We welcome author Susan Anne Mason to the Quid Pro Quills. Susan writes historical novels including Irish Meadows and A Worthy Heart. They are the first two books in her Courage to Dream series. I recently reviewed A Worthy Heart.
QPQ: Having a bit o’ Irish blood meself, I’m enjoying this series immensely. What prompted you to center on the Irish in New York at the beginning of the 20th century?
SM: I always wanted to write a family saga because I enjoy reading them so much, and as I was researching my own family’s history. I discovered that my father’s side of the family came from Ireland and settled in Brooklyn around the turn of the century. So that became the seed that grew. My ancestors, like many immigrants, weren’t well off when they arrived. I wanted to portray the patriarch of my story, James Leary, as having clawed his way up from poverty to achieve a good measure of success. Because it’s always more fun to read about the rich, isn’t it?
QPQ: Adam O’Leary … wow. What a difference a book can make! How did you recreate Irish Meadow’s bad boy into A Worthy Heart’s hero?
SM: This was indeed a challenge! To be honest, at first I didn’t like Adam O’Leary much! That’s why I moved him ‘offstage’ in Irish Meadows. I didn’t know much about him, only that he would end up in prison. But the more I delved into Adam’s character, the more I understood what drove him, and I began to see his potential as a hero! (I can’t give away Adam’s secrets. You’ll have to read to find out!) But it was certainly fun reforming him, and helping him heal from his childhood wounds — with a little help from Maggie Montgomery!
QPQ: Maggie Montgomery is an instantly likeable heroine who has no intention of returning to Ireland. Historically, how common was this for Irish relatives visiting their American relations?
SM: To be honest, I have no idea. I know that during the Irish Potato Famine, a huge influx of Irish immigrants came over to Canada and the United States, which I’m sure resulted in a lot of their families coming to join them. In my own family, my uncle married a sweet Irish girl who came to Canada for a visit and when the two fell in love, she quickly moved to Canada. Her sister and her widowed mother also came over from Ireland and all of them eventually ended up living in California (with another rather large Irish population!)
QPQ: I mentioned in my book review of Irish Meadows that you didn’t bury the Catholic roots of these characters. We see that too often in historicals dealing with the Irish, and I don’t understand that since it was such an intricate part of who they were. Yes, the Christian in-fighting in Ireland was horrible, but it happened. Was there any push-back from your publisher regarding that?
SM: Interesting question because when I was first shopping Irish Meadows to potential agents and publishers, I received a lot of negative feedback about the fact that the characters were Catholic. I believe one person said that a story with a priest would never get published. Thankfully Dave Long at Bethany House didn’t hold that opinion. I only got one mild suggestion to make sure that anything “Catholic” in the book was accurate because if we got it wrong, the readers would surely let us know!!
QPQ: Aurora Hastings, she’s the quintessential “poor little rich girl” isn’t she? You’re dragging that dear young woman through the emotional mud in the first two books. Dare we hope she’ll reach a happily-ever-after at some point? Soon?
SM: The lovely Aurora reached her happily ever after at the end of A Worthy Heart. I’m afraid you’ll have to imagine the rest, because we don’t see her again in the next book. The third and final book in the series is called Love’s Faithful Promise, which mostly centers on the youngest O’Leary, Deirdre and her tug-of-war with the handsome Canadian doctor, Matthew Clayborne, as they work together to help Mrs. O’Leary overcome a health crisis. In this book, which takes place for the most part back at Irish Meadows, we see Gil and Brianna and their children, as well as some appearances from Colleen and Rylan and a cameo by Maggie!
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QPQ: Thank you for visiting and sharing some behind-the-scenes information about your books. I’m looking forward to Love’s Faithful Promise already!