I would like to welcome Jeanette Baker to Royal Reviews.
Tell us something about yourself, so that we can get to know you a bit better…
My writing career began in 1973 as a newspaper reporter in Belfast Northern Ireland where I wrote news and human interest for 9 years before coming home to California to teach school and write a column for my local newspaper. In 1991 I began writing historical fiction, then paranormals and eventually contemporary fiction. My publishers include Simon & Schuster, Kensington, Mira and now Sourcebooks. I’ve also published an e-book called WITCH WOMAN. I still teach in Lake Forest, California and spend my summers in Tralee, Ireland, my fiance’s home. My family, the O’Flahertys, live on a small island, Inishmore, off the coast of Galway. I have two grown children. I love to cook, I read constantly and although I’m not at all shy, I’m definitely an introvert.
Your novel Nell is out now—congrats! Could you tell us about it?
NELL is a love story, the tale of Eleanor Fitzgerald and Donal O’Flaherty and their descendents, Jillian Fitzgerald of Kildare Hall, a Protestant born to wealth and privilege, and Francis Maguire, the Caltholic son of her father’s kennel keeper. Jillian and Frankie’s affection is innocent, pure, childlike, until an act of violence tears them apart only to be reunited twenty-five years later at the peak of Ireland’s troubles. Jillian is the Minister for Northern Ireland, a British aristocrat, a widow, wealthy by birth and through marriage, representing years of Catholic oppression. Frankie is the chief negotiator for the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, an escaped felon living under an assumed name with a wife crippled by a plastic bullet and a six-year-old son. The story moves back and forth between the 15th century and present day, weaving the history of ancient Ireland into the present day conflict.
The arrest of Gerald Fitzgerald, 9th Earl of Kildare was the catalyst for the conflict in Northern Ireland. What was it like to write about that period in history and the trickle effect it had?
The conflict in Ireland has its roots in the 11th century when Dermot MacMurrough, king of Munster, invited the Welshman, Richard Fitzgilbert De Clare, 2nd earl of Pembroke, to help him win back his kingdom in exchange for his daughter, Aoife, and the kingdom of Munster. The Welsh marcher lords married into Irish families and became immersed in Irish language, culture and customs, becoming “more Irish than the Irish themselves.” Gerald Fitzgerald, the closest “legitimate” heir to the English throne was a terrible threat to Henry Tudor, but it wasn’t until the bloody extermination of Catholics by the Protestant, Oliver Cromwell, in the 17th century that true hatred of all things English was born in Ireland. In answer to the above question, what is amazing about researching the recent past, and the 16th century is the recent past in Ireland, is the accessibility of history. Everything is right there, around every corner is a ruin, a restored castle or a tourist center with historians eager to share.
In Nell, you have taken a few creative liberties, such as having Gerald Fitzgerald, 9th Earl of Kildare alive in 1537, how do you know when to take these liberties and when stay true to fact?
My rule of thumb is, does the event or scene move the story forward? Is it necessary for the plot? Will it be interesting to readers who don’t have my background or stake in the subject? I’m writing historical fiction which means my main characters usually do not exist or if they do they are fictionalized while my settings and customs are fairly accurate. Sometimes, even these are adapted to make an event or motivation clearer than the historical account.
What can readers expect next?
I’m thinking about an Irish novel similar in style and tone to LEGACY, my first Scottish paranormal set in four different periods of Scottish history, told in both first and third person.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
Publishing is completely different now than when I first started writing fiction in 1992. Then, there were many more publishers as well as independent and large chain bookstores. E-books and blogs were nonexistent. A good book is essential but so is savvy marketing. Because the industry is changing as I write, the best advice I can give is to keep up by participating in writing organizations and conferences. Listen to the message when your words are critiqued and avoid becoming defensive. Read as much as you can inside and outside of the genre you’re writing.
The bad boy of her past...
A successful attorney in a posh London neighborhood, Meghann McCarthy thought she'd escaped the slums of Belfast forever. Until Michael Devlin needs her help. Years before, her love for the Irish charmer had nearly torn her apart, but now he's part of a past she never wants to revisit. However, she can't leave him defenseless against a murder charge—even if uncovering the truth puts her life in danger too.
She'll risk everything to save Michael—and she's not the first of her family to put it all on the line for a man she loves. As Meghann delves further into Michael's case, further into the history that binds them so irrevocably, she slips into the unfolding drama of centuries before...of another woman's desperate fight to free her rebel husband from the clutches of Queen Elizabeth. Stakes are high, but the reward is the love of a lifetime. And the Irish never give up.
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