Interview with Eileen Hodgetts, author of ‘Whirlpool’


Eileen Enwright Hodgetts is the author of Whirlpool.  She is a much traveled writer. Brought up in England and Wales, she has also lived and worked in South Africa and Uganda and now makes her home in Pittsburgh, PA. Her life experiences allow her to use exotic backgrounds for her novels and to understand how an adventure can begin with just one small incident. For ten years she directed a humanitarian mission in East Africa and is also involved in a Ugandan Coffee Farm. Much of her writing reveals not only her great fondness for the British Isles, but also her British sense of humor which still sees the funny side of most situations.

In addition to writing novels, Eileen Enwright Hodgetts is also an accomplished playwright with a number of national awards to her credit. Her novel, Whirlpool, began life as a stage musical playing at the Niagara Falls Convention Center in Niagara Falls, New York. In 1993 the Mayor of Niagara Falls, NY, proclaimed the summer of 1993 as Whirlpool Theater Days in honor of the production.

The author’s award-winning courtroom drama Titanic to All Ships will open at the Comtra Theater on April 13 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The drama, created under a Fellowship Grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a dramatic re-telling of the Senate Hearings into the tragedy. The play has won several national awards.

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Q: Thank you for this interview, Eileen Can you tell us what your latest book, Whirlpool, is all about?

A: Whirlpool is set in 1923 when the Jazz Age was in full swing. Evangeline Murray, a young widow from Ohio, is recruited by the Women’s Freedom Movement to represent the spirit of modern womanhood by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Evangeline eagerly embraces her opportunity to achieve fame and fortune, until she sees the power of the river and begins to understand the risk she is taking. Joshua McClaren, an enigmatic battle-scarred war veteran reluctantly agrees to launch the headstrong Evangeline although he has no respect for Evangeline’s impetuous desire for fame. Before the barrel can be launched each of them will be forced to face their own demons, painful secrets will be revealed and the Niagara River will claim more victims.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A. My main characters are Evangeline Murray and Joshua McClaren. Evangeline’s deceased husband was a gambler who left her with multiple gambling debts and two young sons to raise. Evangeline seizes the opportunity to risk her life by going over the Falls because she believes that she will achieve fame and fortune if she succeeds.

Joshua McClaren is a Canadian river man and a battle scarred veteran of World War I. He us fully aware of the dangers facing Evangeline and is only reluctantly involved in building and launching the barrel. When he realizes that he has strong feelings for the attractive young widow he does everything in her power to dissuade her, but Evangeline is desperate for money and determined to succeed.

Cornelia Braithwaite and Iris DeVere are the two representatives of the Women’s Freedom Movement who had hired Evangeline to publicize their cause. So far as Cornelia is concerned, a contract is a contract and there is no way for Evangeline to back out of her commitment.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A: Evangeline and Joshua are created from my imagination but the book is based on the stories of the Daredevils of the early 20th Century who made multiple attempts to ride over Niagara Falls. My main inspiration was Annie Taylor a school teacher from Michigan who was the first person to survive the ride over the Falls in a barrel. Annie Taylor’s motives have always remained a mystery, and she died in poverty.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A:I am aware of how the story will begin and end, I am aware of the motives and desires of my main characters, but sometimes a minor character will take on a much larger role than I would expect, and quite often I will find that a sub-plot is also taking shape and I will incorporate the subplot.

Q: Your book is set in Niagara Falls, Canada. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

A: I spent a summer in Niagara Falls directing a theatrical play at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. In my spare time I explored the museums and walked the river bank and became interested in the stories of the people who had come to the Falls specifically to risk their lives on daredevil stunts.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Absolutely. Whirlpool is very much about the Niagara River and the people who live along the river.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

A: It is the night before the barrel launch and Evangeline is attempting to take her mind off the upcoming events by flirting with the dour and unreceptive Joshua. She asks him to take her for a boat ride out onto Lake Ontario and she is surprised to find that what she takes as a mild flirtation is seen by him as something much more serious and as an opportunity to persuade her to abandon her attempt.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Evangeline began to hear a roaring sound which slowly drowned out the noise of the engine. Up in front of her she could see a cloud of white spray. They came abreast of a large building with mock Tudor framework and a green roof.

“Let’s stop,” said Nell. “We could go into the restaurant and have a cup of tea. You can see the Falls from the Verandah Room.”

“Yes,” said Evangeline quickly, “that sounds like a good idea.”

She hadn’t expected to be afraid, she really hadn’t, but whatever it was up ahead of them that was roaring and thundering, and sending up clouds of spray, might be much better viewed from behind glass. She could approach it gradually and tame the beast in her mind before she actually faced it.

Joshua McClaren refused to stop. “It’s not a tea party, Mrs. Murray,” he said. “You’ll not be going over the Falls sitting on a little wrought iron chair, sipping tea.”

So they motored on past the inviting tea room with its colorful flower beds and ladies seated beneath shade trees, and then, suddenly, the whole awful spectacle came into view.

Evangeline saw two waterfalls. The first one to catch her horrified eye was across the river on the American shore. A sheet of whitewater poured down endlessly onto great, black, tumbled rocks. Surely, no one, no thing, could survive that fall. She looked to her right and saw an even more massive horseshoe-shaped waterfall. This fall was the origin of the cloud of spray that filled the air and drenched the spectators on the sidewalk.

Joshua stopped the car and waited. Evangeline wanted to laugh in his face. Did he expect her to get out? Did he really expect that? Did he think that her legs could carry her to the iron railing to look over into the abyss? Surely not.

He opened the door for her, smiling grimly.

“Mrs. Murray.” He offered his arm. She took a deep, determined breath and stepped out. She reached up for his arm. He was very tall. She refused to permit even the slightest tremble in her hand as she rested it on the worn linen of his shirt sleeve.

She was only dimly aware of the rest of the party trailing behind them as they proceeded across the wide sidewalk. The spray was a fine mist which had to be brushed aside from her eyes. They reach the edge and she let go of Joshua’s arm to hold the railing with both hands. The air was filled with the roar of the water and the shrieks of the seagulls who circled and swooped over the tumult.

“Which one?” She could hardly say the words.

“Oh, not that one.” He gestured across the river. “Those are the American Falls. You’d stand no chance at all there; not that you stand a much better chance with the Horseshoe.”

The endlessly falling waters of the Horseshoe Falls fascinated her. They roared over the edge and plunged down and down into a foaming basin, but it seemed there were no gigantic boulders in the basin, just raging waters. It could be done,” Evangeline thought. Surely she could do it. It was a terrible thing, but it could be done.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Eileen. We wish you much success!


The year is 1923 and the jazz age is in full swing. Evangeline Murray, a young widow from Ohio, is recruited by the Women’s Freedom Movement to represent the spirit of modern womanhood by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Evangeline eagerly embraces her opportunity to achieve fame and fortune, until she sees the power of the River and begins to understand the risk she is taking. Joshua McClaren, an enigmatic battle-scarred veteran of World War I, and the best boatman on the river, reluctantly agrees to launch the headstrong Evangeline. Joshua has seen hundreds of bodies surface in the Whirlpool below the Falls, and has faced death on the battlefields of Flanders and has no respect for the charming, impetuous Mrs. Murray, and her desire for fame. Before the barrel can be launched, each of them will have to face their own demons, painful secrets will be revealed and the Niagara Rivers will claim two more lives. Inspired by true stories of the Falls, Whirlpool is a romance, an adventure, and the closest that most of us will ever come to taking the fateful plunge over the Falls.Whirlpool is a fiction that is based on reality. Seven people have tried to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Four have succeeded and three have died. The first person to make the attempt was Annie Taylor, a middle aged school teacher from Michigan who made a successful journey in 1901. Barrel riding at Niagara Falls is now forbidden by law, but at the beginning of the 20th century Niagara was a haven for daredevils of all types, and many of their exploits are included in the novel.


Pump Up Your Book and Eileen Hodgetts are teaming up to give you a chance to win a Kindle Fire!

Kindle Fire

Here’s how it works:

Each person will enter this giveaway by liking, following, subscribing and tweeting about this giveaway through the Rafflecopter form placed on blogs throughout the tour. If your blog isn’t set up to accept the form, we offer another way for you to participate by having people comment on your blog then directing them to where they can fill out the form to gain more entries.

This Kindle Fire promotion will run from September 4 – November 30. Winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on December 1, 2012.

Each blogger who participates in the Whirlpool virtual book tour is eligible to enter and win.

Visit each blog stop below to gain more entries as the Rafflecopter widget will be placed on each blog for the duration of the tour.

If you would like to participate, email Tracee at pumpupyourbookvp(at)  What a great way to not only win this fabulous prize, but to gain followers and comments too! Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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