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Interview: Dot Ryan, Author of Corrigans’ Pool

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After reading the synopsis of Corrigans's Pool, I was instantly intrigued.  This novel sounds like a fascinating and engrossing peek into an historical  period with fascinating characters.  When presented with the opportunity to ask author Dot Ryan, a few questions I was thrilled.  Enjoy and I hope you get the opportunity to read Corrigans' Pool as well!

Tell us a bit about Corrigans’ Pool. What is the story about, who are the characters, etc.

Corrigans’ Pool is a Civil War era novel that takes place in and around Savannah, Georgia between 1861 and 1864.

If you don’t mind, I’ve taken parts of the following description from the recent ForeWord Clarion Review of Corrigans’ Pool, which gave the book five stars out five:

The eldest of two daughters, Ella Corrigan rises to the challenge when a family tragedy results in an incapacitated mother and a father consumed by guilt. Despite the pressures of essentially running the family plantation on her own, she bears the burden of responsibility stoically, with kindness, efficiency, and little resentment for her lot in life.

Somewhat resigned to the possibility of never marrying, Ella is stunned by her reaction when she meets the dashing, if seemingly ill-suited, Gentry Garland. She repeatedly resists the attraction at first, resulting in moments both touching and amusing, until she finally accepts the love between them. From there, it doesn’t take long for Ella to begin envisioning a different, more enriching future — at least until the Civil War lands on their doorstep and Gentry strangely disappears without a word.

Devastated, Ella makes the fateful decision to marry neighboring plantation owner Victor Faircloth. Victor’s increasingly contemptuous violence toward those who serve his household sickens Ella, and a gripping mystery begins to unfold involving his rapidly disappearing slaves and the beautiful pool, called Corrigans’ Pool, on Ella’s family property. As the Civil War rages on, Ella finds herself fighting a war of her own to save her home, her loved ones, and the innocent victims of her husband’s brutality.

Villains and heroes are exposed in their true light, loves are lost and found, and the strength of human spirit ultimately prevails.

Other characters in Corrigans’ Pool are Ella’s tenacious younger sister, Honor Corrigan, and their bossy but wise grandmother and matriarch of the Corrigan family, Beatrice Corrigan. Adam Corrigan, a gentle man haunted by the accident that crippled his wife, is Ella’s and Honor’s father. Then there’s the love-sick Reverend Timon Pledger, whose constant depression is born of his hopeless love for Ella. Moonbeam and Sunbeam, 12-year old identical twin slave girls, share Ella’s danger at her husband’s plantation. Meshach and old Baker Ben are slaves belonging to Ella’s family, both of whom are deeply involved in the secret of Corrigans’ Pool — the beautiful pond on Corrigan property.

How do you come up with the names of your characters? It almost seems as though, as an author, you have the continuous fun of naming children!

It is fun! Sometimes the names just pop into my head after I’ve fleshed out the characters and know absolutely everything about them. In my historical novel, Corrigans’ Pool, there is a secondary character named Tessie Peckenpaugh, who is an extremely plain and fidgety old maid. The name fits her character perfectly. The same goes for another secondary character, Timon Pledger, a gangling, shy young preacher with an aura of guilt and gloom as obvious as the hawkish nose on his otherwise babyish face. In the sequel to Corrigans’ Pool, which I am now writing, there is a foul-mouthed old misogynist named Hempstead Grouse. Doesn’t’ that sound like a fitting moniker for a grouchy old woman-hater?

What do you want readers to take away from reading Corrigans’ Pool?

I want them to take away a feeling of gladness that they read it, and a feeling that they will read it again someday.

What was the most fun about writing Corrigans’ Pool?

Creating the characters and writing the dialogue between them.

What was the hardest part about writing Corrigans’ Pool?

The hardest part was making certain of my historical facts and then working them into my story’s timeline. Doing research and double-checking that research took many long hours.

Could you please tell us about your writing process?

I write at least five days a week, sometimes into the weekend. There are days when I write from sunup to sundown or longer if the words are flowing.  I get teased by my grown children when they drop by and find me in my pajamas in the middle of the afternoon. I tell them that my pj’s are my writing costume of choice and they might as well accept it.  Besides, I’m all for comfort when exercising the brain.

Do you have any particular habits that you take part in while writing? By that I mean certain music you like to listen to, foods you like to eat, environment that helps you write better, etc.

I love all types of music but often find music distracting when I’m creating a story. Sooner or later, a song will remind me of something completely unrelated to my writing and then my creative flow gets the old kink-in-the water-hose action while my mind wanders elsewhere

I love to nibble roasted peanuts while I’m writing. Other times, I can’t resist chocolate. I must control myself both times! As far as my writing environment, I write in my cramped little office, but will move from room to room with my laptop if I need a change of scenery. I like to write on our patio in the spring or on the beach when the weather isn’t too hot.

If you had to summarize your life and give it a book title, what would that title be?

A Woman Named Tenacity  

What are you reading right now?

I recently finished Olive Kitteridge, and have started Tom Brokow – The Greatest Generation.  I like a vast assortment of books, fiction and non fiction.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Elizabeth Strout, Maya Angelou, Virginia Woolf, E. L. Doctorow, James Michener, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Emily Dickinson, Charlotte Bronte, and Margaret Mitchell.  

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

Mostly books about animals. Black Beauty was one favorite.

If you could have lunch and chat with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Margaret Mitchell. I wasn’t born when Gone with the Wind was published but, because it is a Civil War era novel and is written so beautifully, it is one of my all-time favorites.  Many of my ancestors fought on both sides in the Civil War and my family’s amateur historians have passed down to me horrific tales of that era. Margaret Mitchell talked to Civil War veterans and others of that time and I’d like to hear what they said to her. I’d also like to tell her that her book was the first book I had read when I was a tad past childhood that wasn’t about horses.

 What do you hope to accomplish within the next five years?

I hope Corrigans’ Pool will have establish me as a serious writer by then — one who has published four or five additional novels.

 What are you working on right now and can you give us a sneak peek? A small excerpt?

I am working on the sequel to Corrigans’ Pool, which I have  tentative titled Leaving Corrigans’ Pool.  I had started the sequel even before I published Corrigans’ Pool but wasn’t sure about finishing it.  I decided to move forward when readers of Corrigans’ Pool told me how much they liked the book and wanted to know if there would be a sequel.  Corrigans’ Pool takes place in and around Savannah, Georgia between 1861 and 1865.  Leaving Corrigans’ Poolwebsite, takes the central characters to the wilds of Texas during that state’s dangerous Reconstruction era. I have posted Part One of the sequel on my .

Chapter Two

"What do you mean, Honor, 'when we've packed up and gone from this place?'" Ella stared at her younger sister. Surely Honor could not be serious! If so, the girl had no more sense now — married and the mother of a three-year old daughter — than when she was a child-like, fifteen-year-old girl giddy with desire to wed her irrepressible beau, Andy Kearney. Ella looked at their grandmother, Beatrice Corrigan, expecting her to be as shocked as she was at Honor's silly remark, but no sound came from the woman. Not even a derisive hoot! Ella continued to eye the elderly woman whose owl-like eyes — like the steely orbs of an aloof wizard — continued to gaze elsewhere. Surely, she would say something upon hearing such twaddle. The Beatrice Corrigan that Ella knew had an opinion or rejoinder for every conversation within her hearing range, invited or not.

Finally, Ella gave up and leaned forward to face her sister, determined to speak softly, knowing that if she let her emotions escape, the colossal empty room would echo her words like stones striking the walls of an iron well. "Honor, I want to know what you meant by that ridiculous statement and I want to know right now."

Honor glanced fearfully at Ella and then at their grandmother, who still ignored them both. Honor quickly shifted her attentions to the small girl draped across her lap and began poking nervously at the girl's blond curls. The child immediately slid into a sitting position on the floor and scooted on her tiny rump until she was out of her mother's reach. When Honor motioned for her to return, the child entangled her fingers in her curls and stuck out her bottom lip. Honor giggled. "She thinks I'm gonna comb her tangles out."

"Honor…" Ella persisted.

Honor again looked to their grandmother for rescue, but Beatrice—as if observing everything from a set of eyes on the side of her head—stiffened her chin against her high lace collar, as if to say 'you got yourself into this, young lady, now get yourself out of it.' Honor sighed. "I just meant that maybe someday … you know … we might all just move into Savannah with Grandmother, like she keeps telling us we ought'a do." She hesitated, then blurted, "Grandmother says we'll never be able to turn this place around … 'cause God and those hateful politicians in Washington won't let us."

 (Click here) to visit Dot Ryan's website to continue reading more of this delightful excerpt and learn more about the author.

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