Terry C. Simpson: What is your book about?
M.J Neary: “Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916” is a historical novel telling the story of the Easter Rising in Dublin through the eyes of Bulmer Hobson, a discredited patriot who had tried to prevent it, because he believed it was a waste of human life. Because of his controversial split from his former comrades, for decades his name had remained swept under the rug and his contributions to the nationalistic movement largely downplayed. He was branded a traitor by the Republicans and spent the next fifty-some years of his life in a state of silent rage.
Terry C. Simpson:What inspired you to write this particular story?
M.J Neary: Shortly after “Brendan Malone: the Last Fenian” got accepted for publication, Bulmer Hobson came to me in my sleep and complained that I had given him so little time and space in the first book. He suggested that I should write an entire novel about his adventures. Of course, I woke up with heart palpitations and rushed to the computer to get a copy of his biography on Amazon. His first comprehensive biography was written by a Canadian-born professor Marnie Hay, who has since helped me a great deal with research. Her book is the first comprehensive biographical source on Hobson. For the reasons described above, he had been off the radar for decades. As I browsed through his biography, I uncovered fascinating romances and feuds that would provide perfect foundation for a historical novel.
Terry C. Simpson:What writer influenced you the most?
M.J Neary: Boring as it sounds, my literary mentors were Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens. I gravitate towards that heavy mid-19th century style. That was before the ADHD epidemic.
Terry C. Simpson:Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?
M.J Neary: In my novel I have a mixture of historical and fictional characters. You can take liberty with both. They are all “my children”, hideously flawed, some borderline grotesque, but loved. I create them all with love, even if that love is rooted in fury. I can despise the real historical figures, but I still love them as literary characters. Having suffered from depression, anxiety and body dysmorphic disorder, I understand Ugly very well. I can work with Ugly. I can create convincing, three-dimensional characters with a string of delicious ridiculous flaws that will make readers feel good about themselves. If you read about larger-than-life heroes, it’s easy to feel inadequate next to them. But if you see the less heroic side of popular idols, then the revelation may prove to be strangely encouraging. There is one character that I particularly connect with – Edith Malone, a depressed, hysterical, sexually confused, self-centered English widow who joins the Irish nationalistic cause. A girl after my own heart!
Terry C. Simpson: How long did it take you to write your book?
M.J Neary: This 450-pager took me about 4 months to write. It wrote it at a rather trying time in my life, when I was running on caffeine, alcohol and adrenaline.
Terry C. Simpson: How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?
M.J Neary: When you write about real historical events, you know how things end. There are no surprises. You know who is going to die on the barricades, and who is going to get executed. The variables are not in the destination but in the journey. It’s the ideas you get from reading between the lines of history books.
Terry C. Simpson: What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
M.J Neary: For one, I hope they learn something new about the Irish history, about the nationalistic movement in the Edwardian era. That goes without saying. That’s the purely factual benefit of reading the book. There is also a spiritual and philosophical benefit that I hope my readers will reap. I also hope that they re-evaluate their own idols and villains. I’m not saying they should reverse their loyalties 180 degrees. Just ask yourself: “Whom do I admire/despise and why? Do I really know the truth about this person, or do I just go by what the media tells me?” We should have enough faith in our own judgment and put it above rumors and propaganda.
Terry C. Simpson: What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
M.J Neary: I absolutely hate writing love stories and love scenes. I’m a very cynical, crude person in real life, and it’s hard for me not to laugh when I write about romantic infatuations. At the same time, I do not want my own personal cynicism to spill into my fiction too much, because there are, apparently, people who become infatuated earnestly and irrevocably. Sometimes I need to separate myself, the writer, the narrator, from my characters and see the world through their eyes.
Terry C. Simpson: What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
M.J Neary: As a working mother with plenty of “secular” responsibilities, I cannot predict how much time each day I will be able to devote to my work. So, whenever I have a free moment, I ask myself whether I should do boring domestic chores or use that time to advance my craft. Inspiration and productivity come in waves, in bursts. There are moments when the creative drive is so aggressive that I become deaf and blind to everything else around me. I have lost count of how many pots I’ve burned in the kitchen.
Terry C. Simpson: What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?
M.J Neary: If you are asking me about the publishing industry, I must say, there have not been that many surprises. If you do your homework, if you research the market and polish the manuscript, then you will spare yourself many, many rejection letters. Don’t go into the battle unarmed. I went into the market with a strong manuscript and a strong query letter. “Martyrs & Traitors” is not my first novel. My first novel took 16 years to write and just a few weeks to secure a publisher for. Now I have lasting relationships with two small presses, and they are very enthusiastic to hear that I have a new manuscript.
Terry C. Simpson: What advice you would give to an aspiring author?
M.J Neary: I could give a mile-long list of tips. Not all aspiring authors are at the same place. Some are only toying with the idea of writing the first draft of their first novel, and others are already on the verge of submitting their first query. I encourage writers to contact me with specific questions. Find me on Facebook and send me a message. I’ll be happy to provide guidance.
Terry C. Simpson:What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?
M.J Neary: It’s very individual. Casting a wide net does not work for everyone. If your novel is genre-specific or topic-specific, reach out to publications that specialize in this topic. Reach out to the communities that already have an existing interest in your topic. Promoting a book about lip gloss vampires is different from promoting a book about Irish revolutionaries.
Terry C. Simpson: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
M.J Neary: Even though my work revolves around a specific ethnic group, it appeals to a broader audience. You don’t have to be Irish or a history buff to enjoy my books. There is enough universal appeal – at least I try to make it so. I have reached out to various Irish-interest publications in North America and on the other side of the Atlantic. I have a built-in audience.
Terry C. Simpson: What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?
M.J Neary: “The darker the past – the brighter the future”.
Terry C. Simpson: Have you written any other books
M.J Neary: Yes, I am the author of “Wynfield’s Kingdom”, “Wynfield’s War” (both via Fireship Press) and “Brendan Malone: the Last Fenian” (All Things That Matter Press)
Terry C. Simpson: Where can people learn more about your books?
M.J Neary: Please visit my author site: www.marinajulianeary.com