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Historical Novel: Meet the Characters in Erin’s Children

Historical NovelHistorical Novel Erin’s Children by Eileen O’Finlan launced December 1.

Character Interview + Author & Book Info + Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Historical Novel: Erin’s Children by Eileen O’Finlan

Historical NovelErin’s Children
Historical Novel 
The Sequel to Kelegeen
BWL Publishing, Inc. (December 1, 2020
Number of Pages ~325

In 1851 Irish Famine survivor, Meg O’Connor, buys passage to America for her younger sister, Kathleen, and arranges employment for her as a maid. Kathleen’s feisty spirit soon puts her at odds with her employers, the bigoted and predatory Pratts. Driven from their home, Kathleen ends up on a wild adventure taking her to places she could never have imagined.

As a domestic servant in the Worcester, Massachusetts home of the kindly Claprood family, Meg enjoys a life beyond her wildest imaginings. Yet she must keep her marriage to Rory Quinn a secret. Rory, still in Ireland, eagerly awaits the day he will join her. But as the only jobs open to Irish men pay poorly, Rory’s imminent arrival threatens to plunge her back into dire poverty.

On the eve of the Civil War, while America is being rent asunder by the fight over slavery, Irish Catholics wage their own war with the growing anti-immigrant Know Nothing party. Through grave doubts, dangers, and turmoil, Meg and Kathleen must rely on their faith and the resilient bonds of sisterhood to survive and claim their destinies in a new and often hostile land.

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Meet Meg and Kathleen O’Conner, the stars of the Historical Novel: Erin’s Children

Meg, Kathleen. Great to have you both join us today. My readers are looking forward to getting to know a little more about you.

Happy to be here.

So, Meg, tell us what your sister Kathleen is like.

Kathleen is smart, hard-working, kind-hearted, and honest. I’ve always thought her a little too romantic for her own good. When we were still living in Ireland she was in love with the most no-good lad in Kelegeen. We all tried to tell her, but she was smitten. She finally learned, but not from listening to any of us.

Kathleen can be gullible at times. She’s intelligent, but innocent so she doesn’t always catch on right away. She has a habit of closing her eyes to what she doesn’t want to see. As her older sister, I always feel the need to watch out for her.

Despite these few imperfections, Kathleen is one of my favorite people in all the world. I love her warmth, her zest for life, and her adventurous spirit. She’s not just my sister, she’s my best friend.

Kathleen, is that a fair assessment?

I wish I could say Meg is wrong about my being overly romantic and gullible, but I’m afraid it’s true. Or, at least, it used to be. I think I’ve grown a lot in the time I’ve been in America, so while those things could describe me when I first arrived on American shores, I think Meg needs to alter her assessment now.

And Kathleen, how would you describe your sister?

Meg is my inspiration. She is brave and determined. Stubborn, really, but that runs in the family. She came to America alone, found a job, sent back money, and eventually bought passage for me to join her. You can’t believe how hard she works, how much she’s endured, and yet she keeps going.

If Meg has a flaw it’s that once she’s decided on something it’s nearly impossible to change her mind. Often that works to her advantage, but there are times when her opinion is unfair and getting her to change it is like trying to tame a banshee.

Meg, anything you disagree with?

No. I think ’tis a fair assessment.

Meg, your fiancé is still back in Ireland, but I understand he’s to arrive soon. How do you feel about that?

Aye, but Rory’s not my fiancé, he’s my husband and that’s the problem! We married immediately before I boarded the ship for America. We’d been planning to wed anyway, so we all thought it was best to have Father O’Malley marry us before I left, believing I’d be safer as a married woman. I was going to bring Rory over when I’d saved enough and together we’d work and save to send money back to our families. Little did we know that marrying was the worst thing we could have done.

You see, the best job for an Irish woman in America is domestic servant. But they live in with the family they serve so it’s only single women who get those jobs. How could a married woman live in with the family? It’s not as though she can move her husband in with her. And what happens when the wee ones come along? No, the Yankees only want to hire single lasses. When one does marry, she has to leave her job.

Now as you may have heard, Irish men have a devil of a time finding employment in America. Why, the Yanks even post signs that say ‘No Irish Need Apply.’ When they do find a job, it’s usually factory or mill work and it pays very little. All they can afford with that pay is cheap, run-down tenement housing. Once the rent is paid there’s little left over for food and other necessities. It’s not all that much better than what we came from in Ireland.

A domestic servant gets her room and board along with a salary. So, now that I’ve got a taste of living in a lovely home, eating three good meals a day, and having enough money to help out my family in Ireland and buy nice clothes for myself, it’s hard to think of leaving my job for a bare room in a miserable tenement with a family of mouths we can’t afford to feed.

On the other hand, I love Rory with all my heart and miss him something terrible. As good as my life here is, I hate the thought of living the rest of it without him.

Can you see my dilemma? 

I do, Meg! I’m sure my readers will too. And they’re going to want to know how you solve that dilemma.

Kathleen, is there anyone special in your life?

When I lived in Ireland, I thought I loved a lad named Kevin Dooley. Meg has already alluded to him above. That was a doomed romance that was more real in my head than it was in life. Here in America, I’ve fallen in love with the stove. Aye, the stove. Cooking has become my passion. Meg hates cooking. She calls the stove at her employers’ house The Beast. But I’ve found my calling. As for the lads, well, there’s no one here at present that has caught my eye.

What do you two miss most about Ireland?

Meg & Kathleen: Our family!

Meg: I also miss the land with its green pastures, the early morning mist, the fresh, clean smell of the earth, and the vibrant rainbows. Aye, those things are here in America, to be sure, but somehow they’re different. Perhaps it’s because in America I live in a city. There’s too much smoke from the factories and too much commotion on the city streets. I miss sitting with my mam and sisters at our table chattering away while doing our mending. And I miss Father O’Malley and Doctor Parker.

Kathleen: I miss all those things Meg mentioned. I also miss our church back home and walking to town and back with Meg to get our mending work. Another thing I miss is the sea. We were never far from it and could almost always hear the waves crashing on the rocks. Here in central Massachusetts we have a few lakes, but ’tis not the same.

How does your faith help you both get through the trials and tribulations of being Irish Catholic in the United States in the 1850s?

Meg: Being an Irish Catholic in America in the 1850s is a trial to be sure. The Yanks are mostly Protestants and a great many of them don’t like or trust Catholics, or Papists as they call us. Some of them even think there’s a conspiracy afoot for the pope to take over the world and that all of us have some role in it, if ye can believe such nonsense!

Along with Thursday afternoons all domestic servants are supposed to get Sunday mornings off so we can go to Mass. I’ve heard of some employers who won’t give their help Sunday mornings off or if they do, it’s only on the condition the help attends their church. ‘Tis fortunate the family I work for isn’t like that. I’d not have stood for it! But Kathleen’s the one who’s had the hardest time because of her faith so I’ll let her tell the rest.

Kathleen:  There’s an awful political party come to power here called the Know Nothings – good name for ’em, I say! They hate Catholics, which in turn means they hate Irish immigrants. They want nothing more than to send us all back to Ireland. The Pratt family for whom I had the grave misfortune to work, were among their number. The only reason I was hired was because Mrs. Pratt has powerful ambitions of moving up in the world and having a servant is a sign she’s doing just that.

Could she have found a Protestant girl, she’d have hired her on the spot. But ’tis the great good fortune of the Irish lasses that the Yankee girls refuse to lower themselves to become anyone’s servant. So if you want a servant in 1850s Massachusetts, you hire Irish. Period.

Lemuel Pratt, the eldest of the Pratt children (though not a child, but nearly a grown man by the time I started working in their home) fell right in with the Know Nothings. For a man who hated me, he certainly had a fancy for wanting to have his way with me. Found out right fast that we Irish lasses value our virtue above all else, he did, much to his disappointment. I had a devil of a time with him, though.

He was a sinister one, always threatening me. His mother was no better. A meaner, more hateful taskmaster never lived! I’d have left their employ long ago if it weren’t for young Clara Pratt, a darlin’ of a lass, who I couldn’t have loved more had she been my own sister.

As to how we managed with all this animosity surrounding us, well we Irish stuck together like glue. We made the church our second home. We clung to our faith, never missing Mass, carrying our rosaries at all times, praying them whenever we needed the calming presence of our Blessed Mother, and calling upon the Lord’s good saints for help.

It worked, you might have guessed as the Know Nothings never did get their way about shipping us back to Ireland. We’re here to stay!

War looms on the horizon, what do you think is going to happen?

Meg: My employer, Mrs. Claprood, is an ardent abolitionist. She even holds abolitionist meetings at her house. I have to serve refreshments and clean up after them. The talk of war is mostly over slavery, which goes on in the southern states. There’s always controversy over every new state coming into the union. Should it be a free state or a slave state?

From what I hear, the government tries to make compromises but the abolitionists just want to get rid of slavery altogether. They think it’s immoral and sinful. I suspect they’re right. Most Irish stay out of the matter. We’ve enough of our own problems just trying to survive in this country without taking on the problems of anyone else.

When I have thought on the matter, I’ve realized that if I was in the position where I didn’t have to worry every day about my own survival I would likely be an abolitionist, too. Surely slavery is wrong, but as to war, well I hope this issue can be resolved without it coming to that. We’ve enough problems without a war on top of it all.

Kathleen: Clara Pratt taught me to read English and gave me a book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. From reading that book and talking to Miss Clara I’ve come to learn about slavery. ‘Tis a horrible thing that no one should have to endure. I hope there won’t be a war because war is a horrible thing, too, but if it comes to that, I’ll be praying for those who fight to end slavery.

Meg and I try not to worry about it, though. Most folks don’t believe it will come to war and if it does they say it will be over soon. I hope they’re right.

Anything else my readers should know about you two?

Our story is an example of the story of a multitude of immigrants who’ve come to America for a better life.

It’s never been easy for anyone who’s done it. Leaving home, family, and friends, sailing across the sea to a foreign land with its different ways not well understood by the newcomer – well ’tis a terrifying experience.

Upon arrival the first thing to do is find work so you can earn some money, find a place to live, and feed yourself. When it turns out that you’re unwanted, that no matter how hard you work you’re considered shiftless, lazy, and untrustworthy, it’s enough to almost break you in two. But you can’t let it. ‘Tis the determination, perseverance, endurance, and faith that marks the successful immigrant.

Our story is the story of the immigrant experience. No matter from what country, of what faith, or when they’ve come, all have had to endure and overcome hardship. It has forged a great resilience in us immigrants and, in turn, we have helped to create one of the greatest nations on earth.

It’s been terrific chatting with both of you today. Come by and visit anytime!

 


Eileen O’Finlan, Author of the Historical Novel: Erin’s Children

Eileen O’Finlan writes historical fiction, telling the stories on history’s margins, the things rarely taught in the classroom. For her, that’s where history really gets fun. Her promise to her readers is to craft stories that will thoroughly immerse them in another time and place.

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, her family moved to Worcester when she was two.  Four years later they moved to Holden where Eileen grew up and where she now resides.

Eileen holds a Bachelor’s degree in history and a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry.  She works full time for the Diocese of Worcester and teaches online courses in Catholic studies for the University of Dayton, Ohio.  Erin’s Children is her second novel and the sequel to her debut novel, Kelegeen.

To learn more about Eileen, click on her name, photo, and any of the following links: Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, YouTube, and BWL Publishing Author Page


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Historical Novel

Visit all the stops along the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour!

December 7 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

December 7 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 8 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

December 8 – Christa Reads and Writes – SPOTLIGHT

December 9 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST

December 9 – Baroness’ Book Trove B- SPOTLIGHT

December 10 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

December 10 – Thoughts in Progress – SPOTLIGHT

December 11 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

December 11 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

December 12 – I Read What You Write – GUEST POST

December 12 – My Journey Back – CHARACTER GUEST POST

December 13 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST

December 14 – eBook Addicts – SPOTLIGHT

December 14 – Diane Reviews Books – CHARACTER GUEST POST

December 15 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

December 15 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

December 16 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 16 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT


Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite on-line retailers. And don’t forget many independent bookstores can order books for you and have them shipped to your home or for curbside pickup.

For more information on All We Buriedclick on the link here to visit the home page.

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