Originally the background history about Will’s parents, their meeting and his father’s end, appeared near the start of the novel. Dr. Harrod suggested I move the info to a latter place and dole it out in small bites, and begin with the wayward boy dialogue in the hostel. One major change to that text was the motive of Will’s father. Initially, he was booby trapping a bridge with the intent of setting off a bomb on parade day as the Orangemen crossed. After due consideration, I decided this placed him in an unfavorable light in the role of the aggressor, so I changed his mission to a defender against a sniping attack.
Happy New Year!
All writers use literary devices. Former teachers of English are, perhaps, a bit more cogent of their importance. I probably neglected verbal irony to a disproportionate extent, for it is quite prevalent amoung the Northern Irish. Also, it is not unusual to find litotes present in a novel set in the British Isles. Dramatic irony is present in many places. I hesitate to elaborate any further, since doing so would reveal spoiler details of the novel. The same holds true for my use of foreshadowing, but one non-spoiler of an example comes to mind– when Éimhear lectures “Liam” on Church & Bank Streets after leaving The Happy Asian. In regard to allusion, many of my allusions are to famous poets, but there are some to folk ballads as well (Little Musgrave, etc.), and also to prominent Northern Ireland musical artists, such as James Galway, Paul Brady, and Van Morrison. Two recurring biblical allusions—St. Peter and Cain– are key to the story. I use imagery quite a bit, most notably during the climax scene of the novel where the protagonist is moving from the Ulster Museum to Botanic Gardens and on to Stranmillis Embankment to Ormeau Bridge. Symbolism (some of Celtic origins) is present in the English Ivy references, in the Narrows, the rain, the Titanic, the bear, the trout, in other animate and inanimate objects (the oak, the flowers, and the stones), and in places, such as Ballybrady Island. When setting mood (and there are various moods to be found in the novel) I often relied on assonance and rhythm to give a poetic feel to the passage. One motif of note is the recurring references to the cardinal directions on the compass, symbolic of a distance between the peoples, and also that wisdom comes from the east. The protagonist’s stroll on The Mountain Road was first written as prose, then converted to poetry and then back to prose, a technique I use when teaching poetry to my students. Metaphorical applications include the river as both a fateful and changing force in life. Character archetypes are prevalent as well. Celtic myth is resorted to from time to time. For example, when Nick loses his sword, his sword being a phallic symbol; the story of the little bird is central to the tale; and the business about the Devil’s Half-Acre is drawn from a myth as well. Flashback is used in a few places, most notably to reveal expository details about the protagonist’s parents and his own past actions as well. Hyperbole is used in small ways. The Belfast setting contributes to the theme of civil discord while the specific setting of Will’s childhood home in Stranmillis alludes to St. Paul for the street names in that section are all of Biblical origins and his street is Damascus. Point of view of narration was discussed in an earlier blog entry.
I completed the first edition of the novel in mid-December and made it available for purchase today.
I began planning the novel during the summer of 2005, after participating in the National Writing Project summer institute at Rider University. However, not until 2012 did I devote myself to the task in earnest, but still part-time. Now and again I worked on it while teaching writing and shared those small parts with the class. They were very interested and critical at times. Other than grunt work it was difficult to write during the school year or during the decompression time of July. I did a lot of the editing while waiting on benches at DMV, my son’s Irish dance classes, etc. I’m sure everyone thought I was wacko. Above is a photo of the hard copies. From 2012 to Jan 2015 there were ten total hard drafts of the book. The first draft was hand written. I would print out the draft, revise by hand, then type the changes then print again. That’s how I kept the word count in check. Beginning in 2015 I went to electronic editing. Above is a photo of the ten hard copies. The drafts to the right are the earlier ones. Each tab is a new draft. The first draft is the thin one on the bottom of the pile. The final draft is at the bottom of the stack to the left.
Many of the characters in Six Counties Seven Sins are archetypal. Will Stone is a dual archetype. First, he is the prodigal son returning home. Second, he is a reluctant hero on a journey into the unknown, having twice refused the call before realizing that, like Jonah, he cannot run from his fate. Father Peadair is the wise old man. The Old Woman in the cloak is the Old Woman, The Earth Mother, in Irish myth, the embodiment of Ireland itself. Éimhear, namesake of Cú Chulainn’s love in the Ulster Cycle Irish Epic The Tain, embodies the sensual Ireland. Éimhear has much in common with Judith of the Old Testament/Apocrypha. She is promised to a foreigner — a military officer of the nation which has for centuries oppressed her people. Lady Eleanor, part of the Protestant Ascendancy, is a temptress. Gráinne, as her name implies, embodies grace. Desmond is a blend of mentor and trickster, while Nicholas “Old Nick” Savage is clearly the villain of the novel.
The collective unconscious proper is alluded to by Éimhear, who draws an analogy between the drowned drumlins of Strangford Lough and the human condition. Will Stone’s visionary dreams and mystical insights also point toward a psychic connection to the collective unconscious.
As often as possible, I have used the present tense. My reasoning will become clear when you reach the end of the story. Point of view of narration shifts between the first and the third point of view (one brief passage occurs in the second person) based on what the reader needs to know while keeping the protagonist in the dark and unreliable at best, for reasons that will likewise become clear when you reach the end of the story.