Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reluctant Betrayer, Book 5 in the Claddagh Series.

A warm welcome to frequent visitor, romance author Cynthia Owens. Tell us about your latest book and your writing process, Cynthia.
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Hi Pat, thanks so much for allowing me to visit The Plain. I’m really excited about my newest release, Reluctant Betrayer, Book 5 of the Claddagh Series, a story of love, treachery, and betrayal, set in Trasnavan, not far from Ballycashel…

How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
When I started writing my first book, In Sunshine or in Shadow (Claddagh Series, Book 1), consciously or unconsciously I followed the elements of that ancient Irish symbol. The Claddagh ring is an ancient Irish wedding ring, featuring hands clasping a heart, topped by a crown, symbolizing friendship, loyalty and love. All my books feature these three virtues because I believe there can be no love without friendship and loyalty.
What inspired you to write Reluctant Betrayer?
I had a wonderful time writing Everlasting, Book 4 of the Claddagh Series, and I loved Liam Collins’s younger brother, Aidan. He was young, idealistic, and fiercely angry with his brother for abandoning the family for eight years.
So when Brendan Doyle, Lord Bennington’s agent, disappeared, Aidan informed me that he wanted the agent’s position. And when he explained just what he wanted to do with that position, well, of course I had to see that he got it.
But Maura Riordan, the girl he loves, has her own ideas on that subject…
What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?
Well, I don’t know if this is true, but someone once told me I wrote wonderful word pictures. I was so flattered! It sounded absolutely wonderful to me. But I think my strongest asset is my ability to do research for my stories. History is so exacting, I don’t want to get my details wrong! I majored in journalism at university,and I think the fact-checking and in-depth research I learned as a journalist helps immensely.,
Do you have a set writing routine?
Routine??? What’s that?!?
My routine varies from week to week, day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour! I tend to work around my kids’ schedules, my husband’s schedule, and whatever needs to be done around the house. [That said, the housework gets short shrift when I’m on deadline!]
The main thing for me is to write. I try to write between 1,000 and 1,500 words a day. Doesn’t always work, but when that happens, I try to catch up the next day. Sometimes I tend to put too much pressure on myself, which can—and has—resulted in writer’s block.
Do you listen to music when you write?
There’s almost always music drifting from my office when I write. Since my books are either set in Ireland, as the Claddagh Series, or feature Irish characters, like the Wild Geese Series, most of the music is Irish. Celtic Woman is a great favorite, and so is fellow Canuck John McDermott.
But sometimes I need a change of pace, depending on whether I’m writing a love scene, an action scene, or a "black moment." That’s when I crank up my two favorite soundtracks. First is the Michael Crawford/Sarah Brightman soundtrack om The Phantom of the Opera (Michael will always be the Phantom to me!). And then there’s the wonderful voice of Colm Wilkinson playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. There’s just something about that music that reaches straight into my heart and pulls out the emotion I need to write those scenes.
Give us a mini-tour of your writing space.
I love my office, or as I call it, my creative corner. It’s full of books and souvenirs and memories. My desk was actually made by my dad. The top is made from old bits of hardwood flooring, glued and polished to a high gloss. It has five legs—just because Dad loved to be creative—which were part of an old wooden railing in a heritage hotel in Montreal that was torn down.
On my walls are posters of some of my book covers and a set of sleigh bells worn by the horse on the farm where my dad grew up. They hung in my parents’ home for as long as I can remember, and whenever I ring them as I pass by, it brings back wonderful memories of my mom and dad.
One of my prize possessions is an old Funk and Wagnall dictionary that belonged to my father. A largely self-educated man, he enjoyed finding out about everything. If he came across a word he didn’t know, he went straight to that dictionary and looked it up, and most of its synonyms too! The dictionary now sits on a book rest, open do a different, random page every day.
Which authors do you feel have influenced you most?
My first, and I think biggest, influence was Carolyn Keene, who wrote the Nancy Drew mysteries. I was a huge Nancy Drew fan in grade school. I read an interview with Ms. Keene in a magazine, in which she explained that she always tried to leave each chapter on a cliff-hanger, and thereby keep the reader turning the pages. Well, it certainly worked on me, and while I don’t leave every chapter on a cliff-hanger, that piece of advice is always at the back of my mind when I’m writing.
Name a few titles I’d find if I browsed through your personal home library.
Well, let’s see…the Frank Delaney series (my favorite is Ireland), a well-read copy of Mary Jo Putney’s Shattered Rainbows, Morgan Llwelyn’s Irish Century Series, to name a few of my favorite fiction and romance stories.
My research shelves are a bit different. You might expect to find books on Irish travel, history, and mythology, but there are also such diverse titles as The Lighthouse Encyclopedia, which was a valuable tool when I wrote Keeper of the Light (Wild Geese Book 2), The Victorian House Book, and The Historical Atlas of New York City.
What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story soon?
There are a lot of stories vying for my attention on my laptop! First up is Christmas Rainbows, part of an anthology of Christmas stories published by Highland Press. The story is part of the Claddagh Series and features Lissa Thornhill, who appeared in Playing For Keeps ( Claddagh Series, Book 3).
At the moment, I’m hard at work on the fourth book of the Wild Geese Series, Yesterday’s Promise. It’s Declan’s story, in which he’s reunited with the beautiful battlefield nurse who served beside him during the American Civil War.
And then there’s Wishes of the Heart, another Claddagh story. The hero is Tom O’Brien, second son of Rory and Siobhán O’Brien. It’s Cinderella-with-an-Irish-twist. The heroine is Neave Devereux, the beautiful, if misunderstood village healer. It also features my first non-human character, an intrepid and very loving magpie named Bron (Irish for sorrow).
There are other characters demanding their stories be told, too, including Kieran Donnelly, the last of the Wild Geese heroes, Sean and Deirdre O’Brien, and Grace Bennington, who you’ll meet in Reluctant Betrayer.
So many characters…
Who supports your writing activities most?
I have a very dear friend named John, whom I call my Research Hero. He’s been amazingly supportive in the short time we’ve known each other. He’s always there to answer questions about Ireland, to brainstorm plot ideas with, to cheer me on when I’m feeling a little down, and to celebrate the milestones of publishing with me.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
It might seem strange, but the advice I’d give an aspiring author is the same advice I got, not about writing, but about boys! And it applies just as accurately here as it did then.
"Be yourself." I once asked a family friend how to get a certain boy to like me—I think I was in about second grade at the time—and that was the advice she gave me. That applies to writing in that a beginning writer should find his/her own voice, and not try to imitate their favorite writers. You can learn from your idols, but take what you’ve learned and apply it to your own ideas.
Name a few of your favorite non-writing activities.
Well, like most writers, I’m an avid reader. In fact, my father built me a custom book shelf just to keep all my favorite books. That’s pretty much my number one hobby, but I do have a few others. I love to travel (and a trip to Ireland is in the planning stages right now), and I enjoy the theatre, especially a good musical. I’m also a bit of a collector. I have a collection of music boxes, all in working order, including a very special one commemorating Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.
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Book Blurb:
Sweet deception and hidden passion
Trasnavan…a west-of-Ireland village bursting with charm, intrigue and treachery.

Aidan Collins grew up in the shadow of his heroic older brother. The steady one, the responsible one, he burns with anger against the landlord and vows to change the desperate straits of the village folk.

Raised in a family of rebels, Maura Riordan is horrified when she learns the man she loves has committed the ultimate act of treason.

But Aidan has his own reasons for taking the position of landlord’s agent. Will those reasons destroy him? Will Maura’s deception tear them apart?

Can their love survive the lies they’ve both told?

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Excerpt:
Trasnavan, Galway, Ireland, 1867

"We have to go."

Aidan Collins bolted up from his pallet in the sleeping loft, rubbing his eyes against the darkness and straining to make out the hushed voices.

"Ah, no, Liam, don’t be goin’ now." Ma’s voice. Shrill, terrified. Saturated with tears. "Sure, ye’ll not be leavin’ us now. "Don’t go, son."

"Ma." Liam’s hoarse voice vibrated with panic. Rustling sounds told Aidan his brother had caught their mother in his arms. He heard her muffled sobs in the murky darkness. "Ma, I’ve no choice. We must be away...sure, aren’t Old Benny’s men on the lookout for us?"

"’Twas ye and the Crow Boys set that fire?" His father’s voice now, heavy with sorrow.

"Aye, Da. I’m sorry to disappoint you—"

"Never, son." More rustling. Aidan pictured the three of them locked in a tearful embrace. Envy swept over him. Would Ma and Da ever look at him that way? Ever be as proud of him, the quiet one, the one who yearned to read and write, as they were of the rebel Liam?

Raw panic eclipsed his resentment.

Liam was leaving!

Aidan wasn’t so young that he didn’t understand what happened. He’d known for days—sure, everyone had—that something was in the wind. The Crow Boys had left a warning for their landlord on Christmas Eve, a warning he’d ignored. They’d had to act, had to make a stand for Ireland’s freedom.

He’d heard Liam and Brian talking behind the graveyard at the ruins of the old church. He knew the Crow Boys planned a raid on Bennington House. They had guns, and they had spirit.

And tonight they’d set fire to the Big House.

Something must have gone wrong. Aidan shoved back his threadbare blanket and climbed down the rickety ladder his grandda had built to where Liam stood in a fierce, desperate embrace with their parents.

"Liam?"

His brother stiffened. His arms slid away from Mam and Da, and he turned slowly to Aidan. His face was wet with tears, his gray-green eyes filled with pain. Wordlessly, he held out his arms.

Aidan flew into his embrace, shaking with silent sobs. "Take me with you."

"I can’t. Sure, ‘tis tearin’ the heart from me breast to leave you, but me life’s not worth a farthing to them that’s chasin’ me."

"Where will ye go?" Their little sister, tiny Caitlin, appeared beside them, and Liam turned to gather her into his arms. "Will we never see ye again?"

Liam’s shoulders heaved. "I don’t know, a gráh."

The five of them clung together until three sharp knocks sounded on the door, then one more, and another two.

The time had come.

"‘Tis Brian." Liam turned to kiss his sobbing mother. He held out his hand to his father, but the older man pulled him into a fierce embrace.

"Take care o’ yerself, son. And ne’er forget ye’re a Collins."

"I won’t, Da." Liam broke free, catching wee Cait up in his arms. "Don’t you forget me now, love, for ‘tis sure I’ll always remember you."

Liam put down the little girl. Caitlin turned to fling her arms around her weeping mother.

At last Liam turned to Aidan.

Aidan’s heart splintered. His adored older brother was leaving. Likely they’d never see him again, only hear of him from one of the boys who’d received a letter from somewhere.

Liam caught him in a fierce hug. Aidan squeezed his eyes shut in a vain attempt to stem the tide of tears scalding his throat. "Godspeed, brother. May the road rise to meet you."

"May the blessing of light be on you. May the blessed sunlight shine on you and warm your heart till it glows like a great turf fire." Liam pulled back just long enough to stare into Aidan’s eyes. "Look after them, lad. See they’re kept safe. And mind yourself."

I will. The words strangled in Aidan’s throat. Before he could speak, Liam tore himself away, caught up his bag of possessions, and wrenched open the door.

Aidan stood for a long time, staring out the top of the half-door. A silent vow formed in his heart.

I’ll look after them, Liam.

I’ll make you proud.

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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.

I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond, and The Wild Geese Series, in which five Irish heroes return from the American Civil War to find love and adventure.

I’m 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 teenaged children.
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Reluctant Betrayer / eBook available from

2 comments:

  1. Hi Pat, thanks so much for having me as your guest today!

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    Replies
    1. Always a treat to see you and your stories here, Cynthia. Good luck with Reluctant Betrayer!

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