My literary career began in Neo-Victorian fiction and drama. I am the author of the acclaimed novel Wynfield’s Kingdom that appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and the sequel Wynfield’s War. The two novels were adapted for stage as historical tragicomedies, Hugo in London and Lady with a Lamp respectively. Last year I decided to temporarily leave the slums of 19th century London behind and relocate to the heart of early 20th century Dublin, the hearth of nationalistic activity, where every week a new alpha-rebel usurps the power. That is precisely the setting for my iconoclastic novel, Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.
Introduced to the concept of cultural activism at an early age by my father, a prominent operatic coach and language revivalist, I always found it fascinating how various ethnic groups have addressed the concept of national identity, especially when it was in peril.
While examining any nationalistic movement, it is vital to remember that some individuals perceive their facial features and their language as mere technicalities, while other – as definitive elements of their personhood. Some can effortlessly divorce themselves from their roots, move to another country and marry someone from another ethnic group, while others would find such acts blasphemous. Some are willing to fight not only their perceived enemies but even those comrades who show insufficient zeal, branding them cowards and traitors. At one point does love for one’s heritage become unwholesome and destructive? I don’t attempt to answer that question.
One of my goals in writing Martyrs was to challenge the innerving stereotype of Irish rebel as being a financially disadvantaged Catholic and fond of drink. The protagonist is the complete opposite – a middle-class Quaker of Anglo-Scottish origin and a vehement abstainer. I find that the Protestant angle is largely underrepresented.
My choice of focal character has been questioned on several occasions. I have been asked: “Why did you choose Bulmer Hobson for your protagonist? That’s not a name you hear frequently.” And my answer is: “Because Michael Collins has been done to death, and I have nothing more to say about him.” To me historical fiction is not about brand recognition. I am not interested in capitalizing on the star power of canonic figure. With the risk of sounding arrogant and elitist, I do not read bestsellers, nor do I watch blockbusters. My lifelong quest is to dig up lost treasures, literary and historical, and bring into light those figures that have remained in the shadow for whatever reason. Currently, Bulmer Hobson is not a star in the popular epos of Irish nationalism, but he certainly was a star in his day – a star that was abruptly extinguished. The story of a man so precocious and egotistical in his politics yet so naïve in matters of the heart fascinated and moved me, and I hope it moves my readers. This novel is my hymn for all prematurely extinguished stars.