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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Interview with M.J. Neary

Good morning everyone!  Today I have the opportunity to welcome back an author whom I have had the wonderful opportunity to have previously hosted.  M.J. Neary stopped by back in 2014 for her release at that time of Never Be At Peace (you can check out that interview here), but is back with her newest release, Blood of the Stone Prince.  Read all the way through for a giveaway at the end too.  Welcome M.J.!

blood of the stone prince

Heather: Hi Marina! Welcome back to The Maiden’s Court! I’m excited to have you back and have the chance to talk about your new novel, Blood of the Stone Prince, as well as what else you have been up to since we last chatted. First could you tell us a little bit about how you arrived at the topic at the heart of Blood of the Stone Prince?

M.J. Neary: Don’t faint, but I started drafting this novel in high school! We are talking mid-1990s. I had the characters developed, but they floated in vacuum. They were very real and tangible to me. At the time I did not have the literary skill to produce anything publishable. Besides, my early drafts received a volley of criticism and ridicule from my mother, so I begrudgingly shelved the project until better days. 20+ years and 11 novels later, I finally was able to resurrect my manuscript. The title character, Daniel Dufort, a self-absorbed musical prodigy nicknamed Stone Prince, came to me in my sleep and voiced his grievances. He wanted to see the light of day. The Stone Prince is one of my long-term imaginary friends. In my mid-teens I started fantasizing about a tall boy with long red hair and pale blue eyes who played the organ. I developed complications from pneumonia, so I spent a lot of time in the fog. The Stone Prince is just one figure that emerged from that fog.

H:  Wow! That’s been bouncing around in the back of your head!  It’s cool that you were able to finally bring that idea out of that bottom drawer, so to speak, and bring it to life!

The description of this book certainly leads me to believe that there was likely some interesting Google search history in the research process! What was the most interesting part of your research for this novel?

M.J. N: I didn’t need to do much Googling, really. I come from a family of classical musicians, so I always had plenty of Medieval and early Renaissance music in my house. My birth father, a lapsed Catholic, always had books about the history of the Church, including a few titles on the Inquisition, featuring some of the more prominent ecclesiastic scandals and trials. I use references to real historical figures and weave them into the plot. Behind the veneer of austerity, medieval clergymen led such adventurous, thrilling lives. They trafficked forbidden books, conducted controversial scientific research, had affairs with beautiful and scholarly women and then found cushy positions for their illegitimate children. If a priest took certain precautions and conducted himself properly in public, he could get away with just about anything. As long as you are saintly and ascetic before the flock, what you do behind the scenes is your own business. After the service, the sacristy would turn into a locker room. Men of God would snap their liturgical sashes at each other, the same way jocks snap towels, and brag about their conquests. For many of them, true fun only began after the ordination. Imagine an adolescent boy observing this freak show. How would that form his character, his perception of right and wrong?

H: That could certainly be one heck of an eye-opening experience!

Why choose 15th century France for the setting of your novel?

M.J. N: For one, there aren’t many novels set during that period, and I like to work with something that hasn’t been overdone. If you have a chance, please watch “The Hour of the Pig” (known as “The Advocate” in the US), a dark comedy depicting an absurd religious trial with a common pig as the defendant. Late 1400s was such a fascinating time, the waning of the Medieval period. The Catholic Church, having morphed into something rather remote from the original ideal, was on the verge of reformation. The French were also slightly behind their German and Italian neighbors in terms of progress. Humanist ideology and the printing press were met with resistance, while the clergy were pushing for more privileges and more autonomy. The Church had reached the point where it was a bubble filled with lava, waiting to burst.

H: I will have to check “The Advocate” out, that sounds interesting.  As a reader, I too like to read outside the box that the big publishers tend to push us into, so kudos for that! 

All of your novels seem to be very different from each other; how would you characterize Blood of the Stone Prince?

M.J. N: It’s a Medieval “hipster” novel. I deliberately wanted to make the characters accessible and recognizable to modern audiences. It was my goal to convey the decadency and the neurosis of urban living. Some archetypes are timeless: the sickly art chick, the drama club geek, the self-absorbed child genius, the burned-out jock. Each chapter is narrated by a different character. Like the rest of my novels, it’s permeated with dark, irreverent humor.

H: I like that description, a Medieval “hipster” novel!

When I last had the chance to interview you it was March 2014 and you had just released Never Be At Peace. What have you been up to in the intervening years?

M.J. N: The past few years have been rather prolific. I have written Saved by the Bang, an autobiographical novel set in Belarus after the Chernobyl disaster.

Saved by the Bang

There is also The Gate of Dawn, featuring the lives of pagan communities in rural Lithuania.

Gate of Dawn

Trench Coat Pal is a young adult cyberpunk retelling of the Robin Hood myth.

Trench Coat Pal

Big Hero of a Small Country is another novel in my Irish nationalism series.

Big Hero of a Small Country

Last but not least, there is Sirens Over the Hudson, set in Tarrytown after the financial crash of ’08. So six novels in total, counting Blood of the Stone Prince.

Sirens Over the Hudson

I like to use my actor friends for the covers. My publishers are totally supportive of the idea. I am not a huge fan of the same stock images being recycled. It’s funny to recognize the same corseted bosom or sexy back on various covers.

H:  I have to agree on the cover element!  A fellow blogger friend has a running series where she chronicles some of those recurring cover trends (Cover Cliché at Flashlight Commentary)  and when you look at them all together it can just be a bit ridiculous.  Awesome idea to use people you know for your covers

What do you have next planned for your readers?

M.J. N: I am dusting off more abandoned projects. My next one is “EuroMedika”, a medical thriller set in 1980s Philadelphia, depicting a string of pharmaceutical scandals. I went to college in Philly, so I am passionately attached to that city.

H: Very cool! I love that you work what you know into your novels. 

When you are not engaged in the writing/publishing process, what do you do for leisure?

M.J. N: I have a lovely day job in foreign exchange that takes up much of my time. I have been busy breeding Siberian cats. My ginger stud Rory has fathered seven litters in the past year. There is nothing like the joy of having kittens.

H: We have 3 cats ourselves – my husband is a veterinarian which is how we ended up with them all in way or another.  Must. Love. Cats! 

Thank you so much for stopping by today! I’m excited to help spread the news about your newest release!

marina neary

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.

Find M.J. Neary: Blog

blood of the stone prince
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Book Blurb:

From the alchemy labs of fifteenth-century France comes a tale of one beauty and three beasts on a macabre journey through the Parisian underworld. After sixteen years of priesthood, Monseigneur Desmoulins secretly wishes for excommunication. Fed up with sacristy intrigues and tedious inquisition proceedings, he keeps himself amused by dissecting rats, playing with explosives and stalking foreign women. Some of his dirty work he delegates to his nineteen-year-old protégé Daniel Dufort nicknamed Stone Prince, who plays the organ at the cathedral. The gaunt, copper-haired youth looks may look like an angel, but his music is believed to be demonic, pushing the faithful towards crime and suicide.

To keep themselves safe amidst urban violence, the master and his ward take fencing lessons from Lucius Castelmaure, an alcoholic officer facing a court martial. Their alliance is tested when a Wallachian traveler implores them to entertain his terminally-ill daughter Agniese, whose dying whim to is be buried inside the Montfaucon cellar alongside felons and traitors. The three men jump at the chance to indulge the eccentric virgin in the final months of her life.

Raised in the spirit of polyamory, Agniese has no qualms about taking all three men as lovers. In a city of where street festivals turn into massacres, it's only a matter of time before the romantic quadrangle tumbles into a pit of hellfire. Filled with witch-hanging, bone-cracking, gargoyle-hugging humor, Blood of the Stone Prince is a blasphemous thriller for the heretic in each one of us.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble 


I have the wonderful opportunity to offer a copy of Blood of the Stone Prince to one lucky reader in the USA.  Please enter the Rafflecopter below.  The giveaway will close November 1st.  Good luck!

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