Monday, 24 January 2011

Suzanne Barrett: 'In Love and War' - a novel of Ireland




Civilization is hooped together, brought
Under a rule, under the semblance of peace
By manifest illusion; but man’s life is thought,
And he, despite his terror, cannot cease
Ravening, raging, and uprooting that he may come
Into the desolation of reality
William Butler Yeats

Lindsay, thank you for having me, I’m honored to be here, pleased to be given a forum where I can tell a bit about my latest release and its circuitous journey to publication.

IN LOVE AND WAR was a concept born many years ago, an idea that wouldn’t go away. Then, a year later, I had the opportunity to spend part of a winter in County Waterford, near the town of Cappoquin. Previous visits had been in the months of May and June which just precede the tourist season. While I was prepared for the damp, I wasn’t prepared for the short days and many shop and tourist closures. However, we managed to see many sights the average tourist wouldn’t, and we found ourselves the only Americans. I spent the early hours writing, the remainder of each day gathering interviews from a variety of sources: Irish farmhouse cheeses, an Irish school in the Waterford Gaeltacht, an angora rabbit farm where they used the fur for knitted garments, even a pub that catered to Republicans. In a few short weeks I had the bare bones for my plot, occupations for the protagonists, motives for the antagonist.

I returned home, wrote the book, and discovered that my publisher wouldn’t accept a story with an Irish heroine and New York wouldn’t touch a book about the Troubles. I despaired of ILAW ever finding a home, even though it was–and is--my favorite of all the books I’ve written. Oh, people liked it–it was twice a Golden Heart finalist. But nobody wanted to publish it. Sigh.

I kept writing, sold other books, stopped writing and then returned. Fast forward to the present and voila! Turquoise Morning loved the story. IN LOVE AND WAR is about Quinn Lawlor, an embittered war correspondent who goes to his ancestral home to heal. He’s wounded in body and soul. He’s disfigured, his television career is over, and he harbors a hatred of political and religious conflict. In the tiny village of Timnagh, he rents a converted castle keep from dairy farmer Meaghann Power. Almost immediately an attraction simmers, but Ms. Power is exactly the woman Quinn shouldn’t love. She has family secrets that would ostracize her from the community she’s lived in her entire life.

Excerpt
 
County Waterford - 1993

Father Donovan returned and directed Meaghann into his study. "Now," he said, lowering his robust frame onto an overstuffed chair, indicating she should do the same. "Tell me about this boarder. I trust you're...having no difficulty?"

Meaghann sank into the opposite chair. "I've rented out the keep. Uncle Tom suggested it, and it seemed a good idea. It's working well. And Quinn-- "

The priest took the tray from the elderly housekeeper and set it on a table. "Oh, thank you Mrs. Aherne." He poured two cups of tea and offered one to Meaghann.

"Quinn, you say?" he asked after settling back in his chair. "Have I met the fellow?"

Meaghann cast an uneasy glance at the priest's piercing eyes. Clear and questioning--definitely questioning. "Quinn Lawlor. His family left Timnagh in the sixties. You might remember his father, Patrick."

"Hmmm. I'd just come down from Maynooth then," the priest mused. He took a bite from a square of cake on his plate. "Yes, of course I remember Paddy. A firebrand if ever I saw one." His brows formed a continuous line across intense blue eyes. "Not unlike his son, I'm told. A man in a dangerous occupation."

"Then you know about Quinn."

Father Donovan contemplated the cup of tea in his hand. "Just what I hear--that he's a war correspondent. I've seen a piece or two about him. Perceptive young man, so they say."

"He's writing a book, now--since his accident."

"Why haven't I seen him at Mass?"

"He's...busy, I guess."

The bushy brows rose. "Too busy to keep the sacraments?" The priest subjected her to a precise scrutiny.
"My dear girl, you realize that having a man living on your property will cause tongues to wag."

Meaghann twiddled the strap on her shoulder bag. "Tongues wag whether there's cause or not. I intend to pay it no mind, Father."

"Just so long as you know what you're inviting. I'll not see God mocked in my parish. 'Tis easy for a woman alone to be beguiled by a man such as that one."

A chilling silence settled over the room. "What do you mean 'such as that one'?"

"Read the paper, my girl. Your boarder has a fair reputation with the ladies."

Meaghann plunked her cup and saucer down on the tray. "His life is his own business, Father. Not mine."

The priest tented pudgy fingers over the black worsted wool of one thigh. "The one that wears the shoe knows where it pinches, girl. See you remember it." His fleshy lips thinned. "We don't need another Sean Foley. One fool in a parish is enough."

Meaghann sucked in a breath, then lurched to her feet. Everybody knew Con and Cait's mother had run off with a Tinker when the twins were babies and that their father, Sean, had spent the better part of a year drinking and whoring in the village until he met Sally, the twins' stepmother, and married her. Now, he was a model husband and father, but the older villagers and Father Donovan never forgot his long ago indiscretion.

"Thank you, Father," she said, her voice stiff. "I must be going."

Her cheeks tingled as she let herself out. Damned self-righteous man. Aunt Brid must have run straight to Father with the news. Brid's genetic inability to miss a piece of gossip had brought more than one set of troubles to their lives. Meaghann strode to her car, plunked herself on the seat, and lurched into the lane of traffic. The transmission complained as she missed a gear. Neither the villagers nor Father Donovan would dictate to her what she did with her life.

She braked with a squeal of tires in front of the village market. It was her life, after all. Were a few weeks of happiness too much to ask for?

But all the same, she had better be sure she wasn't making Blind Billy's bargain. After all, she was much older than Quinn. And she wasn't experienced, or educated like the women he had known. Her clothes, even her manners, were plain. Countrified. But those things, she acknowledged, were insignificant when compared to her biggest problem. As long as Quinn harbored bitterness against her people, she couldn't tell him about her family. Or herself. Certainly not about their fierce love for Ireland or their fight for freedom. He'd never understand.

She reached into the rear seat for her shopping bag, then slung her purse over one shoulder and stepped from her car to the curb.

Inside the market, Meaghann wandered down each aisle. With Quinn very much on her mind, she moved mechanically, dropping items from this shelf and that into her basket. She paused at the meat counter and selected a plump fryer for dinner.

From behind the meat case, Liam Connaughton handed her the wrapped chicken. "Hear ye've put Con and Cait Foley on full time, Meaghann." He flashed her a good-natured smile.

Meaghann nodded and made a perusal of the chops displayed in the center of the case. "For the summer at least. I'll have a bit of your sirloin as well."

"Would ye be wantin' one cut or two?"

Meaghann stared at the butcher's bulbous nose. "Why, two, I suppose."

"Thought so. My Mary says you got a fellow stayin' at your place. Would he be anyone I know?"

For an instant, Meaghann's heart stopped. She stared at the butcher, and let out a slow breath. "You don't know him, Liam. He's an American--a writer."

"Then he'd be the fellow I saw askin' around about the Fenian graves. A fine doorful of a man he is, never mind the limp."

The Fenian graves! The hastily dug graves for the village men who'd taken part in the Rising of 1867. The mention of their graves always made her eerily aware of the secret associated with that obscure plot of ground, a secret only she knew.

Meaghann eyed the butcher curiously. "When did you see Mr. Lawlor, Liam?"

"Oh, t'wasn't more'n two hours ago. He was walkin' past the shop, talkin' to old Dennis."

Talking to the news agent, was he? Gathering material for his book. Meaghann groaned. Dennis meant well, but too often he embroidered great, grand tales for the occasional tourist who happened to stop at his corner shop. Tales about the various risings and the parts played by the villagers. To hear Dennis say it, every man's forebear had been a Volunteer in one insurrection or another.

And what mad stories would he have told Quinn about her family? Meaghann shuddered. Near her great-grandfather's grave existed another, shallower grave, known only to her. Her father had discovered it, and it had changed his life. Quinn must never find out!

She felt the blood drain from her face. Taking the package of meat from the butcher, she dropped it into her basket. "Th--thank you, Liam," she stuttered. "Give my love to Mary and the little ones."

If any stories were to be told about her family and their part in the Rising, she must be the one to tell him.

* * * * *

The release date is January 24. IN LOVE AND WAR is my second book for Turquoise Morning Press and the first of five books scheduled for 2011.

In addition to writing, I am also a jewelry designer (www.bellerustique.com) and an Irish travel guide at (www.irelandforvisitors.com).

I am offering a free electronic copy of IN LOVE AND WAR and a pair of handmade sterling silver Celtic spiral earrings to one person who presents proof of purchase for the book.

The proof involves answering two questions about the book (answers to my email by March 1st,  please):

1. What is the name of Meaghann's cat?

2. Meaghann's brother spends a night in jail. In what town or city is the jail located?

17 comments:

Paula Martin said...

Suzanne, I love Ireland and your excerpt has captured something very essentially Irish - news travelling fast, everyone with their own comments about it, I loved it.
Good wishes for your continued success!

suzanne said...

Thank you, Paula. As I said, this is my favorite of all my books and one that seemed to write itself. And I do love Ireland, particularly West Cork and Galway, but I love England, too.

Bobbye Terry said...

Great post, Suzanne. New York doesn't know what it missed.;) Also congratulations to Turquoise Morning Press for seeing a gem.
Bobbye Terry

suzanne said...

Bobbye: I like to think that, too. But I'm mystified by what New York thinks sells. Maybe if twenty-somethings weren't deciding, we'd get more variety.

As for Turquoise Morning Press, I am delighted to be working with Kim who shares our views.

Danielle Thorne said...

Sounds really exciting and I love your cover. Good luck with your book!

Kim said...

Hi Suzanne. Just coming by to say hello. Just tossing in my two cents (and not entering the contest) to say how much we love your work at TMP and look forward to publishing more and more of your work. In Love and War is definitely a winner!

suzanne said...

Aw, Kim. That is such a sweet thing to say. And you are the best publisher a writer could wish for.

suzanne said...

Hey, guys: the cupboards are bare, so if himself wants to have a hot dinner, this gal needs to gather provisions at the cash and carry. So, if I don't respond for a couple of hours, rest assured, I will be back shortly.

TracyM said...

Hi Suzanne,

I love your stories...the one of your experience in Ireland that inspired the novel, and the excerpt, too! My favorite line from the excerpt: ...a fine doorful of a man! I've never heard that expression before and it was so fun and unexpected.

I'm honored to be at TMP with talented writers (and a jewlery designer!) like you!

Best of luck with IN LOVE AND WAR!

Tracy March :)

Margaret said...

Loved the excerpt, Suzanne! In Love and War looks fantastic. It's definitely on my TBR list!

Lily Harlem said...

Congratulations on your release. Wishing you many sales.Your excerpt really captured me and I wanted to keep on reading!

Jan Scarbrough said...

Hi, Suzanne, stopping by after work. I need to also stop by and buy your e-book. Downloading is so nice!

suzanne said...

Tracy: thanks so much. You know, I've spent so much time traveling or with my face in a British or Irish book, sometimes I'm not aware that the phrases I use seem odd to Americans (but I did know about the doorful thing.) I agree about the great company we're in at TMP.

suzanne said...

Margaret and Lily: thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Lily: stop by the Turquoise Morning Press blog for a different excerpt. (http://turquoisemorningpressblog.blogspot.com/)
I posted that one last night.

suzanne said...

Thank you, Jan: yes, it is soooo easy to buy digital books. Sometimes too easy.

Hope you enjoy it.

Kemberlee said...

Suzanne,
I'm so glad to see you're publishing again. Good luck with In Love and War.

You're right about publishers not wanting war stories. It's a touchy subject that can enrage factions on many sides, including the religious.

Your romances are heartwarming so this one should be lovely too.

Kemberlee Shortland
http://www.kemberlee.com
Available now - A PIECE OF MY HEART, part of the Irish Pride series, Highland Press - An award winning, 5 star romance set in the wilds of western Ireland
Available now - CONSTANT CRAVING, the short story sequel to A Piece of My Heart, Tirgearr Publishing

suzanne said...

Hello Kemberlee: It's been a while!
Thanks for commenting, and thank you for the compliments. I just bought A Piece of My Heart. Look forward to reading it.