Monday, March 24, 2014

Blog Tour Interview: Never Be At Peace by M.J. Neary

Please join me in welcoming author M.J. Neary to Let Them Read Books! M.J. is touring the blogosphere with her newest historical fiction release, Never Be At Peace, a novel of the people and events that come together in Edwardian Ireland to stage the Easter Rising of 1916. I have always been fascinated by Irish history, and I was excited to have a chance to ask M.J. about this era in history and how she shaped her novel around it. Read on and enter below for a chance to win a copy of Never Be At Peace!

Hello M.J.! Thanks for being here today. What inspired you to write a novel about the Easter Rising of 1916?

For the record, I'm not English or Irish or even Irish-American. My parents were Eastern European musicians who came to the US in 1992. That makes me a first generation American. My maiden name is Petrowski, so I don't have any loyalty to either side on a genetic level. My fascination with early 20th century Irish nationalism dates back to my college days. I was working as a research assistant for an Irish history professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia. It was all happening at the crest of the Irish Renaissance in late 1990s. They say "write what you know." I just happen to know a great deal about the Easter Rising. Never Be at Peace is book three in my Irish series. It's a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors.

Helena Molony
What type of research did you do for the novel? Did you learn anything that surprised you?

If your goal is to write an authentic historical novel and not just a bodice ripper with a setting "a long, long time ago, in a land far away," you will need a comprehensive approach to your research. That means you will need to consult primary sources, secondary sources as well as conduct interviews with historians. Since interviewing eye-witnesses is problematic when you are writing about an event that occurred almost 100 year ago, you have to rely on the stories told by their descendants. It's not realistic to get an objective, unprejudiced, unembellished account. People take sides and push their own political agenda. It's only natural. That's what makes my job so interesting. You gather so many conflicting accounts, and you synthesize them. It's not unlike being a marriage therapist and taking your time to talk to each spouse individually.

Helena and Maud Gonne with the Daughters of Erin
This uprising seems to have been such a maelstrom of conflicting opinions, divided loyalties, and passionate emotions--how did you sift through all of it to create a balanced portrayal of your characters and the issues?

In my novels I focus not on the Anglo-Irish conflict but the Irish-Irish conflict, the squabbles within the ranks of the revolutionaries. It's fascinating how parents often cannot decide what's best for the child. Same with revolutionaries. The Irish nationalists knew they wanted to split from England, but they could not agree on the time and the method. Some believed it should have been done through parliamentary agitations, and others craved a spectacular massive rebellion. It's like a team of doctors trying to save a cancer patient and arguing whether they should do surgery or chemo or try acupuncture.

Your novel is likely to be an introduction to the Rising for many readers. What do you hope they take away from the story?

It's not my place to tell my readers what to take away from the story. Everyone will take away something different. I do hope this novel will inspire them to approach history critically and not rely on popular cultural stereotypes. Above all, I want my readers to enjoy the prose, the setting, the language. I want them to taste the whiskey and smell the gun smoke.

What are you working on now?

I have several projects in the pipeline. One of them is Lily of Ulster, a novel set in Edwardian Belfast, highlighting the artistic and intimate adventures of Florence Hobson, Ireland's first female architect. I must warn the readers that this is NOT a neo-feminist girl-power piece, nor is it a Cinderella rags-to-riches story about an underprivileged girl who overcame all odds. In Florence's case, the odds were in her favor. She came from a stable, educated, progressive Protestant family. Her grand entrance into the male-dominated profession was something that happened organically, because her social circle was ready for this sort of transition. More and more women in the Western world were embracing lucrative careers, and Florence was just one of the first ones in her field. The novel explores the rewards and challenges of being the first. Florence's contemporaries did not think it was "shocking" or "scandalous" that she should pursue architecture. On the contrary, they thought it was quite splendid. There is a misconception that the story has to have the standard conflict between the Progressive Girl and Backward Society in order to be compelling. Florence Hobson had everything going for her, and yet she still had her demons to battle. People like sensational tales of "how I lost 30 lbs. in one week." They derive inspiration from those miraculous tales. Well, the story of Florence Hobson needs to be told, because it's illustrative of the social patterns in Edwardian Ireland.

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
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Leave a comment on this post with your email address and you're entered to win your choice of a paperback copy or an ebook of Never Be At Peace!

This giveaway is open internationally and closes at 11:59pm Monday, April 7, 2014. Winner will be selected at random.

Never Be At Peace is on a blog tour!


  1. I know so little about Irish history it's kind of pathetic. This looks very interesting and I'm sure I'd learn a lot from it. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

  2. Never Be At Peace would be unforgettable. Thanks for this giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  3. I am captivated with this novel and the great feature. Many thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  4. The 1916 Rising featured in a HF novel I read recently. I'd love to learn more. Thanks for the giveaway.

  5. The subject is one which I have very little knowledge of. Would like to be counted in for this one. Thanks for making it open to all.


  6. Would definitely be interested in learning more about this period of time.


  7. Fantastic interview -- I really enjoyed this book and am super intrigued by her Hobson one -- can't wait to read that one!

  8. Thank you for entering me to win Never Be At Peace. I know nothing about The Easter Rising 1916. Have always seen it written in one book or another. Would like to know about it. I am not Irish.


  9. I don't know much about the incident or times in Irish history but sounds interesting, thank.

  10. Thank you so much for this feature and opportunity to win a copy of this title. Your work as a blogger is invaluable to readers like me; with such great resources on what new titles are available in my favorite genre, it's much harder to waste my precious reading time. Thank you. --K

    If I am the lucky winner, please email:
    shamy at post dot harvard dot edu


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