6 November 2019

Guest Interview with Kevin O’Connell, Author of Bittersweet Tapestry: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

As Bittersweet Tapestry opens, it is the High Summer of 1770. Having escorted the future Queen of France from Vienna to her new life, Eileen and her husband, Captain Arthur O’Leary of the Hungarian Hussars, along with their little boy and Eileen’s treasured friend (and former servant) Anna Pfeffer are establishing themselves in Ireland.

I'm pleased to welcome author Kevin O’Connell to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Bittersweet Tapestry is the third of a series of four (though it may wind up being five) books in the Derrynane Saga. It picks up the story in the High Summer of 1770. After almost a decade of service at the court of Maria Theresa – as governess to her youngest daughter – now become Marie Antoinette, dauphine of France – Eileen O’Connell is returning to Ireland with her Hungarian Hussars officer husband, Arthur O’Leary, and their son.

Tapestry represents the beginning of a lengthy “hand off” in terms of primary characters from Eileen O’Connell and her generation to the next. Eileen’s younger brother, Hugh (first introduced as a little boy in Beyond Derrynane), is studying at École Militaire in Paris, his path to a commission in the Dillons’ Regiment of the Irish Brigade of France. Their brother, Daniel, is already an officer in the Brigade. Hugh’s gentle Austrian friendship with Maria Antonia (chronicled in Two Journeys Home) having inevitably waned, his relationship with the strikingly beautiful young widowed Princess Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy is blossoming.

This book is a tale of stark contrasts – between Hugh and Daniel’s lives of increasing prominence amidst the glitter and intrigue of the French court and Art and Eileen’s in English-occupied Ireland – especially as the latter progresses into a dark, violent and bloody tale . . . ultimately involving an epic tragedy, as well as the events leading up to it and those occurring in its dramatic wake.

What is your preferred writing routine?

Ideally, I like to write early in the morning, and late in the afternoon – I frequently print selected pages of the day’s ‘production’ and read and edit them in bed.

What advice do you have for new writers?

(Laughs) These kinds of questions rather intimidate me!  Seriously, I would say, try not to be “afraid” . . . and, as an mentor told me very early in the process, to just ‘write on’.

Once you decide what you’re going to write, be as certain as possible that you know – really know! – the material – no matter what genre you are working in. Also, know your characters – think about them, obsess about them, talk to them even! Be detailed – vividly describe where the story is happening, what the people look like, how they speak their words. Don’t fear dialect – this permits you to alternate between writing, ‘. . . speaking in her precise French, she advised . . .’ and perhaps actually crafting a short sentence in French.

Someone (I wish I could recall who) once said that some Irish writers “dance with the English language” – in the sense that they revel in writing as one does with the certain amount of self-abandon that dancing requires. On my better days, which I believe appear on the better segments of the one thousand-plus pages so far written in Derrynane, I feel I have been able to do this. “Dancing” results in richer, more authentic dialogue; more vivid, greater detailed descriptions of people and places and conveys a deeper level of the emotions of anger, fear – and love – which are so much a part of my genre.

I would suggest that one who dares to “dance with the language” will write more beautifully, certainly more colourfully.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Tours like this one (which is extraordinarily well-planned and executed) do a superb job of “getting the word out” – this tour was actually scheduled some time ago to coincide with, indeed to begin on Bittersweet Tapestry’s actual publication date.

Though they are oft-times difficult to get, reviews are immensely important – I have been extremely fortunate to have received not only a goodly number of them over the past few years, but also in that most that have been written about the first two books were largely-favourable, I would add that even “critical” ones help.

Maintaining up-dated, well-written pages on Amazon and Goodreads are also important. Some authors use social media – all variants from Facebook to Twitter – a great deal, others not as much. In all candour, my Facebook page needs some work!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

It was both unexpected and totally shocking to learn definitively that one of my ancestors – though not a character in any of my books – actually had two families – wives and children – in both Ireland and America!

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

There is an extended (some forty-odd pages) section in Tapestry dealing with a character’s violent death – I would note that I grow very close to my characters – real or imagined, it makes no difference – and this part of the book (and indeed the events leading directly up to it, and certainly those occurring in its aftermath) were beyond painful to write – especially the actual death scene. Once it was completed, I was truly emotionally spent for several days. When I mentioned what really was a sense of loss to my long-time mentor, who is also a superb writer and published author herself, she advised that I was indeed “in mourning” – that, for me, the character had actually lived then died, such that the loss was a genuine and truly painful one.

What are you planning to write next?

One thing about writing a series of books is not having to be coy in the midst of producing them, that readers are fairly certain that there is most likely another one(s) coming – this said, the Derrynane Saga will definitely continue. The story will pick up several years after Tapestry ends and will eventually find its way into the 1790’s – where I envision its ultimate completion. In terms of Book Four, I would add that I actually have a working title and a very rough – mine are always very rough – beginnings of a precis, even some scenes and dialogue. From what I can tell, these will be very eventful years for the characters

Kevin O’Connell
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About the Author

Kevin O’Connell is a native of New York City and a descendant of a young officer of what had—from 1690 to 1792—been the Irish Brigade of the French army, believed to have arrived in French Canada following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October of 1793. At least one grandson subsequently returned to Ireland and Mr. O’Connell’s own grandparents came to New York in the early twentieth century. He holds both Irish and American citizenship. He is a graduate of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre. For much of his four decades-long legal career, O’Connell has practiced international business transactional law, primarily involving direct-investment matters, throughout Asia (principally China), Europe, and the Middle East. The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland. Find out more at Kevin's website www.derrynanebooks.com and find him on Facebook

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! Thank you for hosting Kevin's tour, Tony!

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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