I'm sorry about not posting last week. I had a group project due on Tuesday, and I spent Valentine's Day caulking baseboard and chiseling dried paint off a bathtub. (Yes, I know. But my dad flips houses and I need a job.)
I'm going to go ahead and break my silence on the events of Where I Stand. The book has been out for almost five months, and if you haven't bought it, you can buy it here: Where I Stand
I didn't want to spoil the book for anyone, so if you haven't read the book yet, don't read this post.
Everyone's still here, right? I know you've read it.
I was very excited to bring Rowan back. He's a very interesting character with one of my favorite backstories, which I hope to reveal bit by bit over the next few books in the series. And part of that backstory involves an instrument called a timpan.
Most people hear "timpan" and think a drum--you know, like a tympani, or the tympanic membrane (also known as your eardrum). But the Irish timpan is a stringed instrument. And also an extinct instrument.
Originally, I was going to have him play the bagpipes. But then I did some research, and I found out that the bagpipes are more of a Scottish instrument. The Irish equivalent is the uillleann pipes, which I can neither spell nor pronounce, so that wasn't an option. I knew that Caitriona plays the flute; what goes good with a flute? Harps are too unwieldy. What about a fiddle? No, that would make him too much like Pa Ingalls.
And that's when I stumbled across the timpan.
Now, although we don't know very much about timpans, they've impacted the world in a few very small and unique ways. The most obvious is a song called "The Timpan Reel," which is admittedly a very cool song. Another is the dulcimer, a folk instrument commonly used in Appalachia, which some people say is a distant cousin or descendent of the timpan. But for all that, we have no idea what a timpan looked or sounded like. There are no surviving copies of it, and the only things we know about it come from references in Irish poems or legends.
I've read almost every available text about timpans, and I've come to a few general conclusions. First, it had three to eight strings. Second, it was often kept in an otterskin case. Third, it was a widely popular instrument back in the day. One legend says that the fairies made a magical timpan, and its music could make wounded soldiers forget their pain and fall asleep.
BUT we still don't know what they looked like.
Some sources say they looked like a short-necked banjo. Others disagree. I've decided, for my own purposes, that the Irish timpan was a variant of the Scandinavian jouhikko.
I spent literally months researching this extinct instrument, when I could have just made Rowan play the fiddle instead. They were used in the eighth century, after all. It's not a historical innacuracy. But no, I wanted to make things harder on myself. And so I did.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.