15 July 2012

Guest Blog: Erin O'Quinn

This week, we're welcoming historical romance author Erin O'Quinn. Her latest title, FIRE & SILK, is sent in ancient Ireland and made its debut this month. Erin is here to talk about the novel and offer a PDF copy to a lucky winner. Please leave a comment for your chance to win a copy. Here's the blurb:

Flann O'Conall, the gruff, redheaded son of a king in ancient Ireland, has for the past twenty years preferred the wilderness to the company of a woman. Then, one rainy night, he reluctantly opens his rainproof blanket to the innocent yet disdainful and taunting Mariana de la Castra del Oro.

What happens under his blanket? The encounter of his fire with her silk creates a maelstrom of conflict and raw passion that changes both their lives.

First, he teaches her some survival skills, while she tries to teach him the meaning of love. Finally, when Flann flees back to the security of his waterfall in the mountains, he is caught in a perilous trap and only Mariana can track him and save his life.

Flann is torn at last between the lonely but secure life on his chosen mountain—his symbolic mistress—and the torment of letting go of the willful, passionate Mariana.

**Q&A with Erin O'Quinn**

Welcome, Erin, and congratulations on the debut of your newest romance. Why are all your current novels set in the dark ages of Ireland?
True “history” did not begin in Ireland until the time scholars reckon that St. Patrick arrived, probably 432 AD. That is precisely when my romance novels begin. I postulate that a group of immigrants, led by a young woman named Caylith, followed Patrick to Ireland. With Patrick came pagan conversion, monastery schools, the learning of Latin and the preservation of ancient writings. In short, Patrick arrived--and Ireland's history literally began. Ironically, the history of Ireland began even as invasions by Saxons and others were destroying the scrolls and scriptures of antiquity on the mainland in the wake of the retreating Roman armies.
Why St. Patrick? Isn’t it a little edgy to include a saint in what is clearly a group of steamy romances?
My husband, a devoted fan of historical fantasy, pointed out to me one day that no fantasy writer has ever written about the time of St. Patrick. I did a little digging and found out that, as far as I could tell, no romance writer had ventured there either. So I began to write about the man I fancied he might have been; not too tall, but charismatic, with intense blue eyes, blond hair, chubby cheeks and a voice to enthrall a crowd and an entire nation. Soon my imagination had him becoming a friend and mentor to young, adventurous Caylith in Britannia before he was sent by the Pontiff to a ministry in Hibernia. And the adventures began.
Tell us about your romance novels and how actual history figures in them.
I now have a complete trilogy published by SirenBookstrand: Storm Maker, The Wakening Fire, and Captive Heart. These books take the reader from roughly September of 432 AD until December of 433 AD. The first one finds Caylith bound to a promise she had made earlier to Father Patrick--that she would keep her chastity until marriage. In addition to the tension created by an old enemy, the sexual tension mounts as she once again meets a passionate young clansman named Liam. In the second of the trilogy, Caylith and Liam begin to discover the mystery of their enemy, a man named Owen Sweeney. Their pursuit of the mystery leads them at last to the sacred Hill of Tara, where Patrick is bound to set his Easter fires in defiance of High King Leary’s own Beltane fires on May 1, 433 AD. As far as scholars can determine, those events actually happened. And Owen is a real historical figure, as I’ll discuss below. Finally, in Captive Heart, Caylith and Liam set their boot-tips to the rough northern seacoast of modern Donegal, then called Tyrconnell, where they have discovered that a group of women are being held as slaves to be sold. The history in this book is manipulated somewhat. I postulate that High King Leary has made it illegal to hold foreign captives as slaves. In truth, Ireland’s Brehon Law actually allows such bonding of people, although it certainly does not condone the kind of mistreatment these women undergo at the hands of their captives. The places in this novel--especially the desolate, dangerous island of Tory--are very real, and frightening even to this day.
Fire & Silk debuted this week. Tell us why you chose to feature that novel on Unusual Historicals.
The “old enemy” I referred to before--Owen Sweeney--turns out to be the bastard son of Ireland’s most famous high king, Niáll of the Nine Hostages. In truth, he was not born out of wedlock, nor was he a cripple. Those are liberties I have taken in creating the character. But it is true that Owen MacNeill conquered and gave his name to both Inishowen and Tyrone, and the excerpt tells that story.
Far beyond the tale of Owen, Fire & Silk is the story of two improbable lovers--a silent, dedicated bachelor named Flann O’Conall who loves only his precious mountains and rough sea; and a young virgin from Iberia named Mariana, who thinks that the man is a crude peasant who means to debauch her. In truth, Flann is the son of the king of Tyrconnell, Conall Gulban, and he is terrified of getting close to any woman. And she has held her virginity until she meets Flann, when she begins to feel a certain hollowness she cannot understand....and neither can he!
Thank you, Erin and best of luck with Fire & Silk, available now!