1.11.11 | By: Megan Langham

Beautiful People: Mairead of Lindisfarne

There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair

—Mumford & Sons, “After The Storm”

This is a special set of Beautiful People questions: special because it is for NaNoWriMo, because it is about Mairead (who is close to my heart), and not least because it is absurdly long. All the same, it was a delight to fill out, and I hope it gives you a clearer picture of the place my heart and mind will be during the whole of November. 

1. What is your character's full name? Mairead. That’s all. Nobody living near her shares the same name, so there has never been a need to differentiate. 

2. Does her name have a special meaning? None that is apparent. In some instances “Mairead” means “child of light”, which could be significant. 

3. Does your character have a methodical or disorganised personality? Both, in a way. She thinks things through in quite an orderly fashion, but it’s the sort of orderly fashion that would look confused to anyone else. Often in her mind there’s a war going on between reason and intuition. 

4. Does she think inside herself more than she talks out loud to her friends? (More importantly, does she actually have friends?) Oh, Mairead has friends. But she’s never learned to open herself completely to them, and even when she does reveal something about herself it’s only after much deliberation. Her mind is much more divided than is good for her. 

5. Is there something she is afraid of? There are many things she is afraid of, both rational and highly unlikely. Among them are her brother’s death, trouble coming to Lindisfarne, and rats.

6. Does she write, dream, dance, sing, or photograph? She doesn’t really write—that’s more Cynewulf’s area. Dreaming, however, is as good a description of her day-to-day life as you could find. Sometimes when her spirits are unusually high she dances; and she has a lovely singing voice that she’s often called upon to use. As for photography, however, I’m afraid that’s quite out of the question. It’s difficult, you see, when cameras haven’t been invented yet. 

7. What is her favourite book (or genre of books)? Honestly, the book she loves the most would have to be the Psalms. Even if she had not been taught from a young age to revere them as part of the Scriptures, she would still have been drawn to their inexplicable combination of grinding agony and giddy mirth; the elegant phrasing of even the most heartbroken would still have touched her soul.

8. Who is her favourite author and/or someone that inspires her? Though I don’t believe she would ever admit to this, it’s Cynewulf’s writing which most moves and inspires her. 

9. Favourite flavour of ice cream? Mairead has never had ice-cream, so this question doesn’t exactly apply. If through some time-traveling anomaly she were to try it out, I expect she would like Vanilla Pecan. But that’s only a guess. 
 
10. Favourite season of the year? Each season has special charms for her, but in the end it’s spring she loves the most; early spring with misty mornings and budding blossoms and pale green grass-shoots. 
 
11. How old is she? Seventeen. 
 
13. What does she do with her spare time? When her time isn’t taken up with learning or housekeeping, she is usually to be found deep in conversation with someone, taking a walk along the seashore, or visiting Eanwin’s family at the mainland village. 
 
14. Does she see the big picture or live in the moment? Nobody lives further from the moment than Mairead; whatever is happening, at least a part of her mind is always elsewhere. 
 
15. Is she a perfectionist? Actually she’s more of an idealist, which is basically a way of saying that she’s a perfectionist who focuses on the grand scheme of things rather than the mere details. The niggling and unimportant things she can ignore, but only if they don’t have a lasting effect on the way it all looks from the sky.
 
16. What does her handwriting look like? It is slanted, narrowly spaced, and adorned with many blots. 
 
17. Favourite animal? She is quite fond of both sea otters and red squirrels, though Cynewulf dislikes them (the squirrels, not the sea otters). 

18. Does she have any pets? Not as such. She has adopted a puffin, but she generally gets him mixed up with the rest of his family, as they all look very much alike. 
 
19. Does she have any siblings? How many? Where does she fit in? She has a twin brother, Rowan. And that’s it. 
 
20. Does she have a 'life verse' and if so what is it? Not specifically, but she has always taken a special joy in the sixteenth Psalm. 
 
21. Favourite writing utensil? When she does write, which is seldom, she uses a quill pen. There really aren’t that many other options, you know!
 
22. What type of laugh does she have? A ready laugh, for sure. It’s more of a giggle unless the thing is extraordinarily funny, in which case her mirth is deep, loud, and well-nigh unstoppable.
 
23. Who is her best friend? Her closest affections are divided between her brother, her friend Eanwin from the village across the causeway, and Cynewulf. 
 
24. What is her family like? Rowan, Mairead’s twin brother, is her only natural family. He is quite a good brother as brothers go: kind, considerate, amiable. Though his stubbornness often annoys Mairead and his indecisiveness tries her patience, she loves him dearly. 
 
25. Is she a Christian, or will she eventually find Jesus? Mairead is a follower of Christ, though her faith needs much strengthening. 
 
26. Does she believe in fairies? In a manner of speaking. She believes in the Fair Folk, or the aes sidhe, who are quite different from the common conception of fairies—not nearly as nice, for one thing, and much more mysterious. 
 
27. Does she like hedgehogs? She finds their round prickliness adorable, though she rather resents the way they boldly steal grapes. 
 
28. Favourite kind of weather? Stormy weather, wind and rain. She’s not particularly fond of sunshine—a useful preference, as Northumbria doesn’t see much of it. 
 
29. Does she have a good sense of humour? Yes. Her laugh is ready, but not too much so, and her own attempts at humor are often sarcastic (not meant to sting, however, unless she is angry). 
 
30. How did she do in school, or any kind of education she might have had? At the monastery she was taught reading, writing, Latin, and ecclesiastical literature; she performed fairly well in each of these subjects, though her penmanship was never excellent (much to the dismay of the brothers who taught her). 
 
31. Any strange hobbies? That depends on one’s definition of strange. She isn’t fond of sewing or spinning; to her they’re duties rather than hobbies, less enjoyable than her studies. Gardening, however, is one of her greatest pleasures, and she likes to help Cynewulf with his leather-working. 
 
32. What kind of music does she like? The short answer to this is “every kind”. She loves the bard-songs Cynewulf plays on his harp, the ditties Eanwin sings for fun, and the shrill tones of Rowan’s piping. 
 
33. Does she like to go outside? Outside is where she spends most of her time. At any given moment she’s most likely to be either lying on the meadow outside the monastery, walking the causeway towards the village (if the tide allows), or standing on the seashore watching the waves.
 
34. Is she naturally curious? Yes. Yes, she is. 
 
35. Right, or left handed? She is right-handed. 

36. Favourite colour? Crimson and midnight blue.
 
37. Where is she from? Well, that is the question. Her mother had an Irish name and accent, but other than that there’s no clue to her birthplace. (Naturally, the answer will be revealed in due course—but I’m not going to give away everything here.)
 
38. Any enemies? Nobody of Mairead’s acquaintance hates her for herself, though naturally she doesn’t get on with some people as well as others (and even her closest friends fall out on occasion). There is one man who causes her a great deal of pain, but he bears her no personal animosity; the reasoning behind his actions is more rational than cruel.
 
39. What are her quirks? As aforementioned, she doesn’t much like sunshine—at least, not when it is prolonged—and she likes to stand in the pouring rain despite Emma’s dire predictions that she’ll catch her death. Also she stays up very late at night and wakes up early in the morning; since she does need a fair amount of sleep, though, she tends to doze off at odd times and places. 
 
40. What kinds of things get on her nerves? Insensitivity. Days that are damp but not rainy. Sudden noises. Hypocrisy. Badly-played music. Betrayal of any kind. 
 
41. Is she independent, or needs others to help out? Mairead is in the uncomfortable position of both needing people desperately and doubting them constantly. 
 
42. What is her biggest secret? That every night she dreams of a fair-haired man who says he is her lover and promises to one day meet her. She hasn’t mentioned it to Cynewulf or any of the brothers because she doesn’t think they would approve, and she’s afraid to tell Rowan because she thinks he would laugh (she’s right). The one person she has told is Eanwin, who believed her but also admitted that the idea made her feel uneasy. 
 
43. Has she ever been in love? No, she hasn’t, but she sometimes dreams of being. (Interpret that answer how you will.)
 
44. What is her comfort food? Strawberries. Even when Mairead is most upset, the promise of strawberries seldom fails to cheer her up. 
 
45. Does she play a musical instrument? She doesn’t play, no, but she can sing quite passably. 
 
46. What colour are her eyes? Hair? Her eyes are grey, darkening to blue in certain lights or moods; her hair is a rich chestnut colour, long and tangled. 
 
47. What is her favourite place to be? On the rocks at the ocean’s edge, gazing out into the pearly gray distance. 
 
48. What are some of her dreams or goals? Her dreams are simple: to marry well, to raise a family, and one day to take a ship across the sea. 
 
49. Does she enjoy sports? There aren’t any sports beside swimming and rock-climbing at Lindisfarne; Mairead mostly gets her exercise by walking around the island and racing Rowan to the village. 
 
50. What is her favourite flower or plant? The dog violet comes close to being Mairead’s favourite, but it is somewhat too pallid and gentle for her taste. It’s the rock-rose that she loves best, since it balances strength and sweetness as perfectly as possible for a flower. 
 
51. What is her biggest accomplishment? She herself would probably choose the time when she made a sturdy pair of leather boots for Rowan with scarcely any help from Cynewulf. 
 
52. What is one of her strongest childhood memories? Her earliest memory, which is also among her strongest, was of the time Rowan got swept out to sea and nearly drowned. She was four. Several times since then she has dreamed of his death; it is one of her greatest fears.
 
53. What is her favourite food? Strawberries, as aforementioned. She is also quite fond of salmon and of porridge properly salted. 
 
54. Does she believe in love at first sight? Though she’s never experienced it herself, she expects it could happen. 
 
55. What kind of home does she live in? She lives with her brother and Emma in a thatched wooden hut: all one room, divided by a fire-pit down the middle. It is large as huts go, but very difficult to keep tidy. 
 
56. What does she like to wear? During the warmer months of the year she wears a thin dress with a short over-tunic; when the winds turn sharp she adds a fur-trimmed cloak for comfort.
 
57. What would she do if she discovered she were dying? It would take some time for the truth to sink in, and then she would be devastated. 
 
58. What kind of holidays or traditions does she celebrate? She observes the traditional feast days of the Church, as well as the Christian replacements for pagan festivals, such as Easter and Twelfth Night. 
 
59. What do your other characters have to say about her? Rowan says she is moody and stubborn and hot-tempered—but she is his sister, and she is a good sister to him, and he loves her. Eanwin says she is a true friend, which is most important, and though she can be easily deceived and angered, she always means well. Cathal says she is a very pretty girl with a tongue like a whip dipped in honey and eyes you could sink a ship in. Bishop Aethelwald says she is a devout child and a clever learner, though he fears she does not apply herself as she might. Emma says she is young and good-hearted and foolish and as beloved as a daughter. Cynewulf says she is sweet in spite of her stubbornness, loyal in spite of her fears, and unutterably dear to him.
 
60. If she could change one thing in her world, what would it be? This is difficult because, though Mairead loves life, there is much about it that she would change—and no matter how many wishes she’s granted, she will never be satisfied. Paradoxical though it sounds, I think she would be all the more miserable if she had nothing to be miserable about. 
 
61. Does she have any habits, annoying or otherwise? When she’s impatient she paces, usually in circles tight enough to make whoever’s watching her dizzy. When she’s nervous she rips up whatever happens to be in her hand at the moment (this is a tic which has caused her some trouble in times past). When she’s excited she talks at a fever pitch, letting the words spill out like a waterfall and constantly interrupting herself. 
 
62. What is her backstory and how does it affect her now? To begin with, she has no idea who her true family is: her mother died after giving birth to her and her brother, in too much pain and confusion to tell the monks her story. Since then she has lived on Lindisfarne under the care of the Bishop’s wife, Emma, and the watchful guidance of the entire monastery. Sometimes she wishes she had known her parents, but she doesn’t let her lack of this knowledge haunt her unduly. Her brother is another matter, but that’s another story. 
 
63. How does she show love? When Mairead truly loves someone, she will always be there for them—no matter how inconvenient it may be for her. She takes time to listen, to encourage, and to appreciate her friends. 
 
64. How competitive is she? Not very. If she’s arguing over something that’s important to her, then she’ll do everything she can to win the argument—but it would be for the sake of her principles, not for the joy of winning. 
 
65. What does she think about when nothing else is going on? That all depends on her mood at the moment. Often she finds herself analysing her own moods, or the actions of the people she’s interacted with. Usually she finds herself worrying. Every once in a while, she stills her thoughts and lets herself take pleasure in peace. 
 
66. Does she have an accent? Well, of course. Everybody has an accent. Hers just isn’t particularly noticeable among the similar-sounding denizens of Lindisfarne. 
 
67. What is her station in life? Technically she would fall into the middle class, between the nobility and the thralls. As a member of the monastery, however, her standing is somewhat different than it would have been if she had been born on the mainland. 
 
68. What do others expect from her? From day to day she’s expected to keep up her studies at the monastery, help Emma with the running of the house, and do her share of the gardening. 
 
69. Where was she born, and when? She was born on November 17th, 721 on Lindisfarne Island. 
 
70. How does she feel about people in general? Oddly enough, she feels much more kindly towards people as an ill-defined group than towards individuals. Perhaps it is because of her fascination with ideals or merely her introverted nature that prefers to observe people from a distance before deciding whether or not to accept them. 


...so that is Mairead. I expect to learn much more about her during the course of this novel; but even these questions have taught me a good deal. 

I am thoroughly looking forward to writing this story. 

2 missives:

Rachel Heffington said...

Oh my, Megan! She sounds like my kind of a girl. You have made her come alive in these questions--do tell us more about her when your blog occasions it. :) I think you ought to do a Birthday Post on the 17th and give us a glimpse of her written self. :) [major hint-hint here]

Megan L. said...

Thank you, Rachel! Don't worry, you'll hear plenty about Mairead and Co. during the rest of November.

Also, your Birthday Post idea is quite clever, and I shall certainly consider it. ;)

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