Welcome to the book tour for The Carousel by Cynthia Owens! Today she’s letting us know more about her books and writing. I think you’ll find the inspiration behind this book to be quite a touching story. You can find an excerpt from the book and then follow the tour to find out even more. And of course, there’s a great giveaway at the end!
Hello, and thank you so much for having me on your lovely blog! I’m so thrilled to talk about The Carousel!
Describe your book in one sentence or fewer than 25 words.
An artist haunted by war meets a blind girl who forces him to see beauty.
What was the inspiration behind this book?
The Carousel is dedicated to the memory of my paternal grandmother. Her name was Emma Laflamme, and she was a woman any girl would be proud to call Granny.
She was a strong woman who raised nine kids and kept a farmhouse going despite the fact that she was blind. She lost her sight at age 40, but she never let it slow her down. I well remember watching her with fascination as she kneaded a loaf of bread (made from scratch, no less!), and marveling at how easily she did it. It was even more fun to devour the wonderful results. To this day, whenever I smell bread baking, I think of her.
We visited her and my grandfather for two weeks every August. As a child, I remember my mother reminding me of Granny’s handicap, and what to expect when we arrived. I was always a shy child, and perhaps she felt I might be intimidated. But I never did. As I write this, I can almost feel her toil-worn hands roaming over my face, studying my features to “see” how much I’d changed in the time since we’d met.
Granny died in 1981 at age 88. I hope she’s proud of me, and of The Carousel.
What was one of your favorite scenes?
I loved writing the “picnic” scene! I’ve always considered a picnic one of the most romantic dates ever. I love the idea of eating outside, with a summer breeze stirring the leaves on the trees, the sweet song of the birds sailing on the air, and the delicious sights and smells of freshly-mown grass and growing things all around me. A literal feast for the senses. So I was really happy to find the perfect place to write one in The Carousel.
Now as anyone knows, a good story needs to put the reader into the action. There are many ways to do this, and one of the best ways is to use the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. But my heroine, Emily, is blind, and has been since she was four years old. She grew up extremely sheltered, looked after by her widowed father and Eileen and Paddy Moran, the housekeeper and her handyman husband. So, since a picnic date with hero Kieran was a new experience for her, I decided to use her POV (point of view) for the scene. And it seemed like it took forever to write it! And re-write it…and re-write it yet again.
At first I wrote the scene the way I would write any other scene. I used the five senses to put my reader into the story. Once it was written, I set it aside for a few days. When I went back to it, I removed any references to sight, whether the sight of a flower, a bird, the vast expanse of lawn, or the hero’s face and body. Finally, with the third re-write, I heightened the other senses so much I almost forgot—for a moment, at least—that Emily was blind!
This scene, which was the most difficult scene to write of any in the book, will always be my favorite!
Tell us about your other published works.
The Carousel is the seventh book in my Wild Geese Series. It’s set, for the most part, in New York City just after the American Civil War (except for Keeper of the Light, which takes place on a fictional island off the coast of New Brunswick in Canada).
The Wild Geese Series revolves around five life-long friends who met on a coffin ship bound for America from famished Ireland. They grew up together on the mean streets of New York City, and when the American Civil War began, they joined up with Thomas Francis Meagher to fight with the Irish Brigade. But now the war is over, and they’re ready to re-start their lives – and find new love.
In Deceptive Hearts, a police officer clashes with a woman willing to risk her life for the people she loves. Keeper of the Light, my Canadian-set story, features a Loyalist beauty who rescues an Irish rebel with no memory of his past. My Dark Rose is my musical story and features a woman whose deepest desire is to sing and a man who learns the true meaning of luck. Yesterday’s Promise is the story of a woman who will do anything to save her brother, even if it means asking help from the only man she ever loved. Kathleen’s Mirror is a spin-off of My Dark Rose, a Christmas-story-within-a-Christmas-story about taking a chance on love.
It started with Rory O’Brien and Siobhán Desmond of In Sunshine or in Shadow. Gambler and survivor. Landlord and tenant. A love that couldn’t be denied. In Coming Home, Ashleen O’Brien showed an Irish-American war hero that you can find a home and a family in the most unlikely place. In Playing For Keeps, a half-Irish beauty returns to Baltimore to visit the family she barely remembers. With Everlasting, I returned to Ireland, where a beauty driven by anger meets a warrior who’s returned to exact revenge. In Reluctant Betrayer, a woman raised in a family of rebels falls in love with the landlord’s agent. In Wishes of the Heart, a women living under a cloud of suspicion captures the eye of the heir to Ballycashel. And celebrate Christmas with the O’Brien clan in Christmas Rainbows.
On what are you currently working?
Oh, so many books, and so little time!
At the moment, I have several projects in the works. Another story for the Claddagh Series, featuring the youngest O’Brien daughter. A spin-off of The Carousel featuring Shane MacDermott’s daughter, Fiona, who makes several charming appearances in the story, and possibly a story for her step-brother, Caleb.
I’ve also begun the first story of a new series. I can’t say too much about it, except that it will be a little bit “darker” than most of my other stories, and it’s set in the enchanted kingdom of Ceiluradh. The kingdom will be loosely based on the Irish legend of Tir na nOg.
What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Be yourself. It sounds so very simple, yet it was this profound bit of advice that allowed me to let go and hear my own voice.
When I first sat down to write seriously, I wanted my stories to be as good as those of my favorite authors, and I thought the way to accomplish that was to write the way they did. So I tried to imitate their way of writing, from the way they wrote dialogue to their descriptive passages.
Bad idea! Instead of listening to my own voice, I was trying to listen to theirs. I had my own story ideas, but I wanted to tell them the way my favorite authors would have.
I don’t remember exactly who gave me this little gem of advice—I think I heard it at a workshop at an RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference. But they were the most profound, freeing words I’d ever heard! I had a vague idea of a story I wanted to write at that time, and when I heard these words, spoken so simply, I went home and immediately began to write.
That story became my first published novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow.
I think Shakespeare said it best: “To thine own self be true.”
What is your favorite part about writing?
Can I pick two?
I love it when the germ of an idea first occurs to me. It may be inspired by a line of a song, or a snippet of a news story, or even just a throwaway remark in casual conversation. But once it’s there, I have to rush to a notebook and write it down. It’s a bit like a birth in that I want desperately to nurture it, to watch it grow and flower and become a full-fledged story, just as I nourished my son and daughter and watched them grow into the fine adults they are today. It’s the most exciting thing in the world to know that I hold this idea, and the characters and events that surround it, in the palm of my hand, and that I have the power to let it fly free.
The other “best thing” about writing is character creation. I love getting to know my characters. It’s a blast choosing the perfect name (I have so many lists of names taken from “baby name” sites I’ve started to get ads for diapers and formula!). Once I have that name, I immediately picture what that person will look like, from hair and eye color to body type, freckles or birthmarks, and the way they move—smiles, shrugs, even a head shake. Then, of course, the real work begins—the backstory. I love delving into people’s pasts, and my “fictionals” (as I like to call my characters) don’t mind if I’m super-nosey!
What is one skill you wish you had?
I’d love to be able to play a musical instrument!
I love all kinds of music (heavy emphasis on Irish trad music), but to my dismay, I’ve never had much success in learning to play an instrument.
When I was 12, my mother sent me to piano lessons, just like almost every other little girl’s mother did, right? I was hopeless. I hated to practice, and since I’m pretty much a math-o-phobe, the theory part was way beyond me. I was fair at the finger exercises, which I suppose served me well a few years later, when I got to high school typing class! I dropped the lessons after a year.
But I was in Ireland for two weeks in 2017, and while browsing a shop, I found a package that included a CD, a booklet, and a tin whistle. Filled with inspiration, I snatched it up and carried it home. I’ve only just started to learn the finger placement, etc., but I’m hoping for better results than my piano teacher had!
What would you do if you won the lottery?
I would buy a small thatched cottage on Inis Oírr (Inisheer), one of the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway in Ireland. I had the joy and privilege of visiting Inis Oírr last June, as part of a tour of the west of Ireland, and I fell in love with it. Surrounded by wild seas and rocky fields, with sea birds diving and wheeling overhead, the smell of brine mixing with turf smoke, it’s my idea of heaven. The seas were calm the day I visited, but I’d love to be there on a stormy winter’s night!
In fact, I loved the island so much I featured it in my Christmas novella, The Christmas Shop. And when I returned home, I told my children that that’s where I want my ashes scattered. I can imagine no better place to spend eternity that that peaceful isle in the Atlantic.
What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?
I took a fencing class!
For those who know me, they know I am not the most daring or aggressive person in the world! And fencing requires some aggression—especially when you’re fencing with guys who are determined to prove their…shall we say their manliness?
The class was given by the leisure department of our city, and I decided on impulse that it might be fun. Who knows? I thought. Maybe one day I might write a story with a pirate hero. To an author, any experience might someday become a story. But the instructor spoke no English (despite the advertisement saying “The instructor may speak English), and I was the only female in a class of guys who wanted to prove how great they were! It wasn’t a great experience, but it was an experience I will always look back on and smile.
Thanks so much for having me today! I look forward to hearing your readers’ comments.
…Like the Wild Geese of Old Ireland, five boys grew to manhood despite hunger, war, and the mean streets of New York…
The War had left him blind to beauty…
Kieran Donnelly is a gifted artist who has sworn never to paint again. He saw and did too many things during the war to extinguish the ugliness that lies in his heart. But a chance to work with some of the most magnificent paintings brings him close to the world he still loves…and an extraordinary woman who sees his true heart.
Darkness couldn’t extinguish the light in her heart.
Blind from the age of four, Emily Lawrence yearns to experience the outside world. When she hires Kieran Donnelly to catalogue her father’s paintings, he offers her a glimpse at life outside her exquisite home…and a chance for a future.
Can Kieran and Emily emerge from the darkness to find happiness and love?
Read an excerpt:
Queenstown Harbor, Cork, Ireland, 1847 “Take your fill of it, lad. Remember it all.” Ten-year-old Kieran Donnelly clutched the icy metal of the ship’s railing, his gaze locked on the wild, rocky coast as the Sally Malone moved slowly out of the harbor. The long voyage to America had begun. He heard Gran’s keening wail, filled with grief as she lamented the loss of their homeland. Da’s hand rested on her shoulder, his silent grief palpable. His brother’s spirit, full of anger and despair, reached out to him. None of it touched his heart. His eager gaze sought the mist-shrouded green hills, distant, dotted with tiny white cottages. Empty cottages, no sign of the ever-present gray turf smoke rising from their rich, dark thatched roofs. The fields were black with the stinking slime of the blight, but hawthorn and gorse and wild strawberries still dotted the landscape with bright splotches of white, yellow, and scarlet. The water bucked and spat white-capped waves, gray-green with angry sorrow under the cloud-smudged sky. A single bright ray of sunlight broke through the clouds, as if to bid the desperate refugees a fond farewell. A patch of sky, so pure a blue it made his throat ache, brought a rush of tears to Kieran’s eyes. Oh, to capture the image that would forever be in his mind on paper before the ship sailed! The colors, the hues, the light and shadow. The crowds of skeletal people scurrying about, weeping as they waved good-bye, the lone fiddler playing them away with a desolate lament of parting and grief. One day. He struggled against the harsh sob that clawed at his throat. One day I’ll paint this scene and the whole world will know the sorrow that gripped Ireland in its cruel fist. I’ll call it The Parting.
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About Cynthia Owens
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 17thCentury “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.
I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond, and The Wild Geese Series, in which five Irish heroes return from the American Civil War to find love and adventure.
I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America and Hearts Through History Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero. I have two adult children.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Owens/e/B003DQ1V2E
Cynthia Owens will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC or a Sterling silver Claddagh necklace (International) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway