Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - ROSE CITY READER!
Upstairs in her sister's house on the south side of the city in Ranelagh, Grace heard the blast as well. It was about three in the morning, and she had been lying in the bed, staring at the ceiling.
-- An Irish Volunteer by Juliet Cardinal.
In 1916, while Britain was fighting Germany in WWI, the British Empire also faced revolution in Ireland. In her debut novel, Juliet Cardinal tells the fact-based story of star-crossed lovers, Joe Plunkett and Grace Gifford, who risked their love to fight for a free Irish Republic.
An Irish Volunteer is a compelling story, well-told, and would make a great book club choice.
Julia Cardinal is a author and private investigator who works on capital murder cases. An Irish Volunteer is published by Salthill Press.
PORTLAND BOOK EVENT:
Juliet will be reading from An Irish Volunteer this Thursday, August 13, at 7:30 at Powell’s on Hawthorne.
Saturday, August 8, 2015 - ROSE CITY READER!
During the 1916 Irish Revolution, a star-crossed pair of lovers teamed up to fight the British for an independent Irish Republic. Joe Plunkett was Catholic, the son of a Count, a poet, and one of the leaders of the rebellion; Grace Gifford was a Protestant and a rising artist.
Juliet Cardinal's new novel, An Irish Volunteer, tells the remarkable true story of their love and the risks they took for their country's freedom.
Juliet recently took time from her day job as a criminal investigator to answer some questions for Rose City Reader.
How did you come to write An Irish Volunteer?
My job is pretty stressful sometimes. I’m a private investigator and I work on defense teams in capital murder cases, meaning that my clients are facing the death penalty. The stakes are high, the scrutiny is pretty intense, and there’s a lot of darkness and dysfunction. About three years into this work it started to get to me and I was getting really anxious and stressed out. I kind of hit a wall because I hadn’t really learned how to deal with it—didn’t have a lot of perspective yet. After a couple of weeks in this addled state it occurred to me that I would be fine if I could just get away to Ireland for a little while.
A few weeks later I was in Dublin where I toured a historical prison there called Kilmainham Gaol. I was entranced by the personal stories of the leaders of the 1916 Rising. They were a pretty motley crew of philosophers, poets, professors, and activists who decided to take on the British Empire—they were totally idealistic underdogs. The love story of Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford was particularly striking because of its romance and tragedy. He was a Catholic nationalist and she was a unionist Protestant. He was getting ready to lead rebel troops into battle and she was in the midst of being rejected by her family because of her love for him. They were falling for each other in the months leading up to the Rising. It was terrible timing for them but also a beautiful story.
What is your family background? How did it lead you to write your book?
I have a lot of ancestors that came over to the US from Ireland during the Great Hunger in the late 1840s but I didn’t know that when I started writing the book. I’ve always been a little obsessed with Ireland without understanding why. About a year after I started my research for An Irish Volunteer I was home sick for a few days and went on ancestry.com to pass the time. That’s when I learned about my Irish heritage.
How much of your novel is based on true, historical events?
I researched An Irish Volunteer extensively. The parts of the book that are totally fictional are things like personal conversations and interactions or internal dialog about characters’ motivations and doubts—that kind of thing. Even then, I reviewed a lot of personal letters and notebooks to learn as much as I could about them. One of my goals in writing this book—besides to entertain and hopefully inspire—was to teach readers as much as I could about this fascinating historical moment. The political scene in Dublin at the time was complex but also compelling. The revolution itself was difficult and exciting and led to the eventual establishment of the independent Republic of Ireland. I loved the idealism and sacrifice the leaders showed. They were madly in love with their country and their cause.
How did you research the historical information and detail found in your book?
I read everything I could get my hands on about Joe, Grace, and the Rising. I also read a lot of archived personal accounts and hundreds and hundreds of pages of Joe’s personal papers, notebooks, and documents at the National Library of Ireland. I spent all the time I could in Dublin, scouting all of the historical locations that are still standing, and went on several tours of Kilmainham Gaol—the prison is featured in the story. I spoke to all the amateur historians I could find online and at the pubs, and took a ferry ride to Holyhead, Wales and back to Dublin. My book opens on that ferry route. I read old Dublin newspapers. I was also lucky enough to have Shane MacThomais, a well-known Dublin historian and writer, review my manuscript for any historical inaccuracies.
There were some smaller details that I couldn’t find—like what type of guns Joe had with him during the Rising. I knew he had three pistols but I couldn’t find the information on the make or model anywhere. Finally I found a man through social media who had seen a collection of the guns owned by Joe’s family at the time. He remembered the three pistols in the collection so I used those in the book. It was a guess but a fairly educated one.
Can you recommend any other books or resources about the Irish Revolution?
My favorite general book on the Rising is Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion by Charles Townsend. I also really liked Enchanted by Dreams, Joe Good’s personal account of his participation in the fight for Ireland’s independence. He traveled from England to Ireland to fight in the Rising and his insights and observations were invaluable! I love him. He’s actually in my book a couple of times but I didn’t give his name.
What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?
I guess the most surprising thing I learned is that I could do it. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that! I was too obsessed with the story to be practical when I decided to write this book but there were so many times I didn’t know how I’d get through that next scene.
Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by who you read?
I’ve always loved J.D. Salinger and Jane Austin. Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories changed me, I think. It’s all about the characters for me! I also loved Maugham’s, Of Human Bondage and The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway.
The writer I’ve been the most excited about in the last couple of years is the Irish crime writer, Ken Bruen. I’m not into all of his books—many come off a little cold, almost sociopathic—but his Jack Taylor series is great. It’s a PI series set in Galway, on the west coast of Ireland. It’s very dark—even darker than most noir stuff—but it’s also very funny and deeply human. Bruen’s writing style is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s like he’s dumped all the rules and is recreating them from scratch—very liberating! Jack Taylor is a huge mess—in constant trouble with addiction, depression, violence, and self-sabotaged relationships—but he’s also incredibly well developed, soulful and irresistible. I’m glad I’m in love with him in the books instead of in real life. Safer that way!
What kind of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite genre? And guilty pleasures?
When I’m not reading non-fiction for research I mainly like crime writing and historical fiction.
I really like Adrian McKinty, especially his first book, Dead I Well May Be. He’s a Northern Irish crime writer. Although his character development isn’t on a par with Bruen’s Taylor series, his style is taut, edgy and dynamic.
As far as modern historical fiction goes, my favorite right now is Hilary Mantel. I loved her book about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety. She creates characters that are as multidimensional, compelling and interesting as any I’ve ever read. When I got within about 75 pages of the end of A Place of Greater Safety I started to panic a little because I didn’t know what I’d do without those fascinating people in my life. I’d love to find more writers that can do that for me!
I’d love to be influenced by any of these writers but I don’t know that I have been. I’ll keep reading them with the hope that I can soak up a little of their brilliance.
What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It’s compelling and a lot of fun, and the character development is almost painfully intimate.
What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an author?
Oh god, I don’t know! I wish I’d asked for more advice before I started!
I guess the most important piece of advice was to stop waiting for the perfect time and to just start writing. I just showed up every morning whether I wanted to or not and wrote as much as I could. Sometimes I was feeling inspired—often I wasn’t—but I got some words on the page. Janet Evonovich’s book, How I Write, had a lot of that kind of very practical advice. I also read a book called The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists by Andrew McAleer which was great because it made the whole thing feel more possible.
Do you have any events coming up to promote An Irish Volunteer?
Yes! I have a reading at 7:30 on Thursday, August 13 at Powell’s on Hawthorne. I’m so excited about that because it’s one of my very favorite places.
YOU CAN BUY AN IRISH VOLUNTEER FROM POWELL'S OR AMAZON (PAPERBACK OR KINDLE) OR ASK YOU LOCAL BOOKSTORE TO ORDER IT!
Posted July 16, 2015 --> by Hubert O'Hearn --> in Thoughts, Comments, Opinions with Hubert O'Hearn
Genres: Historical Fiction, Ireland
Thoughts, Comments, Opinions host Hubert O’Hearn recently sat down to an interview with author Juliet Cardinal to talk about her new book An Irish Volunteer. Based on true true stories of Joe Plunkett, an eccentric, mystical poet and the Catholic son of a count, and his friend Grace Gifford, a Dublin artist and a Protestant, they join a secret rebel organization of writers, professors, philosophers, and activists in a revolution against the British Empire during the midst of World War I as Ireland fights in desperation for their freedom after hundreds of years of oppression, starvation, and abuse at the hands of the English. Outgunned and outmanned twenty to one, their stories masterfully come alive through Juliet’s countless hours of research.
“I researched like crazy, I researched excessively, that’s something I really really enjoy. That was one of my favorite things about writing the book, was learning about all of this”.
Juliet resides in Portland, Oregon where she also works as a private investigator helping Oregon inmates sitting on death row in capital murder defense investigations. Prior to her work as a private investigator, Juliet taught flamenco dancing in both Portland,Oregon and Jerez, Spain. She also has a deep love for music and can sing anything from classical to country.
Book Review of An Irish Volunteer by Hubert O'Hearn, an Irish-based reviewer, playwright and independent
An Irish Volunteer
Juliet Cardinal (Salthill Press 2015, Trade Paperback) 287 pages, $16.95 cover price
It is controversial still. With the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin just a year away, anyone picking up a weekend issue of one of the major Irish newspapers will read articles, opinion columns and Letters to the Editor arguing what is the correct amount of attention to be paid to the five day rebellion that forced political momentum towards the establishment of the Republic of Ireland.
The debate falls along almost perfectly symmetrical, balanced lines as though fought by chess grandmasters replaying and arguing over the strategy behind a ninety-nine year old gambit. On the one side, the Rising was doomed to failure: it was formed of a few hundred loosely trained and modestly armed volunteers fighting the British goddam Empire. Then again, the Rising was destined to succeed: the veterans of the campaign (save of course for the dead and the thirty-three who were quickly court-martialed and executed) formed the leadership of the movement that first won the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922 and then full independence eleven years later. Opposed: Because of the Rising, the six counties of Ulster would never be part of an independent Irish nation. In Favour: That nation however exists today and besides, Ulster's majority had already declared itself as comfortable within the United Kingdom well before 1916. To ask for another outcome would be like trying to force a clock to recapture its chime.
As for me, one who has lived in both Northern Ireland and the Republic since leaving Canada in late 2012, my opinion of the Rising and its consequence mimics that of the Irish Volunteer leader The O'Rahilly who said to Countess Markievicz (a formidable republican whose portrait hangs today in the halls of Leinster House, seat of the Irish government), 'It's madness, but it's glorious madness.' Those words are well-known to every Irish schoolboy and schoolgirl, yet likely new to you. The Irish battle for independence is breathtaking, scholarly, romantic ...
... and controversial as hell. Therefore I ask you, or at least those of you who might be considering locking your creativity away for months in a small room, typing away at something that might be called a book when all those words are revealed, is this the subject you would choose? Historical fiction, such as An Irish Volunteer opens the author to attack from both the academic historian who sees such works as hopelessly inaccurate folderol, and the literati gentry who think it's all somehow rather easy, a cake mix with directions amidst the patisserie. (Both of course write their own historical novels when seeking a decent paycheque, but of course theirs is the exception, darling.)
I would like to suggest to you that the term historical novel should be binned in favour of a new term: Imagining. Of course we do not know precisely what the republican conspirator Joe Plunkett may have said to his beloved Grace Gifford in the days before the General Post Office was stormed on Easter Monday, but really does it matter? Precise quotation is important in criminal trials and commercial contracts, but not in books about past events. Plausibility is a high enough standard. And even as far as the fine details go, when Plunkett confessed his love for Grace, does it matter at all whether or not that happened over tea at Sibley's, as author Juliet Cardinal places it in An Irish Volunteer, or on the walk to or from there? So long as all the important facts are presented accurately, the figures of the portrait of a personage truly defined, then it matters not at all what shade the lipstick is, so long as author and reader can imagine it correct in its time.
An Irish Volunteer is Juliet Cardinal's first book and she has made several astute choices in its writing. Crafting the story to revolve around the relationship between Plunkett and Gifford is wise in terms of drawing in the casual reader. There is a true 'Will they or won't they?' aspect as to whether or not the two will be married despite the barriers of Plunkett's poor health, the antipathy of Gifford's mother to Catholicism, and of course the actual Rising. Plunkett himself was but one of seven principal leaders of the Rising and Cardinal does not exaggerate his role, although from my understanding of the events inside the GPO he was rather more ill and confined to a litter than the author has it. Still, this is an imagining and as such I have no complaint.
Cardinal also keeps the dialogue to a minimum. The conversations between the two lovers sound largely true, as is the scene where Plunkett, on a scouting mission smack in the middle of the Rising walks into a Dublin pub and has a last pint while discussing events with the publican and a few elderly men seeking the calm of a well-pulled Guinness amidst the roar of war outside. That scene is a perfect little pearl of theatre within Cardinal's novel.
Keeping the dialogue scenes short is also valid as occasionally the lines clunk into declaration rather than conversation. At one point, Grace and her sister Nellie review the events leading to this point, including just how Grace had met Joe Plunkett four years earlier, and it all starts to feel like one of those scenes in a play where the characters have to get a lot of exposition out of the way. One scarcely goes through that many years of a relationship with someone without discussing it over time in bits and pieces with a sibling confidante, not in one glob of conversation. Yet, narrative as well as rain both demand condensation, so this too is a quibble.
My highest praise for An Irish Volunteer and its author lies within its closest comparison. With her unerring eye for detail, particularly in the battle scenes, along with the already-described imaginings, Juliet Cardinal reminds me of the glorious practitioners of New Journalism. Those whose numbers included Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote and Hunter Thompson used the techniques of fiction to report on living events. An Irish Volunteer reads like truly great newspaper reporting, and if you interpret that as a coded insult, I'll give you a hard sock in the jaw.
Since coming to Ireland, I have been bathing in its culture and history. There is no nation, no land, remotely like it and I love it with a million passions wreathed in flowered garlands. Therefore, I approached An Irish Volunteer with my mind filled with a mix of eagerness and equally a sense of step-fatherly protection. Open a page of my true love's diary, yet do not smirk as you do it. Juliet Cardinal has written a book I treasure and shall re-read. Come and and be intrigued with Ireland. Go get a copy of An Irish Volunteer.
Be seeing you.
Hubert O'Hearn is an Irish-based reviewer, playwright and independent