Monday, December 29, 2014

An Interview with Morgan O'Neill (@AuthorMOneill)

It is my very great pleasure to welcome Deborah Cordes & Cary Frates to the blog today. Together, they're Morgan O'Neill, and they're welcoming the release of their newest collaboration, a time-travel romance The Thornless Rose. They were good sports and fielded a few interview questions. Keep reading to learn more about their lives and their work...

A chance meeting at a writers’ conference brought Cary Morgan Frates and Deborah O’Neill Cordes together, two award-winning authors who connected because of a mutual love of time travel fiction. Collaboration ensued, the search for a pen name the first step in their working relationship. Their maiden names provided the solution - and “Morgan O’Neill” was born. 

Cary and Deborah’s backgrounds are uniquely suited to writing stories steeped in atmosphere and history: Deborah has a Master’s Degree in history and is a dedicated genealogist; Cary is a talented linguist in French and is currently a student of Latin. They’ve traveled to Europe’s ancient and medieval sites many times, with Cary living on the Continent for five years. 

The Morgan O’Neill time travel novels have received a number of literary awards, including two finalist wins in the Booksellers’ Best Awards, two semifinalist wins in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, first, second, and third place wins for the Mainstream Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category of the Golden Rose Contest, a top ten finalist award in the Pacific Northwest Writers' Conference Zola Awards Literary Contest, and a top ten finalist win in the Orange Rose Contest.

LR: The Thornless Rose is a big book, the start of a three-book series. What’s the most compelling thing about it, Deborah, the thing that kept you working through writing and rewriting?

Deborah: There are two compelling things, actually: traveling through time and research. I am fascinated with the subject of time travel, and I enjoy crafting intricate plots dealing with going back and forth in time. I find non-linear thinking enthralling (and it’s good exercise for the ol’ brain cells). I also have a BS in zoology and master’s degree in history, and I was a teacher for many years. Researching continues to be a driving force in my life, and I get joy weaving history and science into my works. My goal has always been to give readers a true sense of “being there.”

Cary: There are three factors that motivate me: 1. To do right by our characters (they’ve practically become personal friends). 2. To get the history absolutely right, which takes a lot of time and energy. 3. To get our storytelling so solid our readers lose track of time.

LR: Writing as a team must have benefits and challenges compared with working solo. Tell me a little about your process. Who does what? Who’s the good cop and who’s the…other one?

MO: Although we write what has been characterized as historical fantasy - twisty-turny time travel - at the core of each Morgan O’Neill novel is the linear path of real history and actual events. We tend to gravitate to things that interest us and divvy up the work. For example, Cary has sailed extensively, so any scenes in our novels involving that are hers for the taking, while Deborah loves magical mayhem, so most of the witchy/magical scenes are hers. We write our scenes apart - and sometimes together - then switch back and forth to edit, cut, add, and have the occasional meltdown.  All in all, it has worked out. We’re still alive after seven novels, after all. ;)

LR: Cary, your individual publishing projects have been glossy and feminine romances, but Deborah, you write sci-fi. So different! How do your individual strengths benefit the whole?

MO: We are very different people, and our major strength in writing as a team is the way one of us will come up with plot twists and scenes that the other did not anticipate or imagine. The old adage - strength in diversity - seems to apply here.

LR: What greases the writing wheel for you, Deborah? Chocolate? Red wine? A quiet, clutter-free environment?

Deborah: A cup of hot tea, a wee bit of chocolate, and a desk cluttered with research scraps and tidbits are my tickets to writer’s nirvana. It also helps to have Westies and Cairn terriers snoozing at my feet.

Cary, same question… Heavens, if I had wine or chocolate nearby, I wouldn’t get any work done at all! My environment is not clutter free, but I do prefer the quiet so that my mind can wander unhindered along creative paths, and my fingers can fly to keep up.

LR: Do either of you have go-to blogs or books to help with technical issues? Like, when I have a question about plotting or dialogue or how to write a synopsis, I search the archives of Janice Hardy’s blog Fiction University. What’s your fave resource, Cary?

Cary: I don't have a favorite resource. If I'm stuck, I’ll troll the Internet for a while, to gather a general idea, but beyond good grammar basics, I need the passage to have a flow, a cadence that sounds right, and the right results sometimes bend hard and fast rules.

Deborah, same question… I love Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, which is known as a go-to book for writing screenplays, but can be most helpful for novelists, too. And writers can’t go wrong with The Chicago Manual of Style and Roget’s Thesaurus.

LR: Promotion is a part of the game for every author. Are you guys able to divide and conquer here, too? Any secrets you want to share?

MO: Deborah handles Pinterest and Facebook, while Cary does Twitter. We share the rest.  No secrets, just hard work and doing the best we can.  It’s a jungle out there.  :)

LR: The Seahawks, the Mariners, or the Sounders? Which team colors look best on you? ;)

Cary: All of our teams are rather color-coordinated and who doesn't look good in blue? For my part, it’s GO HAWKS all the way.

Deborah: If it’s not on PBS, or the History and Science channels, I’m probably not going to see it on TV.  lol  Let me just say I did watch a bit of a televised NFL football game with my hubster last week, and the Dallas Cowboys’ seafoam green pants were to die for.

LR: What’s next on your horizon? The sequel to The Thornless Rose? Individual projects? What else do we have to look forward to?

Morgan O’Neill is contracted by our publisher, Entangled, LLC, for two more novels in the Elizabethan time travel series.  We finished writing the first draft of the prequel of The Thornless Rose in October 2014 (to be published in 2015), and have started the sequel, which is due to Entangled next year.

Individual projects-
Deborah: I’ve begun working on the sequel to my science fiction novel, Dragon Dawn, Book One of the Dinosaurian Time Travel Series (now available on Amazon).  I’m also editing my epic novel about medieval Russia, The Sacred Cradle, which will be published in 2016 (this work is historical fiction, not time travel). My time travel screenplay, Conjurer, continues to make the rounds in Hollywood, and I plan to start writing the Conjurer novel when all of my other projects are done, say in 2016-17. Whoa, I just realized I’m going to be quite busy!  :)

Cary: In addition to the rest of the Elizabethan series with Deb, I’ll release the third and final installment of my “glossy and feminine” Red Soles short story series, which should come out in early 2015. I’ve got a full length historical novel in the works, plus, I’ll be directing the self-publication of non-fiction Westward Trail memoir. 

So many projects, so little time! Awesome interview, ladies. Thank you so much for taking the time to field my questions, and I wish you all the best with The Thornless Rose!

Author Links...

Book Deets...
Title: The Thornless Rose
An Elizabethan Time Travel Novel
Author: Morgan O’Neill
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: December 29, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction

No one ever knew what really happened to Dr. Jonathan Brandon back in 1945. He simply disappeared from a London pub, leaving behind an unsolved mystery and his fiancĂ©e—Anne Howard’s grandmother. Seventy years later, Anne herself is haunted by the strange tale, along with inexplicable hallucinations straight out of Elizabethan England. Including a scarred, handsome man whose deep blue eyes seem to touch her very soul...

Anne wonders if there isn’t something more to the story. Is it even possible that Jonathan disappeared into England’s dark past? And why does Anne keep hearing him whisper her name? Because now she too feels the inexorable pull of the past, not to mention an undeniable attraction for a man she doesn’t even know.

It’s just a matter of time before Anne will step back into history, and face a destiny―and a love―beyond imagining...
Buy Links:
Amazon        iTunes         Kobo         B & N

Other projects from Morgan O'Neill....


  1. Liv, Thank you for hosting Morgan O'Neill today! We worked very hard on The Thornless Rose, our most beloved baby, and hope the readers will get as much enjoyment out of reading it, as we did in the writing.

  2. Great interview, ladies! I especially like Cary's quote about writing in the quiet so her mind can wander. I'm much the same. In fact, my sister is out of the house this morning, and I should be writing!

  3. Thank you for hosting us, Liv. The Thornless Rose was a labor of love, and I'm so excited we finally have a chance to share Anne, Jonathan, Queen Elizabeth I, and all our other heroes, rakes, and rogues with the world!

  4. 2. To get the history absolutely right

    Ha! And that is why I do not write historical. You guys intimidate me. I can't wait to read this book!

  5. Great interview! I love big books and time-travel and loved The Thornless Rose. Can't wait to read more in the series!

  6. Great interview ladies. Do right by your characters, love that!! Exactly, they are family.
    Looking forward to meeting them.

  7. Thanks for all your comments, and thanks Live, for hosting us. Happy reading everyone!!

  8. Thank you, one and all, for taking the time to share your thoughts. Most appreciated. And thanks, Liv. It was a pleasure to interview with you. <3