by Eileen O’Finlan
Publisher: BWL Publishing Inc. (March 1, 2018)
Paperback: 433 pages
Kindle ASIN: B07B52K2TB
Meg O’Connor, daughter of poor Irish cottiers, eagerly anticipates her wedding to Rory Quinn. Her dreams of marriage and family vanish along with Ireland’s potato crop when Kelegeen’s inhabitants awaken one morning to find their sole source of food destroyed by blight.
At first Meg and Rory are able to use their skills, hers of sewing and his of wood carving, to provide for themselves and their families. But tragedy and a costly mistake end those means of survival forcing them into more dangerous ventures.
As An Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger, continues to churn through Ireland ravaging the country’s peasantry with no let up in sight, Meg is compelled to make the most difficult decision of her life. What she chooses could be the salvation of the O’Connor and Quinn families or it could separate her forever from all she knows and loves.
I am thrilled to welcome Eileen O’Finlan to Escape With Dollycas today!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a native New Englander, born and raised in Massachusetts, though my favorite state is Vermont. Both of my parents are from Vermont, most of my relatives live there, and my best childhood memories are of times spent with family in Vermont. Someday I’d love to make it my home, not just my home-away-from-home.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in history and a Master’s degree in Catholic Pastoral Ministry. I work full-time for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester. I also facilitate online courses in Catholic studies for the University of Dayton, Ohio.
Writing is my greatest passion along with reading. I adore cats. Currently, an adorable calico Maine Coon named Autumn Amelia allows me to live with her. I also shared living quarters with a gorgeous Russian Blue named Smokey, but sadly she passed away at the beginning of May. She was nearly 20 years old and, though I miss her terribly, I am glad I was able to give her a happy life.
What are three things most people don’t know about you?
- I would love to learn to ride a horse.
- When I’m alone in the car, I crank the music up high and sing along while fantasizing about being a rock star (lead singer and/or lead guitarist – can’t sing worth nickle and don’t know how to play guitar, so I guess that won’t be happening any time soon!)
- I would love to try acting, but doubt I could remember my lines.
What is the first book you remember reading?
I don’t know which was the first book I ever read, but I do know that the first book to have a huge impact on me was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I also spent a lot of childhood hours devouring the Nancy Drew Mystery series.
What are you reading now?
At the moment, I am reading Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino, and Never Done: A History of American Housework by Susan Strasser.
What books have most inspired you?
As mentioned above, Little Women was probably my biggest inspiration. I completely identified with Jo March. Another great favorite is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I have always loved 19th-century classics.
What made you decide you wanted to write historical stories?
I love history. My undergrad degree is in history. I come from a family of history lovers. My family discusses historical events like most people discuss current events. I’m especially interested in everyday life in other time periods as well as little known occurrences.
Do you have a special place you like to write?
The place doesn’t seem to matter. What matters is what’s going on around me. I find it very hard to focus if there is a TV or radio on nearby or if people are talking. I think it competes with the words in my head. Instrumental music, white noise, nature sounds – anything non-human vocal is fine.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
Lots of places. Often from reading non-fiction history books or from something I watched on PBS. Other times a picture will inspire a story. I can be flipping through a magazine, catalog, newspaper, or pretty much anything that has photographs and a picture will catch my eye. I usually can’t explain what it is about it that draws me, but I know when it happens because I just can’t stop looking at it. Before I know it a story is forming in my mind. This happens most with pictures of people. It could be from paintings or drawings, too. I doesn’t have to be photographs.
Finding enough time to write is my biggest challenge. My goal is to reach the point where I can make a living writing so that I can do it full-time. Right now I have to work a full-time job as well as do some online teaching on the side. I love both of them, but they do take up a lot of time I’d rather spend writing.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think it’s a combination of things. Usually, I need to like the protagonist to enjoy the story. I love well crafted characters. I want to feel as though I know them. An interesting plot is also essential. There has to be something at stake. I need a reason to root for a character. Plot is about what happens and I want to care about what happens to the characters. So, for me, I guess characters are most important, but what’s going on in the lives of the characters matters a great deal.
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
That is a very hard question to answer. I don’t think any of my characters are much like me. On the other hand, there is probably a little bit of me in all of them. If I have to choose one, I’d say Kathleen O’Connor in Kelegeen is probably the most like me.
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
So far, I only have one book out, my debut novel, Kelegeen, but I have plans for several more, enough that I think I can answer this question. As I mentioned earlier, I love the little known events in history. That’s what I want to write about. With Kelegeen, it was Ireland’s Great Hunger (aka the Irish Potato Famine). It seems most people have heard of it, but don’t really know much about it. It’s barely a footnote in history classes. So many people who’ve read Kelegeen have told me that they’d heard of it, but they had no idea how devastating it was, nor did they understand anything about the political motivations that prevented any real assistance from reaching Ireland for many years.
I love to set stories in the midst of little or unknown events or focus on little known aspects of great events. For example, I have a story in mind that will be set in Vermont in the 1830s with the New England Vampire Panic as the backdrop. Most people are pretty familiar with the Salem Witch Trials, but how many people have even heard of the New England Vampire Panic? That said, I also want to write a novel set during the Salem Witch Trials, but told from an unusual angle.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Next up is Erin’s Children, the sequel to Kelegeen. I’ve greatly enjoyed writing it because I set it in the city where I work – Worcester, Massachusetts. It’s been fun researching the history of Worcester in the 1850s. I now look at the city in a whole new way. Erin’s Children is due to be released in early December of 2020.
After that, I plan to get to work on that New England Vampire Panic novel. As a point of clarification, there will be no vampires in it and it will not be a horror. Though necessarily a bit on the dark side, it will be pure historical fiction. If you’re intrigued, google New England Vampire Panic to find out what actually happened and how it got that name.
Thank you, Eileen, so much for visiting today.
MoreAbout Eileen O’Finlan
Eileen O’Finlan calls her writing “history with a twist” because she is intrigued by the unusual and little known aspects of history – the stories on history’s margins, the things rarely taught in the classroom. For her, that’s where history really gets fun.
Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, her family moved to Worcester when she was two. Four years later they moved to Holden where Eileen grew up and where she now resides with her 93 year old mother and two cats.
Eileen holds a Bachelor’s degree in history and a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry. She works full time for the Diocese of Worcester and teaches online courses in Catholic studies for the University of Dayton, Ohio. She is proud to say that Pope Francis owns a copy of her debut novel, Kelegeen. Erin’s Children, the sequel to Kelegeen, will be released by BWL Publishing, Inc. in December of 2020.
Great Escapes Praise for Kelegeen
by Eileen O’Finlan
The level of writing in this book is exceptional. I thoroughly enjoyed every story and the emotions run the entire gamut of human feelings. The characters are three-dimensional and relatable.
~My Devotional Thoughts
I love the cover, the premise, and always a good historical novel . . . .For the sensitive, the conclusion is emotional, wringing out all the poignant issues of pushing off to the unknown . . .
Truly a masterpiece of historical representation! Prepare to love the characters and pray for the souls lost in this tragedy.
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