Thursday, May 17, 2012

Caylith and the Almost-Villain

(Or, Why an author should never hold onto a b&w snapshot of the bad guy . . . He just might  take on colors and dimensions that even the author had not anticipated.)

In my first romance Storm Maker, readers learn about a frightening man named Owen Sweeney, one whom Caylith had already met and vanquished, but who pops up in SM to plague her and Liam.

The secret that I'm divulging today is that Sweeney started out as an typical villain, a man who once frightened Caylithy to the marrow. I saw him as a dark force against the sunshine of Caylith's pure hope for the future. And then, vile-tempered and apparently evil as he is, he began to grow on me.

In the next novel of the trilogy, The Wakening Fire, Sweeney looms large again.But this time, the reader begins to get a hint that the man has hidden layers. Why would a scholar well-versed in the classics of antiquity, a man who sired six children by a woman he loved, a cattle baron with a vast fortune--why would such a man murder his wife and hold women in slavery?

And now the truth can be told. I changed my mind about Owen Sweeney. I had to ask myself those very questions, and easy answers would not do.
In TWF, Caylith and Liam go in search of Sweeney’s hidden past. Their journey leads them to discover forty year-old secrets and why those secrets have been hidden so long. His biggest secret is one even he would give his life to discover--and he almost does give his life trying to find the answer. That secret will lead eventually to the creating of the history and geography of northern Ireland. 
The Greeks used wheelchairs several centuries before Owen Sweeny did . . . .
In the following excerpt, Caylith manages to overcome her suffocating fear of Sweeney and approach him for the first time since she had him captured and imprisoned. A cripple confined to a wheeled cart, he is being watched over by a monk at the behest of Father Patrick.

Sweeney had once been a tall man, at least as tall as Glaedwine, and he was still as broad through the shoulders and as brawny of arm as my Saxon vassal. When last I had confronted him, his hair was long and matted with months of neglect. Now cut almost to his ears, I saw it was the deep color and glow of my steel war hammer, a black so deep as to be imbued with blue lights.

He was as clean-shaven as ever, his face betraying no dark afterthought of whiskers under the skin. His jaw was clenched, his mouth a thin, jagged line. His short-sleeved tunic revealed muscles bulging and moving as his arms guided his personal chariot across the floor. Inside the cart, his legs were splayed out, useless as sticks, covered with a blanket.

The invalid’s chair was large, at least two feet tall and four feet long, and it sat on four wooden wheels like a small oxcart. Sweeney himself would have been the size of an ox, I thought, if his legs had not been somehow ruined, for his immense forearms propelled the cart as easily as if it were a toy. With a slight pull here or a tug there, he had learned through long use to move the contraption as though it were part of his own body. In a way, it was an extension of him, I thought, as he moved and whirled in rhythm with his own taunting words.

“Well, who have we here? Caylith the Duchess, out to seduce me with her bodice of jewels?” He wheeled the cart to within six inches of my feet and grimaced up at my chest. 

Then he spun the cart to my left. “Caylith the ravening supplicant, devouring my property at the behest of the high king?”
Sweeney's cart was not so much different from this ox-cart, except that his had four wheels.

And then, in mock fury, Sweeney raced his cart around the fire pit and came to a rest near my right side. “Perhaps Caylith the vengeful goddess with her corvine minions eager to peck out my very eyes? Or are you an entirely new and different Caylith today?”

I flushed deeply. Sweeney was right. Each time he had seen me, I had showed a different side of myself. I decided to be straightforward with him. Settling onto a bench near the door, I looked at him with what I hoped were passive eyes.

“Today I am Caylith the curious. I would know more about you. I would set aside my prejudice and listen.”

“And what prejudgment do you speak of, you immature brat? You admit that you have already judged me and found me guilty, but you allow me to speak on my own behalf before the noose is tightened around my neck? Pahgh!” 

A great glob of spittle hit the polished floor, a foot from where I sat. I did not move. If he had spat on me, as he had done to Liam, would I still have sat immobile? I tightened my mouth, glad I did not have to decide, unwilling to answer his anguished question.

“Very well. You wish to know how it happens that a wife-killing, slave-holding criminal speaks like a member of royalty? Why he knows how to read and write Latin and Greek and several other languages besides? Why he had access to untold wealth yet chose to live like a sod puller? Why his own mother would condemn him to death? Is that what you want to know?”

I blanched from the blistering heat of his attack. “Please—I—”

His steel-dark hair fell onto his forehead, partially obscuring his stony glare. He gave a sudden swing with his head, sending the lank hair flying backward again. “I will not be subjected to the gaze of the pitying priests, nor made into a spectacle before the idly curious.”
Will Caylith's preconceptions of Sweeney go up in smoke? Or is he even more evil than she could have guessed?

The Wakening Fire is available at a discount until May 22 at this link:  

Thanks for your interest! 

Slán, Erin O’Quinn
Who is the villain, pray, and who the hero?


  1. I can't wait to read Wakening Fire. I love your work.

  2. Dear Janus,

    You have just made my day! I appreciate your support, your own book ELIZABETH ROSE, and your teaching too. Stay well and happy,

    Slán, Erin

    1. I love your work. You are a natural storyteller with a real gift for lovely and rich description. I can't wait to read your next book.

  3. Dear Elena (I see your name hidden there),

    Thanks for your very kind comments. Coming from you, amiga, I feel very blessed by such words.

    Hasta la vista, slán, Erin