I am thrilled to welcome Sheila here today because she has a brand new series – The County Cork Mysteries set in Ireland – having a few Irish ancestors myself I couldn’t wait to read this book!
Things have been a little hectic lately as I just launched my third series. Yes, third. Actually it’s my fourth, but the first one was written under a pen name and went away after three books. The others are ongoing (I hope!).
I’ve always read fast, and when I started writing, I found I write fast too. I had no idea what the right speed was, so I just sat down and did it. I like the pace, and besides, when I’m not writing or at least thinking about writing I feel kind of lost. And for most people, including me, writing is not just about slapping down a bunch of words and sending it off to your publisher—there’s a lot of editing and rewriting involved, so often I find myself writing one new one, editing an earlier one, and proofing a third. Yes, it can get confusing!
Why three series? Because they all reflect parts of my life, linked by the common thread of genealogy. My first series, the Orchard Mysteries, take place in a small town in western Massachusetts, in a colonial house. The house is one I know personally, because my six-times-great-grandfather built it around 1760, and I stayed there when it was a bed and breakfast. The town is real too—a classic New England town with the green in the center, the old white church at one end, and a lot of people whose families have lived there for many generations and whose names are on the road signs. So for the series, the location came first, and then I started adding people to it. I threw in my protagonist, an out-of-work Boston banker, and told her to manage an orchard. Neither of us knew much about orchards when I started, but we’re learning together.
The second series, the Museum Mysteries, came about because I worked for several years at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, first as a fundraiser and then as a researcher for hire. I loved working there, in part because it gave me access to amazing collections rich with local history. When I started writing I realized that while most cozies are set in small towns, the cultural community in Philadelphia is like a small town itself, where everyone knows everyone else. Plus there are all sorts of wonderful institutions there to dump a body in.
The most recent is the County Cork Mysteries. The series is based on one of the first books I ever wrote, over ten years ago. Over time some of the characters changed, but the setting never did. My father’s family came from Ireland, but I never had a chance to travel there until about fifteen years ago. He knew very little about the family’s history in Ireland, so I wanted to fill in the blanks. What I never expected was to gobsmacked by the place, in particular West Cork—also known as The Wild West of Ireland—where my grandfather was born. It’s picture postcard pretty, but just a bit wilder. And it’s not a quaint tourist attraction; there are vibrant towns and interesting people and a lot of history there.
Of course, I was hooked the moment I saw that the small town where we were staying had a pub called Connolly’s. I didn’t know then that Connolly’s was legendary, not for its drinks or its atmosphere, but because it was a mecca for musicians in that part of the world—performers whose names you would recognize. I was privileged to be there at the tail end of its heyday. Alas, the man who was the spirit behind it died a few years back, but the family still owns the place and there’s talk of bringing back the music, and I can promise you I’ll be there.
Ireland is kind of like a cozy setting on steroids. Remember that the population of the entire country is still under five million people, and a lot of them are concentrated in Dublin and Cork city. In the more rural areas, everybody knows who’s who, and who their grandparents were, and who they bought the land from. It’s unsettling to an American used to a sort of anonymity. One example: recently I was in a cemetery in County Cork and ran into a stranger, and we got to talking (as everyone does). It turns out that he knows my second cousin Catherine, one of the only other people I know in Ireland—and she hasn’t lived in the neighborhood for fifty years. Things like that keep happening in Ireland.
I have been so happy with the response to the first book in this series, Buried In a Bog. People write to tell me they want to get on a plane for Ireland immediately. I was so worried that I’d make it sound trite or superficial, but instead I did what I’d hoped to do: convey the spirit of the place. Reviewers have said that my love for Ireland shines through.
Capturing a place on a page is one of the joys of writing. Filling it with characters that people can identify with and care about is another. I feel very lucky to be doing what I do.
Sheila, Thank you so much for visiting today! I don’t know how you do it, keeping all this series going, but I am so glad you do!!!
Sheila Connolly has taught art history, structured and marketed municipal bonds for major cities, worked as a staff member on two statewide political campaigns, and served as a fundraiser for several non-profit organizations. She also managed her own consulting company providing genealogical research services. Now a full-time writer, she thinks writing mysteries is a lot more fun than any of her previous occupations.
She is a member of Sisters in Crime-New England (president 2011), the national Sisters in Crime, and the fabulous on-line SinC chapter, the Guppies. She also belongs to Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America.
Sheila is Regent of her local DAR chapter, and a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants. She’s also the grandchild of Irish immigrants (in case you’re worried that she’s a snob). In addition to genealogy, Sheila loves restoring old houses, visiting cemeteries, and traveling. She is married, and has one daughter and two cats.
Buried In a Bog
(A County Cork Mystery)
A Brand New Series
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (February 5, 2013)
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Daniel Craig
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
E-Book File Size: 531 KB
Honoring her late grandmother’s wish, Maura Donovan sets off on an adventure that could change her life. She travels to the small Irish village where her grandmother was born to connect with one of her grandmother’s friends and maybe learn a bit about her ancestors. The small community welcomes her with open arms and she even start to work in the local pub.
The pub is bursting at the seams as people gather to talk about the body found in a nearby bog. They speculate he may have been in there for more than 50 years. Maura realizes she man know something about the dead man but before she can talk to the authorities her own life is put in jeopardy. She starts to get that sinking feeling she just may be getting in over her head.
With an Irish grandfather myself that I never was able to meet I was so excited to read this book. It is a delightful debut to a series that I know I will love.
The author lets us escape to the beautiful countrysides of County Cork. Even when it is raining or foggy it sounds like charming place. She also gives us the history of the townlands and the people. She takes the time to explain the traditional naming patterns found in Ireland like the first born son is named for the father’s father. This custom could get quite confusing in large families. It gives an interesting twist to the story.
We are with Maura just as she starts on her journey to discover Ireland and its people. I am really looking forward to getting to know all the characters better in the next installments, especially Rose. She seems to have led a life very similar to Maura’s. Life runs at a much faster speed in Boston than it does in Leap but both stuck pretty close to home and put family needs ahead of their own. I look forward to a time of awakening for both young ladies.
Maura’s adventure to Ireland was quite a treat, the mysteries added were just icing on the cake. I am ready for my trip back to County Cork today. I can’t wait for book #2.
Thanks to the people at Penguin
I have 2 copies to giveaway!!
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