Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cynthia Owens: Playing For Keeps

Celtic romance author Cynthia Owens visits today to celebrate the release of Playing For Keeps, the latest book in her wonderful Claddagh Series. Welcome, Cynthia!
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Hello everyone, and especially Pat. Thanks so much for having me as a guest on the Plain!

My pleasure. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
I’m from Montreal, the city that’s a melding of English and French. From the cobbled streets of Old Montreal, filled with historical old buildings, to the Old Port, where ships still arrive from far-off places, there’s nowhere lovelier or more exciting. And the fact that we’re less than an hour from "ski country" doesn’t hurt either. :)
Sounds like a romantic spot. What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always loved to write. I was a shy, solitary child who loved to read, and as I grew older, I wanted to write books like the ones I loved to read. And of course, Ireland is a great inspiration to me.
You’ll get no argument from me about that. What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
A good storyline is essential. And research – you can never do enough research, and if you get it wrong, someone, somewhere, will eventually let you know it! But what really makes a story, for me, is the characters. An author has to make his/her readers care about the characters, they must be as real to the readers as their own family and friends.
How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
The stories in the Claddagh Series are "historical romances set in Ireland and beyond." In Sunshine or in Shadow and Coming Home, the first two books, are set in Ballycashel, my fictitious west-of-Ireland village. Playing For Keeps is set in Victorian America, but all three books have the same Irish flavor, filled with magic, mythology and Irish charm.
What inspired you to write Playing For Keeps?
I have to confess that Playing For Keeps was…well, something of an accident. When I wrote In Sunshine or in Shadow, I wrote it as a stand-alone story. I never planned to write a sequel to it, let alone two or more.

But something happened while I was writing that first book. I like to think of it as a sort of magic. The people of Ballycashel became very dear to me. They were flesh and blood, not figments of my imagination, and I grew to love each and every one of them. And they demanded that I tell their stories. Katie O’Brien, the heroine of Playing For Keeps, was the first to demand a story of her own. A lonely little girl in In Sunshine or in Shadow, she was unsure of her father’s love for her until one day, they went for a ride and found themselves at the edge of Ballycashel land, where lush green grass gave way to cold, damp, pitiless bog. It was there that Rory told Katie the story of his past. It was there that he confessed his deep love for his daughter. And it was there that Katie demanded her own story.
Characters have a way of doing that. How did you come up with the title?
My hero, Lucas, is an actor with…well, let’s call it commitment issues. ;) It just seemed a natural title.
Was there much research involved?
There was a lot of research involved in writing Playing For Keeps. I’d concentrated on Ireland for so long that when I decided to write it, I had to research so many totally unrelated subjects. Everything from the two main settings (Philadelphia and Baltimore), Shakespeare and the theatre, to the effects of a stroke. The list seemed both endless and terrifying – and I had a wonderful time!
What do you like least about writing?
Nothing. There is truly not one single thing I don’t love about writing, from the first germ of a story idea, to writing it, editing it and eventually holding the published book in my hand.
Give us a mini tour of your writing space.
My office is pretty standard – computer, printer, lots of overflowing bookshelves, of course. Photos from my 2009 visit to Ireland. But there are a couple of very special items. The first is a small, stuffed leprechaun, whom I named Seamus O’Reagan. I found him at a discount store in February of 2006 and brought him home as my personal good luck charm. A month later I submitted In Sunshine or in Shadow to Highland Press, and shortly thereafter I was offered my first publishing contract. The other cherished item is an old Funk & Wagnall dictionary that belonged to my late father. He was a largely self-educated man, and I remember so well seeing him look up a word he didn’t understand. Now, when I need to check a definition or a spelling, it’s almost as if he’s there with me.
If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a bottle of wine?
Actually, I’d love to spend a day touring Ireland with William Butler Yeats, Ireland’s favorite poet! And maybe drink a pint or two at a Dublin pub afterward. Yeats’s poems never fail to bring mystical, magical Ireland to life.
I might join you! And now, let’s take a peek at Playing For Keeps.

He fled life in the shadows for a life in the limelight.
Never as dutiful as his older brother, Lucas Davenport was a thinker, a dreamer of dreams. When tragedy overtook his family, he fled to the bright lights of the stage. Can he make the Shannon Theatre Troupe a success – or is he doomed to once again be "the other son?"

She sought the past she barely remembered.
Mary Kathryn O’Brien returns to the genteel world her mother left behind – but can Irish Katie ever truly hope to belong? Or will old wounds and new rivalries destroy the threads of family forever?

Lucas and Katie must battle prejudice and buried secrets before they can learn to trust each other. Is their love just a brief intermission, or are they Playing For Keeps?

Philadelphia, 1850
Luke stared in silent horror as glowing red flames devoured the warehouse.

What have you done this time?

The words resounded through Luke’s brain, condemning and inevitable, in his father’s disapproving tones.

What had he done? He’d secured the warehouses. He had, he was sure of it. He’d made certain all the forges were out.

Hadn’t he? Or had his head been too full of the play he’d been studying in secret, the characters he was determined to flesh out, the pages he’d obsessively filled with his own dreams and interpretations?

Clanging bells and pounding hooves hammered in his ears.

Thank you, God.

But as quickly as relief flared, terror chased close on its heels.

Dear God, was anyone still inside? Tobias, his father’s most trusted clerk—surely he’d left long ago. And the two young men Matt hired last month—hadn’t they spoken of going to The Dancing Horse to spend their first pay packets?

He struggled for breath, the acrid smell of burning wood and molten steel tearing at his throat.

Bleak realization swept through him. It was his fault. It had to be. But it was an accident

Matthew. Matt would take care of everything. Matt always cleaned up his little brother’s messes, covered up Luke’s many shortcomings.

"Mr. Lucas? Mr. Lucas!"

Dazed, Luke stared in disbelief at the normally impeccable clerk. Tobias had lost his coat, his once pristine white linen shirt was torn and covered with soot. Luke’s gut clenched as he took in

the other man’s wild hair, the bloody gash slashed cruelly across one cheek.

"Mr. Lucas!"

Luke grabbed Tobias’s arm, his head thudding, his fingers gripping convulsively. Fear struck ice cold in his heart. His entire body shaking, he ran his dry tongue over his ash-covered lips.

"Tobias, where’s Matt?"

The clerk gazed at Luke, pity darkening his eyes. Tears trailed slowly down his soot-blackened face.

"Mr. Matthew’s dead, sir."
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About Cynthia Owens:
I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17thCentury "King’s Girl," one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of  Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there.

My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII.

A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three. My novels, In Sunshine or in Shadow and Coming Home, set in post-Famine Ireland, are available from Highland Press. Playing For Keeps, the third book in the Claddagh series, is now available from Highland Press.

I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two school-aged children.
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Playing For Keeps / Available from


  1. Thank you, Victoria! I'm so excited about "Playing For Keeps." Katie and Lucas are a very special couple, and I hope everyone loves them as much as I do. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I'm adding my congrats too, Cynthia. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Claddagh Series, and I look forward to reading this one. Keep 'em coming!

  3. Thanks, Pat, I'm doing my best! And thanks so much for having me on the Plain today!

  4. Well, that opening grabs you! Lots of luck with this book, Cynthia.

  5. Thank you, Miriam, I certainly hope so! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Congrats on your new release and wishing you much success with this and all your books!!!

  7. Thank you, B.J., I'm hoping there will be at least a few more installments in the Claddagh Series. Thanks for visiting!

  8. That was a very enjoyable interview to read. Job well done, Cynthia. It's obvious you have a huge fan base, and your characters are well loved!

  9. Hi Colleen, glad you enjoyed the interview. Hope you enjoy reading the Claddagh Series!

  10. So exciting!!! Congratulations!!!! Can't wait to start reading your Irish magic.

  11. Thank you, Sandy, I hope you enjoy the Claddagh Series. It's written with love, as I love Ireland more than any place in the world. Thanks for visiting!

  12. Pat, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for having me as a guest on the Plain. I enjoyed the interview, and the opportunity to talk about my new "baby," Playing For Keeps. And I especially enjoyed the opportunity to meet old and new friends. Thanks again! :)