Today's blog guest is novelist Cynthia Owens. This is the first of many stops she's making as she does a virtual book tour for her historical romance, Playing for Keeps.
Cynthia will be awarding a sterling silver Claddagh pendant (US/Canada only) to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a second randomly drawn winner will receive winner's choice of an autographed copy of either Cynthia's first or second book (In Sunshine or in Shadow, or Coming Home).
To be entered to win, leave an e-mail with a comment below. And to increase your chances of winning, you can visit other tour stops and leave a comment there.
Welcome, Cynthia. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Welcome, Cynthia. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17th Century “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there.
My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII.
A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three. My novels, In Sunshine or in Shadow and Coming Home, set in post-Famine Ireland, are available from Highland Press. Playing For Keeps, the third book in the Claddagh series, will also be published by Highland Press.
I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two school-aged children.
Please tell us about your current release.
Playing For Keeps is the third book in the Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond. My heroine, Katie O’Brien, is the daughter of an Irish landlord who has spent most of her life in the tiny, west-of-Ireland village of Ballycashel. Now eighteen, she’s convinced her father to allow her to return to Baltimore to become reacquainted with her late mother’s family. The reunion doesn’t go smoothly, though, and Katie finds herself longing for the loving family and friends she left behind.
Until she meets Lucas Howard. Lucas is an actor with the Shannon Troupe, a handsome, golden-haired man with wit and charm – and a passion for Katie O’Brien. But their love is threatened by buried secrets, old rivalries, and Lucas must make a decision that could tear the apart forever.
Is their love just a brief interlude, or are Lucas and Katie Playing For Keeps?
What inspired you to write this book?
Katie appeared in my first book, In Sunshine or in Shadow, and a throwaway remark she made in one scene told me she had to have her own story. Her father, Rory O’Brien, told her that one day, if she wanted to, she might return to America to visit her cousins, and it was then I knew I write Katie’s story. I’ve always loved Shakespeare and the theatre (as Katie does also), so what better hero for her than an actor? And I was thrilled to be able to set at least part of the book around the theatre.
“The Theatre Royale is obviously the place to be tonight.”
Lights dimmed; thunder cracked and rumbled through the theatre. Katie blinked as bright flashes of lightning illuminated the house. Then her breath suspended in her throat as the red velvet curtain slowly rose and, accompanied by eerie music, three bearded witches slunk onstage.
When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning or in rain?…
The magic had begun.
Lost in Shakespeare’s mystical otherworld, Katie drank in the lyricism of the Weird Sisters’ chants. A trumpet sounded off stage, and suddenly the words registered not only in her ears, but in her
This is the sergeant, Who like a good and hardy soldier fought ’gainst my captivity.
That voice! As smooth as her father’s best Irish whiskey, it shot through Katie’s veins like a liquid flame. It was he. The height, the golden hair, his very presence screamed to her that it was he, Apollo. Oh, how very fitting that he should play the role of Malcolm, the bright young prince destined to be king…
He was magnificent in medieval plaid, his strong legs encased in woolen hose, his sword glittering at his side. His broad shoulders wore the plaid with pride, and when he turned to face the audience, she felt his smile like a blow to her heart.
The instant the house lights came up and she could see properly, she glanced quickly through the program.
Lucas Howard. A fine, strong name, and somehow appropriate. Those golden eyes could pierce right through to a woman’s soul and strip it bare. Oh, if only she could see him again, hear his whiskey-smooth voice, see his dazzling smile aimed only at her.
But of course, that was silly. Lucas Howard was probably as unaware of her as she was conscious of him. She was nothing to him but a potential member of a prospective audience, a ticket sale to add to the theatre’s coffers.
With that depressing thought, she pasted on a smile as the first guests arrived at their box.
…Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there Weep our sad bosoms empty.
The voice, filled with such powerful grief and longing, sent shivers dancing along Katie’s spine. She stared hard through her mother-of-pearl opera glasses, cool against her heated fingertips. His presence on the stage was compelling, his attraction undeniable. As she let her gaze wander for a fleeting second, she saw many pairs of opera glasses pointed in the same direction.
She’d be willing to bet all her winnings at last year’s Galway Races that most of them were pointed at Mr. Howard.
She soon became absorbed in the play once again. And it wasn’t only because of Lucas Howard. The entire cast was superb, particularly the lovely blonde actress who portrayed Lady Macbeth, and the older actor—it was he who had swept into the White Rose with Lucas—in the role of Macbeth.
But in truth, Katie only saw Lucas.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I have several stories-in-progress on my laptop right now. One of them that I’m really excited about is tentatively entitled “Everlasting.” It’s the fourth book of the Claddagh Series, and the heroine is Shannon Flynn, who appeared briefly in Coming Home, Book II of the Series. Shannon is Tom Flynn’s eldest daughter, and since her shy, tentative romance with Mike Donavan, she’s had a lot of heartache. Can a mysterious stranger with burnt-cinnamon hair and sea-mist eyes bring her the joy and fulfillment she deserves?
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I began writing stories in the second grade, so I’ve always considered myself a writer in one way or another. Published or unpublished, I’ve always called myself a writer, maybe because I can’t not write. Even when I take a short break from writing, I’m still thinking about my stories, taking notes, writing down ideas. My characters are never far from my mind.
But I think the moment I believed, really believed I was a writer, was the day I held my first book in my hand, when I ran my hand over my name on the cover and raised it to my face to smell that wonderful “new book smell.” That convinced me that all my dreams had really, finally come true.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Well, I have two kids, so “full-time” is a relative term. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I’ve always had to work around my husband, my kids, and the mundane stuff like housework and cleaning, etc. Both my kids are in their teens now, so it’s been easier, but when they were younger, I had to write when I could find the time, whether it was early in the morning, late at night, or during nap times.
I still like to write in the morning, since I feel at my most creative then. As soon as the house is empty, and everyone has left for work or school, I put on my favorite music (usually Irish, since my books are either set in Ireland or feature Irish characters) and just write. I try to write at least 1,000 words a day, sometimes 1,500, depending on how the story’s unfolding. I try to keep regular work hours during the day, and keep weekends free for family.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Music inspires my storylines. While writing my first book, In Sunshine or in Shadow, I listened to a lot of Irish music (seemed sensible, since the book was set in Ireland). One of my favorite Irish songs is The Fields of Athenry, a song about Ireland’s Great Hunger, as sung by the incomparable Paddy Reilly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cc1zViuQ7Q. As I listened to the song one afternoon, I envisioned the entire back story for my heroine, Siobhán Desmond. I changed it up a bit (Siobhán’s husband was hanged, rather than transported to Australia), but the germ of the idea came directly from listening to that one song.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My ambitions seemed to change on a weekly basis as I grew up. One of my favorite books as a child was Heidi, and I was determined I would one day be Heidi. I was also a HUGE fan of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, and for a while I was convinced I’d one day become a “girl detective.” But from the time I was about 11, I decided I’d one day write books like those I loved to read.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’d like to thank everyone who came by to visit with me today. I love to hear from my readers, and I love to get to know them. Readers who want to can contact me at email@example.com I do my best to answer e-mails as quickly as possible.
Thanks, Cynthia! Readers, don't forget to leave an e-mail address with your comment below if you want to be entered for a chance to win the pendant.