I’m happy to have suspense novelist P.M. Terrell back on Reviews and Interviews. She was last here in 2012. Today we’re chatting about Cloak and Mirrors.
During her virtual book tour, P.M. will be awarding a Celtic necklace containing the Tree of Life (USA only) to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.
P.M. terrell is the pen name for Patricia McClelland Terrell, the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 20 books in several genres, including suspense, historical and non-fiction. Prior to becoming a writer, she owned two computer companies in the Washington, DC with a specialty in combatting computer crime. Her clients included the CIA, Secret Service and Department of Defense. Technology is often woven through her suspense thrillers. Terrell is of Irish descent, and Ireland often figures prominently in her books as well. She has been a full-time author since 2002 and currently travels between her home in North Carolina and Northern Ireland, the home of her ancestors. She is also the founder of Book ‘Em North Carolina’s Writers Conference and Book Fair and The Novel Business.
Welcome back, P.M. Please tell us about your newest release.
Cloak and Mirrors is the 6th book in the award-winning Black Swamp Mysteries Series. I loved writing this book because it takes place in Ireland, where the main character, Dylan Maguire, was born and raised. Dylan and Vickie are married in the tiny village where Dylan grew up and then they travel to Donegal and the Wild Atlantic Way for their honeymoon. They are both CIA operatives and they discover that the CIA can even interrupt a honeymoon. They’re asked to retrieve a microchip containing stolen Russian plans for their new stealth technology which should have been a simple task. But when the Russian point of contact decides to defect, they find themselves dodging Russian operatives in an attempt to rendezvous with an American hand-off. The book allowed me to use Ireland almost as a character itself, with its breathtaking and often dangerous landscapes, rope bridges, cliffs, the Blue Stack Mountains and Donegal’s quaint and beautiful streets.
What inspired you to write this book?
It was a natural progression for Vicki and Dylan to get married and I knew the most romantic, mystical and beautiful location would be Ireland. During one of my recent trips to my ancestral home in Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, I had an occasion to speak to several people about The Troubles, a thirty-year period of violence that divided Northern Ireland into two factions: those who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom and those who wished to be reunited with the Republic of Ireland. I found the experiences to be so intriguing that I wrote in a character that helps Dylan navigate the wild and rural Irish landscape—a man whose past included work with the Irish Republican Army.
Stealth technology is something several governments have been working on for quite some time. Once the technology is discovered and used, the opposing military seeks to infiltrate it so that more “invisible” means of cloaking and mirroring are needed on a regular cyclical basis. I find the rapid advances in this type of technology to be fascinating.
Excerpt from Cloak and Mirrors:
“Nettie O’Connelly,” Jack began, “was the mother o’ nine children and a widow to boot. She lived in west Belfast within a stone’s throw o’ The Falls Road and within full view o’ the Divis Tower. It would have been the early 1970’s, so it would.” Jack shook his head. “There was violence every blasted day and night. The Catholics lived on one side o’ the road—divided by the Protestants by what is now known as the Peace Wall.”
He fell silent for a moment as he collected his thoughts. “Divis Tower was manned by British soldiers. Not much was done about violence against the Catholics—” he snorted for effect “—but violence against the Protestants, even in retribution or defense, was dealt a heavy hand. A heavy hand indeed.
“So it didn’t go unnoticed when one o’ the British soldiers stood at Divis Tower and looked down at Nettie’s home. Not once, mind ya; not twice. Every blasted day. She spent time each day washin’ and hangin’ her clothes in the yard—nine children can dirty a lot. She was still attractive, children or no; hair the color of a sunset and eyes snappin’ green. Petite thing she was.”
A gust of wind howled through the night, sounding like a woman’s protracted moan. Ciara began to paw the ground and Dougal snorted.
“We began to suspect a spy in our midst. Oh, it was a bad time, to be sure. Neighbors watchin’ neighbors. No trust, even for brothers. The slightest thing could set off the neighborhood like a powder keg just waitin’ to blow. There were brawls a’plenty. Boys gone missing overnight. Anyone suspected of cavortin’ with the Brits was dealt with severely.”
He rose and stepped to Ciara, stroking her mane in a gentle effort to calm her. “Then the ladies along the block began to notice a correlation between the colors o’ the clothes Nettie washed and hung and what happened afterward… When she washed her whites, she always seemed to leave her home at a particular time and always went a round-about ways. No one knew where she went. It wasn’t to the neighborhood butcher or grocer or any of the usual places a woman would go. Then one day she was spotted in the center of Belfast—an area declared to be accessible to both Catholics and Protestants, unionists and loyalists, which was laughable indeed.”
“So Nettie O’Connelly was a spy?” Alexei asked.
“We’ll never know, boy. That very night she was hauled from her home, right in front of her nine children. And never seen again.” Just as they thought the story was over, he continued. “My brothers were there. They told me about it afterward, I think as a warnin’ to keep my own mouth shut and my head down. They drove Nettie O’Connelly to the very spot where we were to meet the plane. Three carloads o’ men, at the least, and Nettie beggin’ for her life and for her children’s safety. A woman could scream till her throat grew bloody and not a soul would hear her out at the old lighthouse. And so it went on for hour after hour.”
Jack looked at the skies. “It would have been just about this time o’ year, I’d wager. The skies grew black around four or five o’clock and the sun wouldn’t make its appearance until nigh on ten o’clock the next morn. Long nights, they were. They said that Nettie was tortured until the witching hour approached, but she never confessed, never admitted to giving any one of us up. Not even when her children’s lives were threatened. She always maintained her innocence.” His voice grew quiet and then stopped.
After a long moment, Alexei asked, “What became of her?”
“They thought she was dead. Her body was laid out on a flat rock whilst the men debated what to do with her. Some wanted her buried, others brought out to sea. It wasn’t a night like this one, you see. There were no Northern Lights that night. No stars, not even a moon. Just a thick fog that rolled in from the sea, uncanny it was. It was so murky that the men carried a lantern from the cars to the water’s edge; otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to find their way. My brothers said they set the lantern beside Nettie’s body while they huddled just a few feet away. They realized everythin’ had gone black around them and when they looked back, she and the lantern were gone.”
Jack inspected Ciara’s bridle for a moment before continuing. “It was easy to see which direction she’d gone; the lantern was bobbin’ along one o’ the paths, around the brambles and the rocks and along the ridgeline. They followed it for a bit, shoutin’ as those men did—” he nodded his head toward the east “—and then the lantern was snuffed out.”
He wiped his nose. “They continued searchin’ for her but it was too dark. Black as pitch, it was. They left sentinels along the main roads to Belfast and left others in charge o’ watchin’ her home and her children. It wasn’t until summer that they found her at the base o’ a cliff, her neck broken. It’s said they brought her body—ravaged by time and the elements—into the ocean some three hours out and dropped her overboard.”
Alexei joined the two men. “And that was the end of the story?”
“Oh, no,” Jack chuckled but his eyes held no mirth. “That was only the beginning. For it’s said that Nettie O’Connelly still haunts these parts after all these years, carryin’ her lantern at the witchin’ hour, lurin’ men to their deaths.”
I am actually switching to an historical series because so many readers today are looking for escape from politics and the dangers of the day. In researching my ancestral home, I discovered a treasure trove of information about my ancestors: why they left Scotland for Ireland, their changing allegiances for or against England (much depended on the King or Queen at the time) as well as their personal hopes and dreams for their children’s futures, which led some to immigrate to the United States. I have begun in the year 1608 with my ancestor’s decision at the age of 18 to emigrate from Scotland to Ireland. It is a tumultuous period of colonization with warring clans, romance, crosses and double-crosses, devastating natural and man-made disasters. It has been very exciting to research—necessitating more trips to Ireland!
What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book?
For me, it is the beginning and the ending—not of the story itself but the writing of it. I mull various ways of opening the book and laying the groundwork in a way that will capture the reader’s interest immediately so that action begins right away. From there, the book unfolds smoothly as I reach a mid-point that is almost like a climactic scene in itself and propels the rest of the book forward at breathtaking speed. When I am finished, I always have a sense of loss as if all the characters had been guests in my home and they have all moved out at once, leaving an emptiness behind.
If your novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
I perform quite a bit of research in the beginning so I know the plot I am considering will carry the book and make for exciting reading. Then I continue to perform research throughout the book. I love using the Internet; I can easily hop onto websites that I know have reliable facts. Then during the editing process, my editor may ask a question that leads me to perform more research in order to flesh out certain scenes. I once served on a panel with an author that claimed he never did one minute of research for an FBI series he writes and that shocked me.
What’s your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
My office is on the second floor of a detached garage. I have a 360 degree view, which I love. I have Celtic memorabilia surrounding me, such as a Celtic suncatcher, photographs of my ancestral home in Northern Ireland and the Irish coastline. I write on my laptop with my three dogs—two Jack Russells and a collie—at my feet.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
It isn’t necessary for readers to have read the earlier books in the series in order to understand and enjoy Cloak and Mirrors, because I have enough backstory to fill in all the gaps. But if readers would like to read them in order, they are: (1) Exit 22, (2) Vicki’s Key, (3) Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, (4) Dylan’s Song, (5) The Pendulum Files and (6) Cloak and Mirrors.
Thank you for having me here today!
Thank you for coming back to Reviews and Interviews! Happy writing!a Rafflecopter giveaway