Tag Archives: Ireland

Interview with Medieval Thriller Author E.M. Powell

What can I say, I just love E.M. Powell. She’s a great writer and a wonderful person. A lot of research goes into her books! The third book in her medieval thriller series released recently so I caught up with her to talk about The Lord of Ireland. If you missed my review of this stellar book, you can read that HERE. Enjoy the interview! (P.S. Love this cover!!)

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Hi Elaine, welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I can’t believe it’s been a year since we visited, and invited Paddington Bear, but this year I think we will go a bit more Irish, since most of your third book, The Lord of Ireland, is placed there. Just like your roots! (And besides, my name is Erin…Ireland!) So welcome, come in and have a seat, I’ll put on the tea or coffee? Your choice today, just let me know your preference? And I’ve baked up some of my Irish soda bread as well so I’ll bring that in.

Elaine: Hi Erin—and yes, it feels like some very nice stars have aligned to have you talk to me about my book on Ireland. Coffee as always, please, though tea is the drink of choice in Ireland. And that bread smells so good!

Erin: Wonderful choice of course as I love coffee (but I also like tea hehe). I’ll pour and bring in a tray of soda bread fresh from the oven.

Let’s get started, as I have some interesting questions to ask you. How exciting is it to now have your third book in your series published?

Elaine: First, I must say, your soda bread is the best. You’ve passed the taste test with a genuine Irish person! As for exciting, having The Lord of Ireland out there in the world is hugely exciting but also deeply fulfilling. It’s been the book of my heart.

Erin: I really enjoy how you’ve switched the setting of this book to somewhere new, and to a place that doesn’t really seem to get as much historical fiction attention in the 12 century. Your details and descriptions were lovely. What gave you the idea to follow this track and how much research was involved?

Elaine: I had a launch of the first book in the series, The Fifth Knight, at the Irish world heritage Centre in Manchester in 2013. That book is set in 1170 England, featuring my fictional eponymous Sir Benedict Palmer, and it centers on the infamous murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. A member of the audience asked me if I would ever write a book about medieval Ireland. I said no, but even as the words came out of my mouth, I think that seed was planted.

In continuing the series, I wanted to stay with the theme of using a known historical event and providing my take on it. In the second book, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, Sir Benedict Palmer was charged with trying to figure out who was intent on murdering the Fair Rosamund, the young mistress of Henry II. This was set in 1176, again in England.

As I started to look for another hook (yes, the hook of a book!), I came across an account of Henry’s youngest son, John (he who would be Bad King John), going to Ireland at the age of eighteen and insulting the Irish chieftains who came to welcome him by pulling them by their beards and mocking them. This rang a bell. But further research told me John had an eight month campaign there. And that it was a disaster. And that he went there with his very first title: Lord of Ireland. I was in- and I was going back to Ireland, the land of my birth.

I have to confess, the research commitment to this book was huge. I had to research from the perspective of English/British history and of course Irish history. As you’ll appreciate, these don’t always agree on a consensus!

Erin: In deciding to feature Lackland in this novel, and his adventure to lead Ireland, you seem to have moved somewhat more away from a mystery element to more of an historical thriller. Would you say this is correct? Why did you decided to do so or did your muse and characters dictate the plot?

Elaine: In a way, it was a return to a thriller. The Fifth Knight was a thriller, The Blood of the Fifth Knight was more mystery and then I came back to thriller again. And both have elements of both! The mystery/crime/thriller genre(s) often has huge overlap between all three. I think ultimately The Lord of Ireland was more thriller because of the historical events that took place.

Fifth Knight Series Twitter

Erin: Yes, that’s true I can see that, reading all three. Speaking of Lackland, youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, you seemed to prove all the previous writings and rumors of him in history to be true and presented him as such in your novel—cruel and spiteful, and yet, modern historians have tried to paint him more as hard working and more able bodied as a leader. What are your thoughts and why/how did you prove enough to stand behind how you presented him as a character?

Elaine: I read many, many books and articles about John. While there are a few voices that paint him in a more positive light, most are still very much agreed that he was dreadful. One of the most recent biographies of King John is English historian Marc Morris’s 2015 King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta. As one might guess from the title, Morris is not a fan. It’s a wonderful read. As for John’s first trip to Ireland, the eminent Irish historian Seán Duffy sums it up thus: ‘If, as few would dispute, John’s 1185 expedition was a military failure, it was disastrous too in a political sense. ‘

Erin: I always enjoy your characters and you have superb character development that gets deeper with  each novel, both your main characters becoming more complex and your newly introduced sub-characters being created with more depth. I’m always glad to see Palmer again, but I’m very glad you endeavor to give his wife more of a role now. Did you plan that or is her character speaking to you? Why is she becoming such an important asset to Palmer and to the books?

Elaine: I’m so pleased you should say that! Characterization was my Achilles Heel pre-publication and I’m always aware of that. Theodosia, Palmer’s wife, had a more active role in this book because I planned it. In the second book, she was the mother of very small children and I couldn’t allow her to step away from that role as I truly believe most women wouldn’t. And (no spoilers!), she actually had the final say in that book too. A shrinking violet, she ain’t!

Erin: Your series, The Fifth Knight, is in its third book now with The Lord of Ireland. Where will the series go from here? Do you have more planned?

Elaine: I have a Book #4 in the works, which will be the last in the series. I also have a very exciting project linked to Book #2, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, that I can’t discuss yet. Stay tuned!

Erin: What authors influence/influenced you in writing medieval thrillers and who do you enjoy reading?

Elaine: I love Robert Harris’s Pompeii above all else when it comes to historical thrillers. To me, it’s the gold standard. It’s got a wonderful hero- a water engineer (yes, you read that right!) and no one knows that the big old mountain is about to blow. Except the reader. It’s compelling and exciting and above all, you’re THERE. 

Erin: What types of places have you visited in doing your research, either in person or by Internet, that you’ve loved? And why? And did they end up in your book(s)?

Elaine: Part of my research for the Lord of Ireland involved a research trip to Ireland. I know—a tough job, but someone had to do it. I had a clear itinerary as I had the good fortune that Henry II had sent his royal clerk, Gerald of Wales, with John. Gerald wrote an account of John’s campaign and mentioned many of the events that took place as well as the locations John visited. So I started at Waterford, scene of the beard pulling, where John landed. Much of what was present in 1185 still exists—even some of the buildings. Where buildings such as wooden fortresses had long gone, in parts of Co. Tipperary and Co. Kilkenny, I still had the lie of the land to go at. And then there were places that were ancient even when John arrived, like a Durrow in Co. Offaly. There’s a High Cross there that dates from 850 AD. Seeing things like that helped me to put the history into its correct perspective. It might have been a new land to John—but not to the Irish.

Erin: If not writing mysteries or thrillers, what other types of historical fiction, time periods, or genres would you attempt?

Elaine: I wouldn’t! The first version of The Fifth Knight was very heavily weighted on the romance side and it won several times in RWA contests. It still has romantic elements, as do the other two books. But I’m a thriller writer at heart.

Erin: If you could meet one woman from history, and then write a book about her, who would it be?

Elaine: It would have to be Emmeline Pankhurst, the leading British women’s rights activist, who led the movement to win the right for women to vote— the suffragettes. She fought tooth and nail and refused to give up. And she won.

Erin: Yes! Good choice. More coffee to go? I’ll wrap up some bread for you to take home. It’s been a pleasure to interview you again and you’re welcome anytime. Thanks for coming by, my friend, and for continually writing excellent books! Best wishes for a great year.

Elaine: Any chance you could make that two loaves? And it’s been an absolute privilege, as always—slánleatagus go raibhmaithagat!

02_The-Lord-of-IrelandTHE LORD OF IRELAND (THE FIFTH KNIGHT, #3)

by E.M. Powell

Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Thomas & Mercer
Kindle, Paperback, Audiobook; 370 Pages

Series: The Fifth Knight
Genre: Historical Thriller

England, 1185. John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname ‘Lackland’. When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry’s reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order.

Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship—he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father’s shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.

But Palmer is horrified when John disregards Henry’s orders and embarks on a campaign of bloodshed that could destroy the kingdom. Now Palmer has to battle the increasingly powerful Lord of Ireland. Power, in John’s hands, is a murderous force—and he is only just beginning to wield it.

Praise for The Fifth Knight Series

“With her fast-paced mysteries set in the tumultuous reign of Henry II, E.M. Powell takes readers on enthralling, and unforgettable, journeys.” -Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

“Both Fifth Novels are terrific. Benedict and Theodosia are not merely attractive characters: they are intensely real people.” -Historical Novels Review

“From the get-go you know you are in an adventure when you enter the world of E.M. Powell’s 12th century. Peril pins you down like a knight’s lance to the chest”-Edward Ruadh Butler, author of Swordland

AMAZON US | AMAZON UK | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY |CHAPTERS

Author E. M. Powell, Biography

03_E.M.-Powell-197x300E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight have been number-one Amazon bestsellers and on the Bild bestseller list in Germany.

Born into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) and raised in the Republic of Ireland, she lives in north-west England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

She reviews fiction and non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine.

Find more information at E.M. Powell’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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Never Be At Peace, by M.J. Neary, Shows a Fresh Look at Irish Independence Movement

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailI have been so excited to review M.J. Neary’s newest book, Never Be At Peace! I have always been interested in Irish history and culture, especially considering my name, Erin, means Ireland! I had a guest post with her last month about her writing Irish history and  you can view it HERE!

Never Be At Peace takes place in Ireland around the turn of the 19th century, at a time when the Irish independence movements were gaining speed. The novel’s main protagonist, Helena Molony, works to liberate Ireland, overcoming obstacles such as her gender and the entire British Empire that would have made a weaker person crumble.

This novel is fresh and new because it shows us the beginnings of the IRA and Sinn Fein, of the times of Michael Collins. Most of us know solely of the IRA and Sinn Fein in the 1970s and 1980s, when London was being bombed at an alarming rate. It is a look at the rebellious streak that defines the Irish.

All of Neary’s characters are well-formed, with hopes and losses, with love and death. We feel all of their emotions within ourselves as we read. Never Be At Peace is also fast-paced, where the military scenes are captivating. They are not sugar-coated nor overly gruesome, just enough that we know what is going on. We learn a lot of the strategy the IRA used at this time in trying to form their own independent Ireland and the toll the battles put on the independence fighters.

We see a whole new side of this story in Never Be At Peace. We have all heard the British side in our own lives, most of us anyway. We also have heard about the terrorists that made up the IRA in the 70s and 80s, but in this novel we see the members in the early days of the Irish Independence Movement on a human level. We remove the veil of violence and hate and see all as humans, with flaws and all. This is the greatest thing I took away from Neary’s book and I believe that all who read this will be better for it.

I would suggest this book to a fan of military history, but also to anyone who likes British or Irish History. The hostility between the British and Irish still has not ended, making this book timely and one that we all need to read to understand the past so that we can prevent the same type of death we saw then from happening in the future.

Never Be At Peace, Synopsis~

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailA pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom – and political martyrdom. Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies.

After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices.

In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

 Author M.J. Neary, Biography~

Neary author photoA Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin. Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history.

She explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. Her debut novel Wynfield’s Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal.

With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks. Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.

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Article by M.J. Neary About Her Quest to Write Irish History, While Not Being Irish…

The author M.J. Neary offers a book called Never Be at Peace, which surrounds the Irish uprising against the British on Easter 1916.  Today, she is featured here with an interesting article about how people viewed a non-Irish person writing about a major Irish historical happening. Take a look and then view her book and author bio below. I’ll be back around with a review later this month!

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“Who Gave You Permission to Write about Ireland?”
by M.J. Neary, author

As every other young author, I kept hearing the same advice: “Write what you know.” But what you know is not necessarily what you grew up with. Five novels later, if I could have a penny for every time someone asked me why a Russian-Polish continental Euro mutt like me would write about Irish history, I wouldn’t need a day job.  Over the course of my Celtic adventures I have discovered that the Irish as well as Irish-Americans split into two categories: those who are very welcoming and eager to share their culture with the world, and those who are rather defensive and hostile towards outsiders. I guess same can be said for all people who have a strong sense of ethnic identity.

When I signed up for an Irish language course in college, my professor, a Dubliner no less, said to me, “I think are n the wrong place.  Eastern European women’s studies are down the hall. This class is for Irish-Americans who want to learn about their heritage.”  It’s a miracle he didn’t call me a bloody communist.  Thank God I did not have a cup of coffee in my hand, because it would have ended up all over his shirt. I continued with his class and had the best Gaelic pronunciation.  By the end of the semester, I was his favorite student, though he was reluctant to admit it.

Now that I have an Irish married name, people don’t second-guess my devotion to Irish culture so much and my decision to write about Irish history.  Then I open my mouth at book signings, and people ask me, “You have a bit of a brogue. County Galway?”  I smirk.  County Chernobyl more like it.  I don’t really have an accent.  After 22 years in the US, I sound like a typical corporate New England bitch that I am during the day.  If we’re selling medical equipment, people wouldn’t think to ask me where I was from.  But when you do explore the question of ethnic identity in your books, your readers try to place you as an author and as a person in an ethnic context.  They start scrutinizing your every opinion through the prism of your ethnicity.  “Oh, look, she parts her hair in the middle.  Never seen that before. That’s how they must do it … over there … in County Galway.”

One common misconception that has been a source of great frustration for me is that you need to be ethnically Irish in order to write about something as sensitive as the Anglo-Irish conflict.  My college professor held that belief.  He gave me an A, but he discouraged me from writing fiction set in Ireland, because “it just wouldn’t come out authentic.” According to him, you have to be born there, or at least have parents who were born there, in order to fully understand the melancholic long-suffering collective Irish soul.  What a bunch of elitist boloney! It’s like saying that white people should not attempt to play jazz, or non-Jews should not attempt to write about the Holocaust.

I believe that being a genetic outsider gives me a certain advantage, that of healthy detachment and objectivity.  There are benefits to embracing a cultural tradition as an adult on your own accord as opposed to being born into it. One benefit is that you cannot be accused of taking sides and spreading propaganda.  As a historical novelist, I do not engage in propaganda or apologetics. That would make me a politician, and that’s the last thing the world needs. I can always throw my hands up and say, “Hey, don’t look at me. I’m just a dumb communist Polack. This is my impartial view of another country’s past.”  With the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin just around the corner, there is a great deal of revising and reevaluating happening.

Truth be told, I am no stranger to the idea of nationalism.  Growing up, I was exposed to a fair amount of it at home.  My biological father was a Polish nationalist, who had perceived Russia as Poland’s cultural and political oppressor. Like his Irish counterpart Patrick Pearse, whose speech inspired the title for “Never Be at Peace”, my father believed in the power of a good spectacle, the bloodier and messier the better.  He believed that if you cause enough commotion on the streets in the name of your Cause, that’s half the battle already.  Winning is not required. Victory in a military sense would be the cherry on top.  Attracting attention is good enough.  You cause a skirmish, and that will automatically put you on the map.  It will give you credibility, and your enemies will know that you mean business.

While I retain considerable amount of admiration for my biological father, I harbor no illusions about his motives.  Was he really fighting for the interests of an oppressed nation, or was he merely fighting for limelight?  I’ve grown to realize that nationalism in various countries unfolds according to the same formula. You just need a bunch of eager barricade-climbers.  Many of them don’t understand what they are fighting for.  They love the idea of being martyrs for a noble cause.

I can write about Irish rebels, because I’ve seen that euphoric fanatical light in my own father’s eyes.  Unlike Patrick Pearse, my father survived his flirtation with martyrdom. still alive. He was not shot on the barricades or executed by the authorities.  Now he looks back on his escapades with a mixture of nostalgia and embarrassment. Had he been born in Ireland at the turn of the century, his fate might have been different.  So yes, I feel qualified to write about the Easter Rising of 1916, because I believe that I have enough insight into the psyche of a revolutionary.

Here’s the author, red hair and all….I mean she has red hair, doesn’t that qualify?

Neary photo

Never Be at Peace, Book Blurb~

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailA pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom – and political martyrdom.

Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices.

In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”. For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

Here is a picture of Helena sent by M.J. Neary:

Marina 1

Author M.J. Neary, Biography~

Neary author photoA Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin.

Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.

Her debut novel Wynfield’s Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal.

With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks. Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.

Praise for Never Be at Peace~

“M. J. Neary’s Never Be at Peace is a gripping and intense tale of Ireland in the thick of revolution. Told from the perspectives of the brave and uncompromising men and women involved in the fight for independence, it will delight fans of women’s history and Irish history. Meticulously researched and boldly-written, Never Be at Peace is a masterful story that breathes life Edwardian Ireland and illuminates the hearts and minds of these unforgettable Irish patriots.” –Evangeline Holland, Edwardian Promenade

“Neary’s Helena Molony is a storm of a character who comes to life along with a cast of the giants of early 20th century Ireland. Helena’s story will stick with you long after you turn the last page.” –Meghan Walsh, The Recorder, The Journal of the American Irish Historical Society

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