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Interview with Civil War Historical Fiction Author Dot Ryan

Dot Ryan, born and raised in Bee County in South Texas, makes her home in “the sparkling city by the sea,” Corpus Christi, Texas, with husband, Sam. Corrigans’ Pool is Dot’s first novel. She is busy writing her second and third works of fiction. You can visit her website at www.dotryanbooks.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Dot. Can you tell us what your latest book, Corrigans’ Pool, is all about?

Thank you for inviting me!  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.

Q: Is this your first novel?  If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

Yes, Corrigans’ Pool is my first.  I am presently working on the sequel to Corrigans’ Pool and two additional historical novels.

Corrigans' Pool by Dot Ryan (click on cover to purchase at Amazon)

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

Writing Corrigans’ Pool was easy, it was learning to write right that was hard!  As I said in one of my blogs: The desire to write is all well and good but first one must learn to write!  I married right out of high school and continued my studies “catch as catch can,” afterward. Driven by my insatiable desire to write, I began a campaign of self-study, hours in libraries doing research, reading and re-reading dozens of books on writing, subscribing to every writer’s magazine I came across in, enrolling in every writer’s course available within reasonable driving distance from my rural home and, of course, reading as many novels as I could. I finished Corrigans’ Pool in 1982 … and lost every page of it in a fire a few months later, along with most of my research notes.

To make a long story short, I overcame my devastation and anger a few years later and began Corrigans’ Pool all over again.

Yes, I experienced writer’s block from time to time. To get past it, I leaned back in my comfortable writing chair and read a few pervious chapters. If that didn’t work, I went through dozens of scrap-paper notes containing dialogue and proposed scenes, all of which I had jotted down over a long period of time and stuffed into a large manila envelope.  Usually, one method or the other worked.

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

There is nothing like the thrill when readers e-mail or call to say they bought your book and absolutely could not put down!  This has happened many times. One woman told me that she was reading Corrigans’ Pool for the second time and would probably read it again in the future. Getting a bit worried, I asked her if there was something in the book that she did no understand and she replied, “Heck no! I just love it that much! You will write a sequel to it, won’t you? When will it be out?”

Also, I have been told that books I donated to an area library are constantly checked out; that is a very good sign.

There are also great reviews by buyers of the book on the Barnes & Noble site. In addition, a book club in Moon Township, Pa read and discussed Corrigans’ Pool and gave it five stars. They are mailing their books to me so that I can autograph them. I am flattered and grateful.

All reviews, so far, have been good.  I believe when other potential readers learn that Corrigans’ Pool is out there and being enjoyed, they will not regret buying it. 

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

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.

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

I read or strum my old guitar. At one time early in my life, my hobby was writing songs.  I have a box of my musical creations in the attic. A fantastic Texas singer, Joel Nava, was kind enough to put a few of them on CD’s for me. Just for fun, I will soon put these songs on my website under my blog, Memoirs of a Texas Dance Hall Queen: If you want a few laughs, go to dotryanbooks.com and read the Texas Dance Hall Queen blog.

Q: What book changed your life?

I’ve read books that affected nearly all of my senses, thereby giving me great pleasure as I read them, followed by enjoyable contemplation afterward. Other books have shown me darker images of life and human nature that perhaps I felt uncomfortable reading about but satisfied a need to be informed. For certain, these books changed my life in ways that improved me as a writer, but it is difficult to spotlight any one of them as the life changing book.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Tenacity Floats

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

…that next to my husband and children, writing is my life … so be assured that other novels are on the way!

Thank you for this interview Dot.  I wish you much success on your latest release, Corrigans’ Pool!

Thank you! I enjoyed answering your questions.

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