Today I have the pleasure of introducing author Marina Neary to you all. Her book, Never Be At Peace hit the stores 2 days ago and she is currently touring to promote its release. Below is an interview I conducted with her just before the book’s actual publication. Hope you enjoy getting to know her and stay tuned at the end for a giveaway!
You are an artist of many talents: poet, author, actress, and then some. Is there one medium that you prefer over another? In what area did you get your start?
I stumbled into acting on a whim. Connecticut has this indie film scene, and I just happen to have this combination of ugly good looks (think Sarah Silverman), abrasive personality, Eurotrash accent and offensive sense of humor that quickly got me pigeonholed as a "character actress". I can play an angry psycho like nobody's business, because to me it's second nature. I'll take my clothes off if necessary (and I have). I also dragged several members of my family into acting, including my husband and stepfather. They are both traditionally handsome and mainstream. I must say, once the novelty of "Wow, I'm in the movies!" wears off, you realize that there are many amateurs in the industry. Many people flirt with film making without realizing that there is a technical and business component to their "vision". As an actor, you can pour your heart and sole into a role, but then your best parts get cut in the editing process, and you don't even get those clips for your reel. Also, you can have a terrific script but a poor technical crew, and the movie will come out looking grainy. Or you have a top notch cinematographer, but a really poor script and unconvincing actors. In the end, it doesn't matter if you've done your job right. It only counts if everything else goes right, and the final product can be shown at festivals. I'm sorry to say, I've been in too many movies that went absolutely nowhere. They are still sitting on the director's hard drive. I don't mention any names. That's the risk you take when you are working with "indie" directors. They promise you the world just to get you on board, waste your time, and then stop responding to your calls and e-mails when you contact them 6 months later and ask them how the movie is going. In a nutshell, I am very selective about which acting projects I take. I don't commit to a project unless I am presented with some sort of business plan. I can't afford to waste any more of my time on films that fizzled half-way due to the directors' incompetence and lack of resources. So for now I am focusing on writing. As a writer you have so much more control over the finished product. The only people you are dealing with are your agent, publisher, editor and cover artist. You don't have to worry about other actors not showing up on the set, or the lighting being imperfect, or the funds running out. That being said, I have not closed the door on acting altogether. Over the years I've been blessed with some rather stimulating experiences. I played Molly Bloom in an adaptation of James Joyce's "Ulysses" and an Irish female terrorist in a steampunk play "The Sun Never Sets". As you can see, the Irish theme keeps recurring. One film director actually allowed me to write my own role, so I got to combine my passion for acting with my passion for writing. My character was the wife of a petty Russian mafioso in post-apocalyptic New York. That short film actually was shown at several festivals. After a while you learn to spot posers and wannabes. When people promise you a trip to Cannes but don't mention anything about their distribution plan, it's a huge red flag.
I noticed on your website that you have worked on an interesting memoir that involved dozens of senior citizens. Can you tell us more about this work? I’m sure this was a fascinating experience!
I used to volunteer at an elite retirement community, entertaining the residents with performances and lectures. The activities coordinator pitched the idea of conducting a series of interviews with willing residents and assembling their memoirs. Most of them were in their 90s, so they would have been young adults during the Great Depression. I was particularly interested in their professional lives. I was surprised to discover that among my female interviewees there was not a single homemaker. They were all professional women, entrepreneurs, educators, scholars. So much for the Donna Reed stereotype. Then again, it explains why those women ended up spending their final years at a place like Brighton Gardens. It is one of the most expensive retirement communities, and these women apparently had made enough money to afford such a comfortable end of life care. It was fascinating to hear about the economic climate in the 1930s and how it affected professional women. Incidentally, I myself come from a long line of professional women. My mother is a musician, my grandmother is an engineer, and my great-grandmother was a teacher and a translator. When I came to America, I was shocked at how many women of my mother's and grandmother's age were homemakers. In some respects, Eastern European women were ahead of their American contemporaries. In my country, "housewife" was a dirty word. If an able-bodied woman chose not to work, she earned disapproval from the community. People would say, "Look, she's trying to be like one of those decadent Western women." When I became a mother at the age of 23, I got a lot of flack for going back to work right away. The amount of negativity and judgment I got from other moms was just shocking. I was excluded from play groups. So you can imagine, I got a little defensive, to say the least. Now I am an ardent advocate for all working moms. Whenever I hear a story about a woman who was able to balance motherhood and career successfully, I get very warm and jubilant deep inside. That's what my female ancestor did. Interestingly enough, I explore the subject of working women in my novel Never Be at Peace. In a nutshell, under Eamon De Valera's regime, married women were automatically banned from the workforce. Irish constitution of 1937 made it legal to eject married women from waged labor. The rationale was that if a woman got married, she would be too busy popping out kids, so she would not be able to focus on her job anyway. You can imagine my reaction to that discovery.
Can you share with us what inspired you to write about this period of Irish history in Never Be At Peace?
Never Be at Peace is actually a companion piece to another novel in the Irish series Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916. I was already in the process of writing a series of books about the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. The main character in Martyrs & Traitors is Bulmer Hobson, a controversial antihero who had tried to prevent the Easter Rising. Never Be at Peace focuses on the misadventures of his first love, Helena Molony. The two novels are meant to complement each other, because they are told from two different points of view. Both Hobson and Molony started off as Irish revolutionaries, and both were willing to make great sacrifices for their cause, but at some point their paths split. Each of them had a slightly different idea of what was best for the country they both loved. Hobson's background was not typical for an Irish revolutionary. He was an Ulsterman, Protestant, upper middle class, of predominantly English stock. Molony was a quintessential Dublin girl, Catholic, from lower middle class, with frizzy dirty-blonde hair, freckles and an explosive temper. In a sense, Helena Molony had all the ingredients of Cinderella. She had a wicked stepmother, a fairy godmother (Maud Gonne) who put her on a path to theatrical stardom and even Prince Charming (Bulmer Hobson). Alas, this Cinderella story does not have a happy ending.
I’m very unfamiliar with this time/place in history and would love to know more. What would be one thing that you would want to be sure all readers know going in to reading your novel?
It's always a challenge for a historical novelist to assess how much background information your readers already possess. You do not want to sound like you are speaking a foreign language, but at the same time you do not want to insult your readers' intelligence by over-explaining the obvious. I try to make my characters human, tangible, complex, so my readers could relate to them on a human level. My goal was not to write an Irish novel. It's a universal novel that just happens to be set in Ireland. One of my goals is to de-Blarnefy Ireland. You know what I'm referring to - green beer for St. Patrick's day and leprechauns wearing IRA t-shirts. There are so many sticky ethnic stereotypes that need busting. With the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising approaching, there will be a great deal of reevaluation and revision in the academic and literary circles.
What project are you currently working on?
Right now I am writing a novel Saved by the Bang: a Nuclear Romance. I decided to take a short break from Irish history and actually write something rooted in my own experience as a Chernobyl survivor. I was a young child growing up in the picturesque swamps of Central Europe when the greatest nuclear disaster in history occurred. The female protagonist of the novel, Antonia Olenski, is a catty pianist torn between her flamboyant composer husband and a tormented young tenor at the music academy. Antonia is based on my highly esteemed mother, the queen of cats, whose talent, elegance and sarcasm continue to transform and motivate those around her.
A Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin. Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explore human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. Her debut novel Wynfield's Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks. Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.
You can access the entire tour schedule at the Fireship Press blog.
I also have a giveaway for all my readers – one copy of Never Be At Peace by M. J. Neary (either e-book or paperback). The giveaway is open internationally and will end March 30th. Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!
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