Genre: Historical fiction, elements of romance
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Date of Publication: April 27, 2016
Number of pages: 339
Word Count: 100,000
Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde
In 18th century Ireland, drought forces Edward and Henry McConnell to assume false names and escape to America with the one valuable thing they still own–their ancestor’s gold torc.
Edward must leave love behind. Henry finds it in the foul belly of The Charming Hannah, only to lose it when an elusive trader purchases his sweetheart’s indenture.
With nothing but their broken hearts, a lame ox, and a torc they cannot sell without invoking a centuries-old curse, they head for the backcountry, where all hope rests upon getting their seed in the ground. Under constant threat of Indian attack, they endure crushing toil and hardship. By summer, they have wheat for their reward, and unexpected news of Henry’s lost love. They emerge from the wilderness and follow her trail to Philadelphia, unaware her cruel new master awaits them there, his heart set on obtaining the priceless torc they protect.
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/bNzrVFnl9Ts
County Donegal, Ireland
Henry stood next to his father surveying their largest field. He longed to say that the seeds might yet sprout, that there was still time to yield a return, but the undeniable truth lay right before them: drought had come to Ireland. Their investment in imported flaxseed was lost.
“A hundred days, Henry.” Father’s face bore the pained expression of a man whose hope was as withered as his crops. “A hundred days was all we needed, all that stood between us and prosperity.” He kicked a clod of dirt, and it turned to dust. “It’s all gone, gone along wi’ the horse that harrowed the ground.”
A lump rose in Henry’s throat. He ached for his father, and he missed their horse. Paddy was a fine animal purchased ten years ago after a bumper crop of rye, when Edward McConnell’s luck was good and Henry’s only chore was to stay out of his mother’s hair. Elizabeth McConnell moldered in the ground now, and Paddy plowed another man’s fields.
“We will pray, Father. God will help us.”
“God?” Father kneaded his forehead with calloused fingers. “God’s groping in our pockets right along wi’ your Uncle Sorley. Praying did nae pay our tithes or the hearth tax, did it?”
Surely he didn’t mean that. Everyone knew Edward McConnell to be a godly man.
“We’ll get more seed, Father. It’ll grow next year.” He squared his shoulders and tried to look confident.
“Will nae do us any good. Your Uncle Sorley plans to decrease our tillage in favor of pasture.”
“Wi’ no cut in rent, I’ll wager, and early payment again this year.”
Father spat on the parched ground. “He stopped by yesterday looking for it. Said he’ll call in after services on the Sabbath.” He ground his teeth together. “I’d gi’ anything to see the look on his face when he finds our empty hoose.”
Henry’s chest tightened. Were they moving again? He rubbed the back of his neck and looked across the rolling patchwork of fields to the northeast, where their last home rose above a copse of ash, and where his mother’s daffodils still swayed in the Ulster wind. Four years ago, the cattle plague put them out of that house and into the windowless shack they now shared with Phoebe, their only remaining sow. The hut contained a hearth, a curse necessitating the payment of tax despite the fact that it never contained a fire.
With no peat left and no horse to haul more from the bog, the McConnells relied on a moth-eaten blanket and Phoebe’s body heat for warmth.
They had room to fall; many Catholics lived in the open, bleeding cattle and boiling the gore with sorrel for sustenance. Perhaps his father intended to join them.
“Are we moving again?” he asked.
Father slipped two fingers under his brown tie wig and rubbed his temple, something he often did when puzzled.
Henry followed his gaze to the ruins of Burt Castle, which sat atop a knoll, just above Uncle Sorley’s grand plantation house.
“Nine years we’ve suffered bad luck, Henry. E’er since I buried . . .”
Buried what? Maw? She died five years ago, not nine.
Father sunk his head into his hands, muffling his speech. “I . . . I guess it’s time to . . .”
Henry stepped into the hard, hot field, directly in front of his father. “Father, what in the name of heaven is it?”
Father tilted back his head and whispered to the sky, “Forgive me, Elizabeth.” He looked at Henry. “I buried something. Your maw insisted on it, said it was pagan and she did nae want it in her hoose. I did as she asked. A woman can talk ye into cutting off your own hand, Henry, remember that if ye can.”
Henry nodded, not comprehending, wondering what pagan thing lay buried. He’d never heard it mentioned before, and he was a skilled eavesdropper. “What was it? What did ye bury?”
Father inhaled deeply, removed the worn tricorn from his head, and tucked it under his arm. “I’ll tell ye the whole tale, but first, we have to dig it up. We canny do that until after dark.” He turned without warning and headed for home.
Henry followed him, volleying questions against his back.
Father said nothing until they reached their hut. There, he stormed past Phoebe, flung open the door, and nodded toward a worm-ravaged chest sitting next to a heap of rushes that served as their bed.
“Gather up our claithes and shoes. Use my good cloak for a sack. Bring the dried nettles.” He grabbed the peat spade, the only tool left from his once abundant array of implements, and used it to prop open the door.
“Why bring the nettles?” Henry hated the bitter leaves. “There are more nettles than rocks in Ulster.”
When his father offered no reply, he lobbed another question, desperate for clues as to their destination. “Will ye not wear your good cloak, if we are traveling far?”
“My auld cloak will draw less attention.”
So, they were going to some populous place where good cloaks were bad.
Henry spread the cloak across the dirt floor, careful to avoid Phoebe’s manure. The cloak was long out of fashion, but still a quality garment that Edward McConnell could not afford to replace. He threw their scant belongings into the middle of it, brought the cloak’s corners together, then tied them together to form a sack. Excepting Phoebe and the clothes they wore, the sack contained everything worth saving.
He sat on the rickety chest to watch his father pace.
When Burt Castle became a silhouette against an amber horizon, Father donned his hat and cloak and ducked outside.
Henry followed him to the stone wall separating their field from Uncle Archibald’s.
Father began to tumble a section of wall.
With his perplexity and fear mounting, Henry assisted until there was enough of a breach to push Phoebe through the wall.
She trotted away, grunting and wagging her curly tail, while he helped restack the stones to prevent her from returning.
He could no longer hold his tongue.
“What are we doing? Why are we putting Phoebe in Uncle Archibald and Aunt Martha’s field? Are we going somewhere? Where are we going? Why are we taking nettles?”
In his frustration, he grabbed his father’s arm.
Father whirled around and gave Henry’s shoulders a fierce shake. “Get hold of yoursel’, lad, or I’ll cloot ye upside the noggin. No more questions. Just do as ye’re told.”
Henry stared at his father, who had never once laid a hand on him, nor threatened to.
“I’m sorry, lad. Go on in the hoose and get the bundle.”
When Henry returned with their belongings, his father was holding the peat spade.
“Get a good look around ye, son. It’s the last time ye’ll clap eyes on your hame.”
- Give us the history of you. (family life, where you’re from, etc.)
I’m a native Pennsylvanian, but I lived in Virginia for two years and Ireland for six months. I spend a lot of time reading colonial documents, thanks to a fascination with early American history.
- Tell us about your new book in 10 words or less.
Father/son duo seeks love and fortune in frontier Pennsylvania.
- Walk me through the process that you went through to write your new book.
At the end of my debut novel, SCENT OF THE SOUL, an American woman shows up at a Scottish gift shop with a gold torc she unearthed at her Pennsylvania farm. Here’s a photo of it.
Readers know who the torc belongs to, but they are left to wonder how it got to Pennsylvania. I wanted SCATTERED SEEDS to tell that story. I decided my own ancestors, Edward and Henry McConnell, would be the ones to deliver the torc from Ireland to America in 1755.
Once I had the basic plot, it was just a matter of fitting the story within known events, which meant lots of research about the French & Indian War. It also meant studying immigrant vessels of the day and learning sailing terms. I assure you, my head was spinning by the time I typed THE END on this one, but I firmly believe it was worth it.
- How did you come up with your book’s name?
My characters are connected to seeds in several ways. Because they descend from a king (Somerled from my debut novel), they consider themselves scattered seeds. My character puts it this way:
“His descendants are many, and scattered like windblown seeds. Many of them rooted in Scotland, some floated across the sea, and some, like us, blew into this godforsaken muckhole called Ireland.”
For tenant farmers like Edward and Henry McConnell, prosperity always seems to hinge upon the next harvest. In the beginning of the novel, drought kills their expensive flaxseed, which plunges them into poverty. They flee Ireland for America, where they again look to seed to save them. They haul bags of it across unforgiving wilderness, and break their backs to plow and plant their fields. But my young character, Henry, endures crushing toil and hardship, knowing that once the grain is winnowed and bagged, they will haul it back to civilization . . . where he hopes to find his lost love.
- What made you decide to write this book?
I ask myself that very question about each book I write. It’s not a great time to be an author. The market is saturated, which means it’s tougher than ever to stand out. It doesn’t help that I always seem to set my novels in lesser known (and therefore, lesser read) time periods. I can’t help myself, though. I love early America, and I hold hope that one day, readers will, too.
- How many characters are based on people you actually know? Do those people know they were the basis for your characters?
Edward and Henry McConnell existed, but of course, I can only guess what they were like. They are Scots-Irish, so they sound very much like my Glasgow-born Irish husband. Some characters take on traits of people I know or have seen. Like many writers, I’m a skilled eavesdropper. I observe and tuck away little behavioral tidbits for future use.
- How many publishers did you send your book to before it was picked up?
I only queried one publisher this time around, but I entered the book in the Dixie Kane contest and tied for second in the historical category.
- What book did you read most recently that you loved, and would recommend to everyone?
I recently re-read THE FOREST AND THE FORT by Hervey Allen, one of my favorites. I love those older books, written before worldwide ban on purple prose and adverbs.
- Any tips for new writers?
Write what you are passionate about. Zeal in literature is infectious. If you love what you write, your readers will, too.
- Have you ever liked the movie more than the book? Be honest
I really don’t think so. We watch movies, but we live books. Books allow us to become the characters. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good movie, and certainly, film producers can take a mediocre book and turn it into something spectacular.
- Are there any popular books you know you would never read?
If there are, it would only be because the subject matter doesn’t interest me. I’ll read just about anything, though.
- What are you working on now?
Another frontier story featuring a female protagonist. Picture LAST OF THE MOHICANS meets THE REVENANT, only with one bad-ass German widow who’s sick of living in a man’s world.
- Anything else you would like to add?
Just that I appreciate you featuring me here. Thanks, too, to anyone willing to give my novel a chance. You can read the first five chapters for free at Amazon. Give it a try. You might just find a new favorite setting—the French & Indian War period.
Thanks so much to Julie Doherty for agreeing to be on the blog today!!! ❤
About the Author:
Julie Doherty expected to follow in her artist-father’s footsteps, but words, not oils, became her medium. Her novels have been called “romance with teeth” and “a sublime mix of history and suspense.”
Her marriage to a Glasgow-born Irishman means frequent visits to the Celtic countries, where she studies the culture that liberally flavors her stories. When not writing, she enjoys cooking over an open fire at her cabin, gardening, and hiking the ridges and valleys of rural Pennsylvania, where she lives just a short distance from the farm carved out of the wilderness by her 18th century “Scotch-Irish” ancestors.
She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers, Perry County Council of the Arts, and Clan Donald USA.
$30 Amazon gift card
5 free Kindle copies of SCATTERED SEEDS