this song, Cauldron Born. I’ve always loved it and it reminds me of Cailleach.
M: I have heard of him. Wonderful bard. What about Sir Thomas?
B: Oh, that’s easy. Sharp Dressed Man!
M: What about yourself?
B: Me? (Pauses) Well, it would have to be either The Skye Boat Song or Roar, by Katy Perry. (Laughing)
M: Both seem fitting. Well, Briana, it has been delightful to have you—
B: Hey, wait a minute! You didn’t ask about Silas!
M: Oh, so I didn’t. I must have forgotten.
B: Yeah, right. You’re messing with me.
Me: So, you do have a song for him?
B: Of course, I do. (Biting her lip) Is Brath going to see this interview?
M: I doubt it.
B: Okay, then, for Silas, I would say a fitting song would be The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
M: Ahh…that’s a lovely song. Probably one of the most beautiful ever written.
B: Well…he’s pretty special to me.
M: We know. Well, Briana, I’ve taken a lot of your time and appreciate your willingness to give it. I look forward to the unfolding of the rest of your story. You have an open invitation to visit anytime.
B: Thanks. If I’m ever this way, I’ll be sure to stop in.