Thursday, January 27, 2011

Author Interview - Suzanne Barrett - Historical Romance

Thank you for stopping in to read about Suzanne Barrett and her newest release In Love and War, which finaled twice in the Golden Heart contest. Today we’re on location in a small country village in Ireland, touring the country side, old Irish castle ruins and visiting an ancient cemetery with historical author Suzanne Barrett. She’s published by Turquoise Press, and has another book soon to be released. Again, thank you for joining us as we get to know our author a bit better.

Deanna:
 Suzanne, thank you for being here as we tour your beloved Ireland. Tell us a bit about yourself that our readers might not know.

Suzanne:
 Some years back, I left Corporate America and an engineering job to write full time and haven’t looked back. I live in the country, raise chickens, garden and make jewelry and sell at arts and crafts shows.

Deanna:
 What made you want to become a writer?

Suzanne:
 I have always written: essays, short stories, correspondence with pen pals. I’ve been reading since I was three. My inspiration for wanting to create my own stories was LaVyrle Spencer’s HUMMINGBIRD.

Deanna:
 LaVyrle does have a knack for wonderful story telling! Do you write under a pen name?

Suzanne:
 I use my own name.

Deanna:
 As authors, we love all of our characters. Is there a certain type of character that is easier to write than another?

Suzanne:  I love the tortured hero, the shy and serious heroine (who is usually a reflection of me or at least a facet of me). Both are easier for me to flesh out than the humorous or quirky.

Deanna:
 Do you read in the same genre that you write in?

Suzanne:
 I love romance and romantic suspense, occasionally, the thriller. I write contemporary and historical and am currently working on my first romantic suspense.


Deanna:  Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

Suzanne:
 I’m definitely a morning person, up before dawn and writing, checking email with my cup of coffee. If I’m teaching water aerobics, I’m out of the house by 6:45 and back again by 10:30. The rest of my day is divided between writing, editing, working on jewelry and general home/garden tasks. I read and review in the evenings and usually go to bed by nine. With this kind of schedule, that leaves no time for TV. I catch the occasional British mystery on DVD.

Deanna:
 Most of us have pretty vivid imaginations when it comes to story lines. Where do your story ideas come from?

Suzanne:  From an amazing number of places. For my May release, which is about a female structural engineer who’s sent to England to work on an antenna support platform, I got the idea while working on...wait for it...an antenna support platform in the Santa Cruz mountains. Once, I took an unknown mountain road that dead-ended at a cattle guard with a dirt road winding down to a house, almost obscured from view. I did some what ifs: what if it was a dilapidated old Victorian lived in by three women and in need of a handyman? What if this handyman was an Irishman one step away from being found by ICE and deported­ a man who needed to hide?

For my new release (IN LOVE AND WAR, January 24th from Turquoise Morning Press), I spent part of a winter in County Waterford researching a number of things for some articles I was writing for Irish publications. I had just interviewed a dairy farmer and cheese maker, and then while there saw a program on RTE about a female farmer who single-handedly ran a sheep farm. Bingo, I had my heroine’s occupation, plus the plausibility! Interestingly enough, nearby was a converted castle keep that was being rented out. It became my heroine’s and the place where her lodger, my embittered war correspondent, comes to heal. What if his hatred of bloody, centuries-long conflict was his Achilles’ heel and the heroine came from an Irish Republican family with secrets? Wow! I had my story.

IN LOVE AND WAR is truly the book of my heart. It was twice a Golden Heart finalist manuscript, but because of the Irish conflict, unsalable to New York. Quinn Lawlor comes from a privileged family, his father a flag-waving pro-Republican Irishman who immigrated to the United States and who hasn’t forgotten the Cause. Quinn, on the other hand, has spent years trying to put it behind him and is estranged from his Irish political father. Because of this, Quinn is deeply apolitical and carries a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder for any group that espouses violence. Meaghann Power comes from a family with an IRA background, one with secrets to hide. She is exactly the kind of woman he should not love. Meaghann, older than Quinn, lives in a tight-knit village where gossip could ruin a life...hers. Dare she give in to the attraction that simmers between them? An attraction that could spell disaster for him as well as for her?


Writing about the conflict seemed natural. For four years I was the About.com Ireland for Visitors Guide, and I’ve been a student of Irish history for years (I have a five-foot-wide, floor-to-ceiling bookcase with nothing but Irish history and culture books.) I made numerous visits to Ireland and managed to get interviews with people who wouldn’t open up to the average tourist.

Quinn is the perfect tortured hero who’s had his career jerked away from him. Meaghann is the typical care giver, a woman afraid of growing old before her time but who has had to bear all the responsibility in her family with none of the rewards.

I would love for my readers to tell me how this setting and story resonates with them. Do they feel Meaghann’s struggle? Can they forgive Quinn his prejudice? Is the village of Timnagh real to them? What about the secondary characters? And most importantly, from the interview and following snippet, would they want to read this book?

IN LOVE AND WAR 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 lodger 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.


 

Deanna:  Your novel is definitely on my TBR list. I love stories in England and Ireland. Suzanne, I truly believe you have a wonderful story here. I’m glad our readers got to know you a little better. We wish you all the best. Where can our readers find more about you and your books?

Suzanne:  Thank you for having me on your blog. I hope our readers will take a peek at my sites and leave a comment or question today.

Also, I will offer an ebook to a commenter. Anyone can visit my blog and follow me to be in a drawing for a pair of sterling silver handmade (by me) Celtic spiral earrings. Thank you all for stopping in to learn about my latest release.

Suzanne Barrett
Jewelry Designer/Author
In Love and War, a novel of Ireland, available now from Amazon.com


Deanna:  Readers, I hope you have truly enjoyed today's interview. Suzanne will choose a winner on Friday so be sure to leave your comment or ask a question. Thank you for taking the time to be here!