Years ago I read a book called THE DEFIANT by Mary Canon. For me the novel was memorable not because it was some great literary work, for it wasn’t really. It was simply a compelling read about the Irish battle for freedom under Queen Elizabeth I. The book has remained on my “keeper” shelf for years because the hero, Rory O’Donnell, stayed in my head long after I read the last page.
Something about that character haunts me.
Perhaps it’s the way he arcs throughout the story from brash youth, to courageous Irish rebel, to weary refugee. Or the way he sacrifices his personal desires and the love of his life for a cause bigger and more noble than his own happiness.
But what really intrigues me is that the character was based on a real person – Rory O’Donnell, the last king of Tyrconnell.
After I read THE DEFIANT, I felt compelled to do some research. This particular period of Irish history really fascinates me; maybe because in some ways it parallels Cherokee history. I learned that Rory was one of nine children. Born in Ireland in 1575, he became king after his father abdicated in favor of Rory’s older brother, Hugh who died in 1602. Along with Hugh O’Neil, Rory fought the English crown to maintain Irish sovereignty. Sadly, he and O’Neil lost that war. Their loss set the stage for years of bloody struggle that lasted up until a few years ago.
In 1607, Rory O’ Donnell, Hugh O’Neil and about 90 followers fled Ireland when Rory and Hugh discovered they were about to be arrested. Their escape became known in Irish history as the Flight of the Earls. Tragically, Rory never saw his beloved Ireland again. He died while in exile in Rome in 1608. Silly, but when I read that fact over twenty years ago, I grieved as though he was a family member. To this day, on St. Patrick’s Day I say a prayer for Rory’s soul. Wierd, I know.
So? you wonder. What does this have to do with writing? I write paranormal fiction and romance. On another blog I post spooky stories. My fans write often that my tales keep them up at night. And that’s a wonderful compliment, one I truly treasure. After all, that is my goal, to scare my readers. But the thing I want the most is to create a character that will haunt my readers long after they’ve set the book aside, someone like my immortal, Rory O’Donnell.