Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ebooks and DNA

After a long publishing drought, I finally have a new book out! Beyond the Sea Mist, is now an ebook available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and hopefully ITunes soon).  Also available in ebook format is my other Irish-Viking story, Storm Maiden, which was published in print in 1997. The two books aren't related, but both of them feature a Viking hero and an Irish heroine, and I thought I'd share some of the inspiration behind these books.

The preface to Storm Maiden is a poem I wrote about my husband. It begins:

He says he's Irish.
But I look at into those eyes.
Blue as the North Sea
And know he's an immigrant like all the rest.

The premise of the poem was that my husband was descended from a Viking who visited or settled in Ireland and left his DNA. But it turns out that when his DNA was analyzed, we discovered that my husband's Y-chromosome DNA is very specific to northwest Ireland, as ninety percent of the men there have this relatively uncommon haplotype.

I wrote Storm Maiden over fifteen years ago. Since then, DNA analysis has changed a lot of what we thought we knew about how the British Isles were settled. A large share of the population in Ireland (and those of us in America who claim Irish descent), have an ancient DNA profile that goes back to when the island was first inhabited, six thousand or more years ago. This gives lie to the theory that the Celts (who would have had a different, more modern profile) had much genetic impact on the native population. It turns out that the heritage the Celts left in Ireland was mostly cultural, and probably linguistic.

Oddly, the Vikings, who we know had settlements in Ireland for nearly 200 years, also apparently had little impact on Irish DNA. After intensive searching, scientists have found little evidence of Norse DNA in the current male population. So if my husband has Viking blood, is must be from a male on his mother's side. As his great-grandmothers on both sides were from clans associated with southwest Ireland, where the Vikings first raided, this would make sense. 

Regardless of the current evidence, I still think my husband has Viking blood. His long face, narrow, high-bridged nose and deep-set blue, blue eyes fit the profile so well. And I still have faith in the premise of Storm Maiden, the story of an Irish princess carried off by a Viking, who ends up falling in love with her captor. 

In the next post I'll tell you about the inspiration for Beyond the Sea Mist.

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