Friday, June 1, 2012

Please Welcome Eugenia O'Neal

JessamineI'm pleased to announce that a fellow author is having an exciting release day. First of all, a bit about Ms. O'Neal: Eugenia O'Neal is a writer from the British Virgin Islands whose short stories have been published in regional publications. Her first book, From the Field to the Legislature: A History of Women in the Virgin Islands, was publised by Greenwood Press in 2001. Since then she has published two novels, Just an Affair and Dido's Prize. Her next novel, Jessamine, will be out in June.

I've read Dido's Prize too. Loved it! But today, we're talking about Jessamine.

Eugenia O'NealJessamine tells the story of Grace Hylton, an African-American, who arrives on the Caribbean island of St. Crescens full of doubts about her husband’s political aspirations, doubts about her marriage and doubts about the wisdom of relocating. Her native-born husband, Julian, has lived most of his adult life in the States but has come back to St. Crescens, determined to pull his country out of the cauldron of corruption, nepotism and crime into which the leading political dynasty has taken it.

An architect by training, Julian buys and restores Jessamine, an old Great House. What the Hyltons don’t know is that Jessamine is home to the ghost of Arabella Adams who lived there as a governess during the late 1800s.

Jessamine is told from the alternating viewpoints of the two women – both foreigners, both married to local men. An old injustice binds them across the century that separates them, but can Grace discover its roots before St. Crescens is plunged into violence and chaos?

It's an intriguing tale that artfully time jumps. In most novels I'd find it irritating. In this one, I didn't. The women are so different and the men are too, there was no confusion. I confess, I thought it would have a touch of horror due to the cover, but I was pleased with the interracial story line as well.

Now, some questions for Ms. O'Neal:

I googled St. Crescens and did not find an island by such a name. I did, however, come across an African Saint. Can you tell me what island you thought of as you wrote this? (The descriptions are so vivid.) And what prompted you to name it St. Crescens?
Honestly, I thought of all the islands I've ever visited while writing but perhaps the most of St. Lucia (where I got the idea for Jessamine) and also of Barbados which has a flatter landscape and where sugar was first introduced to the New World as a crop back in the 1600s.  Many of the islands were named by the Spanish, who as big Catholics named them after saints so I just followed along and looked up the saints online at the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Hey, I was on the right track. :) Alphanus doesn't look Grace in the eye. It's like he's uncomfortable with women. How do you handle it when men do that to you?
Thankfully, most guys I speak to don't do that but when it happens I usually start looking at whatever they're looking at and end the conversation quickly.
Monkey meat and turtle soup are dishes mentioned in the the story. Have you had these? What do they taste like?
Well, only a couple islands, Barbados and St. Kitts, have monkeys as far as I know.  We don't have them in the Virgin Islands and monkey meat long ago went off the menu on those islands so I've never had it.  In the old books written usually by whites vising the island or by the white planters the taste was considered comparable to chicken. Turtle soup continued to be eaten into around the 1970s, 1980s but the discovery that green turtles were near extinction resulted in governments in the region banning the killing of turtles and the sale of their meat or their shells for most of the year. You can still find it on menus when the hunting season is open (though rarely) but I've never eaten turtle, either.  Turtle eggs are considered to improve men's potency but I suppose they can use Viagra now.
LOL! Learn something new everyday... Grace or Arabella. Which one do you relate to the most and why?
A difficult question.  In many ways, Arabella has had a hard life.  She grew up without a mother and then, while still a child, really, she's sent away from the only home she ever knew, India.  Up until she met Leando she did what was expected of her, by society and by her remaining family.  Meeting Leando and living on Jessamine where things were not always as they seemed changed something in her and ignited her desire to live for herself.  Grace, on the other hand, comes from a privileged African-American background and has achieved success fairly easily.  She's fearless and basically says and does as she wants but when she comes to St. Crescens, she has to tamp herself down a bit.  It's a bit unnerving for her to be in an unfamiliar place, among strangers, in a situation where she has to be in the background and can't express herself and be who she is.  The two women are very different but, I think if Arabella, were asked she would say she admires Grace who never second-guessed herself in her life.  And if Grace were asked she would say that she's in awe of Arabella who, whatever her opinions about her own strength, had the courage to go against society and marry the black man she loved in a time when that was very much taboo.
Arabella gets her room peppered and gets scared by a snake as those brats play pranks on her. Has someone played pranks such as this on you before?
Leando looks like Dennis Haysbert.
No.  The pranksters at school tended to be my friends so they never did anything to me but other people would have eggs put under their mattreses or wake up covered with powder.  I never did that.  I do remember calling people on the phone when I was young and asking them if their fridge was running and then barely being able to get the punchline out before dissolving in laughter!  Even now when I'm telling a joke, I'm usually the one laughing the hardest!  A total dork!
As a writer, I'm fond of browsing fotolio and istockphoto and all and searching for my cover art models/figures. I'd like you to find a Julius for us and a Leando. What do they look like?
Easy!  Leando looks like the actor Dennis Haysbert, one of my favourite actors!

And Jane at Booketta's Book Blog thought of Jamie Foxx for Julian which I think is perfect though a bit short.

Ms. O'Neal, thank you for taking the time to be on Book Babe. I wish you the best of sales and reviews!
Readers looking for a mystery/suspense historical full of strong women and mystery and secrets with a lovely tropical island setting, be sure to mark Jessmine as "to read."

Thank you.

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