Interviews, My Guests

Interview With Cynthia Owens, Author of Playing for Keeps

Irish Romance, Historical Romance, The Claddagh Series, RomanceI’m delighted to welcome fellow Celtic Hearts Romance Writers member Cynthia Owens here today for an interview and a look at her Irish historical romance, Playing for Keeps. Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win in Cynthia’s giveaway!

Hi, Cynthia. Tell us a little about Playing For Keeps:

Hi Babette! Thank you so much for having me as your guest! Playing For Keeps is Katie O’Brien’s story. The half-Irish beauty, daughter of Rory O’Brien, has returned to Baltimore to visit the family she barely remembers.

She’s descended from the last High King of Ireland ~ but in Baltimore, Katie O’Brien is just “Irish.”

Lucas was the despised younger son ~ a dreamer who believed his negligence caused a family tragedy. He’s left his family’s home to prove that he can make something of himself ~ something he wants to be.


He fled life in the shadows for a life in the limelight

Never as dutiful as his older brother, Lucas was a thinker, and a dreamer of dreams. When tragedy overtook his family, he fled to the bright lights of the stage. Can he make the Shannon Theatre Troupe a success – or is he doomed to once again be “the other son?”

She sought the past she barely remembered.

Mary Kathryn O’Brien returns to the genteel world her mother left behind – but can Irish Katie ever truly hope to belong? Or will old wounds and new rivalries destroy the threads of family forever?

Lucas and Katie must battle prejudice and buried secrets before they can learn to trust each other. Is their love just a brief intermission, or are they Playing For Keeps?

What inspired this story?

Playing For Keeps was something of an accident. When I wrote In Sunshine or in Shadow, I wrote it as a stand-alone story. I never planned to write a sequel to it, let alone two or more.

But something happened while I was writing that first book. I like to think of it as a sort of magic. The people of Ballycashel, my fictitious village on the Galway coast, became very dear to me. They were flesh and blood, not figments of my imagination, and I grew to love each and every one of them.

And they demanded that I tell their story.

Katie O’Brien, the heroine of Playing For Keeps, was the first to demand a story of her own. A lonely little girl in In Sunshine or in Shadow, she was unsure of her father’s love for her until one day, they went for a ride and found themselves at the edge of Ballycashel land, where lush green grass gave way to cold, damp, pitiless bog.

It was there that Rory told Katie the story of his past. It was there that he confessed his deep love for his daughter. And it was there he said he’d send Katie back to Baltimore to visit her mother’s family.

As soon as I wrote that, I knew Katie had to have her own story. And I knew it had to be set in Baltimore.

And now Katie’s visiting her aunt and uncle, meeting them for the first time since she was eight years old. She has cousins, too, Felicity, eager to experience her first social season, and sweet, innocent, sheltered Lissa.

And she’s about to meet Lucas Howard, a man with a secret he’s not ready to reveal.

Do you have any good news you’d like to share?

Yes! Deceptive Hearts, the first book in my new Wild Geese Series, will be published by Highland Press! The Wild Geese Series centers around five men: Shane MacDermott, Kieran and Cathal Donnelly, Dary Greely and Declan Morrissey. They met as boys on a coffin ship bound for America from famished Ireland, and grew up together on the mean streets of New York City’s Five Points. When war came to divide the country that gave them refuge, they joined up with Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish Brigade and won honor on the battlefields of America. Now, with the war behind them, they’re looking to find peace…and love. Check out my website for further details.

Can you share with us “the call” story?

July 15, 2006 – a date I’ll always remember. The day I got The Call – or in my case, The E-mail – about my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow.

A habitual early riser, I arose earlier than usual. The day promised to be a busy one. I was taking my then 10-year-old daughter into town to see a production of the musical, Cats, and that evening we were expecting overnight guests.

My computer was in the shop for repairs at the time, so I was collecting my e-mail from my husband’s laptop. With so much to do, I hadn’t even planned to check e-mail until after we got home from the matinee. Then I thought, “Oh, why not? Maybe something interesting will come in today.”

Sure enough, it did. The sweetest words were “I’d like to offer you a contract.”

Well, we saw the show. We entertained our guests. But I was in a complete, happy fog which lasted until I finally held that first copy of In Sunshine or in Shadow in my hand.

Do you have a favorite hero and/or heroine in your books and why?

Oh, gosh, that’s like asking me to choose which of my kids is my favorite! I love each and every one of my heroes and heroines. I love Rory O’Brien’s sense of justice, his love for his family and friends. Cavan Callaghan’s loyalty is unshakable, and the way he protects those he loves is very close to my heart. And I love Lucas Davenport’s whimsical mind and charm.

Likewise, there’s something to love in each of my heroines. Siobhán Desmond is strong, she’s a survivor, and she’s willing to do anything for her family. I love her daughter, Ashleen, for her sweet, innocent vulnerability. And I really love Katie O’Brien’s sense of adventure.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

Ireland! Always Ireland. The magical mist that seems to hover in the air, even on a clear day. The wonderful myths and legends, from Finn McCool and the Fianna to the Children of Lir. The wild sea, the many and varied shades of green. The music, especially the traditional music of the fiddle, the tin whistle, the bodhran and the harp. The people, who are the friendliest in the world. The history, so tragic yet so daring and valiant.

I’ve been in love with Ireland and all things Irish for as long as I can remember, and when I stepped onto Irish soil in 2009, I truly felt I’d arrived at my heart’s true home.

And I can’t wait to go back.

What do you like to read?

Everything! I’m a HUGE romance fan, and have been since I was in my teens. Some of my favorite authors are Mary Jo Putney (love her tortured heroes) and Teresa Medeiros, who writes witty, poignant love stories. Since I write historical, I love to read history, especially Irish history. I also love Irish mythology, and have many books on the subject. My two favorite Irish legends, Tir naNog (Land of Eternal Youth) and the Children of Lir, both of which I incorporated into one of my stories which is now on my editor’s desk. Poetry is a favorite “relaxation” read, in particular Keats, Wordsworth, and of course, Ireland’s greatest poet, W.B. Yeats.

Do you listen to music while you write? What are you listening to now?

Since my stories all have an Irish theme, I usually listen to Irish music when I write, and it’s usually traditional Irish music, with the fiddle and the bodhran, the tin whistle and the uillean pipes. The music I listen to varies depending on what sort of writing I’m doing. If I’m editing, I’ll listen to just about anything, but when I’m writing “new,” it has to be instrumental because I find vocals distracting.

These are few of my favorite things:

1. Books

2. The sea

3. My family


Philadelphia, 1850

Luke stared in silent horror as glowing red flames devoured the warehouse.

What have you done this time?

The words resounded through Luke’s brain, condemning and inevitable, in his father’s disapproving tones.

What had he done? He’d secured the warehouses. He had, he was sure of it. He’d made certain all the forges were out.

Hadn’t he? Or had his head been too full of the play he’d been studying in secret, the characters he was determined to flesh out, the pages he’d obsessively filled with his own dreams and interpretations?

Clanging bells and pounding hooves hammered in his ears.

Thank you, God.

But as quickly as relief flared, terror chased close on its heels.

Dear God, was anyone still inside? Tobias, his father’s most trusted clerk—surely he’d left long ago. And the two young men Matt hired last month—hadn’t they spoken of going to The Dancing Horse to spend their first pay packets?

He struggled for breath, the acrid smell of burning wood and molten steel tearing at his throat.

Bleak realization swept through him. It was his fault. It had to be. But it was an accident

Matthew. Matt would take care of everything. Matt always cleaned up his little brother’s messes, covered up Luke’s many shortcomings.

“Mr. Lucas? Mr. Lucas!”

Dazed, Luke stared in disbelief at the normally impeccable clerk. Tobias had lost his coat, his once pristine white linen shirt was torn and covered with soot. Luke’s gut clenched as he took in the other man’s wild hair, the bloody gash slashed cruelly across one cheek.

“Mr. Lucas!”

Luke grabbed Tobias’s arm, his head thudding, his fingers gripping convulsively. Fear struck ice cold in his heart. His entire body shaking, he ran his dry tongue over his ash-covered lips.

“Tobias, where’s Matt?”

The clerk gazed at Luke, pity darkening his eyes. Tears trailed slowly down his soot-blackened face.

“Mr. Matthew’s dead, sir.”

A Giveaway! I’ll be giving away a signed paperback copy of In Sunshine or in Shadow, the story that began The Claddagh Series! Be sure to include your email address so I have a way to contact you. During what time period was the musical I attempted to write?

Irish Romance, Historical Romance, The Claddagh SeriesBio: I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17thCentury “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there.

My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII.

A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three. My novels in The Claddagh Series, In Sunshine or in Shadow, Coming Home, and Playing For Keeps, set in post-Famine Ireland and America, are all available from Highland Press.

I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two teenaged children.

You can find Cynthia at:



Twitter: @Cynwrites1

Buy Playing For Keeps at:


Barnes & Noble:


16 thoughts on “Interview With Cynthia Owens, Author of Playing for Keeps”

  1. Great to see you two ladies together! I have your first book, Cynthia, so you don’t need to enter me in your contest, and I love reading about the latest one.

    1. Thanks, Miriam, so pleased you enjoyed “In Sunshine or in Shadow,” and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  2. Wonderful interview, Cynthia! I have a copy of In Sunshine Or In Shadow in my bookstore (secondhand store with a few new books). I really like the sound of the Wild Geese series. Congratulations on Playing For Keeps release!

    1. Hi Polly, thanks! I’ve always wanted to work in a bookstore, though the closest I came was working in a library. Great for research! Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for visiting me here! 🙂

  3. Waving Cynthia and Babette. What a fun interview. I agree with you on leaving your heart behind in Ireland, Cynthia. I lost mine in Scotland and need to go back and look for it, no matter how long it takes. Your stories are always fun reads. Best of luck with lots of sales!

    1. Hi Paisley, thanks for stopping by! Yes, my heart is definitely in Ireland, and I can’t wait to start an extensive search for it through every county in the country! Glad you enjoy my stories. Thanks for the good wishes, and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  4. Great interview! Cynthia, I know exactly how you felt about your little fictional village. I’m the same way with my Scottish Highland village. I can’t seem to move on!

    1. Hi Alexa, those Celtic villages can grab hold of your heart, can’t they ~ even when they’re fictitious! 😉 Thanks for stopping by, and glad you enjoyed the interview!

  5. Cynthia, I haven’t had a chance to read Playing for Keeps yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so. I thoroughly enjoyed your first two books. Keep them coming!

    1. Pat, I’m so glad you enjoy my stories, and I hope you like Playing For Keeps. Oh, and I’ll do my best to keep them coming. 😉 Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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