Eilish Mulholland: Featured Author

Eilish Mulholland: Featured Author

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Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 9.19.49 AMBook Review & Portrait of the Author

Elish Mulholland ‘s novels are cinematically rendered and set within an intriguing psychological landscape. In her novel, A Personal Assassin she writes about Tudor England and her prose casts the reader into the past through sensory and visceral prose. As her young heroine, Edony enters the queen’s court, Mulhollnad writes:

Wrenching the embossed handle, I fling the door open, to the sound of chattering voices and the sound of a lute being lazily played over the hubbub. I stand stock-still, surprise radiating throughout me. Instead of an ambush I am met with a painted sea of faces. The lively throng of courtiers laugh, joke, and dance. A positive Babylon of biblical proportions meets me, and part of me likes it.

From here the reader is immersed in the world of 1500 England, as Edony fulfills her secret mission, seemingly blithe but inherently cunning. She recognizes her tools in deception: her femininity, intelligence, and bravery.

Mystery will be my weaponry. My sexuality my trump card.”

Mulholland’s love of the period comes through in every page of the novel. Her mastery of suspense and intrigue keeps the reader rapt. Yet the personal assassin is as much a coming of age story as a historical suspense novel. Falling victim to her burgeoning passion we see vulnerable Edony fall hopelessly into love for the first time. The events that follow sweep the protagonist forward, transforming her into a hero more often portrayed in masculine stereotypes of heroes endowed with physical prowess and rational ingenuity. As Edony assumes power over her destiny, reason trumps fancy and enhances the dangerous atmosphere.

Mulholland’s story is well crafted, uncannily immediate, and true to the period. Her choice to manipulate expected gender roles successfully creates a feminist interpretation that is refreshing and inspiring. She answers “what if” such a woman, a character were faced with the same circumstances as the traditional male hero.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Personal Assassin. I was also stunned and awed when I found out that Mulholland was seventeen when she wrote the novel. She is a true prodigy and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Below are excerpts from her poetic prose:

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An Interview with Author Eilish Mulholland

At what age did you start writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote?
I suppose I’ve always attempted to write from a young age. When I was very young about seven or eight in school I was obsessed with fairies and princesses. Alot of my early works which were very, very short barely even a page long focused on that. I believe that stems from the mythology that comes from Irish folklore as there is a story about fairy rings, a circle of stones in a field that you should not disturb as the fairies will come to get you! It’s a bit scary for a child but that captured my imagination and got me writing. However terrible my first attempt was!
What led you to historical fiction?
I’ve always been interested in history. The local library was and still is one of my favourite places and there I found a book written by Judith Kerr called “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” which was semi autobiographical and her story always stuck with me and I loved the fictional element to her work. When I finally got internet access as I became older online historical fiction opened up to me and I read lots before I decided to write to see what format and style I should take. I also started out of need to write and read something new, no harm or disrespect to those who decide to focus on characters falling in love, I have immense respect for all writing but I wanted to look at a female who didn’t have a love interest.
You have a beautiful and unique literary voice. One of the first things I noticed while reading your book was how well you created the time period. The details were so realistic and beautifully rendered. I know you are an avid reader but how did that world open itself up to you as a writer and demand to be written?
It was actually as a result of a book I read by Alison Weir called The Life of Elizabeth the First. Her rich description combined with facts and real life events seemed to spark something in my mind and put forth an idea and inspiration that wouldn’t go away. Also one of my guilty pleasures is watching a BBC documentary called The Virgin Queen which documents the life of Elizabeth the First from her persecution at the hands of her sister and until her death, the depiction of court life helped me to visualise reality and started to create a character that I felt could thrive in such an environment.
Your main character Edony starts out lovesick and innocent. However, her character changes as deception reveals itself. At first I was ambivalent about her transformation but became so inspired by her heroism and courage. Who / what was your inspiration for Edony? 
I suppose there’s multiple forms of inspiration. Historical figures definatley serve as influence, people like Elizabeth herself who showed immense courage and strength by refusing to conform to expectations and marry instead reveling in her power which she used to benefit her greatly. Another thing that aided me was a quote from John Knox a famous Protestant preacher who said that Women in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.” And his comment made me wonder about what person would refuse to obey man and how they would go about such a thing. I also take inspiration from powerful female voices, from.confessional poetry. Anne Sexton’s work is so skillful and exposing I remember first hearing her recording of “All My Pretty Ones” and being blown away by the quality in her voice and words. One of the lines “this velvet lady who cannot smile” I think captured Edony,  she cannot smile as all she has seen and experienced has shaped her as she realises her ability in her confined world to be her own person and exploit her own ability and strength.
How do you find time to write these rich and beautiful novels? You are in school full time. What does a day in your life look like? 
Well, my average life is very boring now I’m off for summer! But when in school it’s just a usual routine, I’m up early to catch the bus at eight o’clock and then it’s a half hour journey which I usually spent writing until I get in. Then it was classes all day until the journey home, when I’ll usually write again then get home, and had a bit of down time before doing school work and going to bed. I would have also done research at the weekend.
But now it’s summer I usually try to write and do some work connected to my story writing on my current novel “In Secret” for at least two hours every day.  It’s a bit of a ritual now and I love listening to music while I work sometimes Florence and the Machine, they’re my favourite band or even recordings of poetry like Sylvia Plath’s Ariel anthology. As long as I have that alongside a cup of tea regardless of the sunny weather- typical Irish stereotype, I’m good to go! It’s lovely to have time to read and write in my own time instead of always rushing for time. I’m fully taking advantage of my down time and I’d like to think my writing benefits from it.
Do you share your novels outside of wattpad?
Simple answer. No. I was attracted to the site due to its setup but if the opportunity arose for wider sharing I’d love to do it.
What does your parents and other family members think of your literary accomplishments? Are you from a family of writers, artists?
My family are very supportive. They encourage me to write but I don’t come from a family of writers or artists. Just normal people. But reading has always been an activity that my family has always encouraged and  thoroughly enjoy. But I think I’m know as the literature obsessive, I’m actually hoping to study English at university this year if that’s anything to go by.

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Inspirations: A Photographic Interview

I asked Eilish to share with me photographs of objects and items that have inspired her writing. She graciously agreed.

If I was going to take a photo of something that inspires me to write Plath, and my little collection of books would have to be included. She is one of the great female poets who I admire greatly. Learning about her own writing process through reading her journals and letters helped me to see the need for creative structure. Another important learning curve was also revealed to me when analysing her poems in class, here I unconverted the power that can be exerted through using control over words. For example in Plath’s poem Daddy she uses a nursery like rhyme scheme to comedy the speaker, Electra’s ability to overcome the force of her father. The Bell Jar was also a book that helped me to have the confidence to write by showing for me, what hard work and dedication can result in. Writing anything, be it poetry, short stories and novels is a continuous process from which Plath herself achieved the greatness and recognition she so deserves.

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My white stag who sits at my desk is only a recent acquisition. He doesn’t have a name yet but he’s come a long way from Krakow in Poland to Northern Ireland. He’s a tiny thing in reality, half the size of my palm but he reminds me of my travels and keeps me company when I’m writing. I love looking at it as it is crafted so delicately, yet he looks so defiant and strong at the same time.

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FullSizeRender (41)My history books! They have been with me for years now, David Starkey especially. I use them as a point of reference within my work and would encourage anyone who has an interest in the Tudors to read them. Starkey especially is excellent at analysing the meaning behind portraits and the artwork on his cover, of Elizabeth reflects her growing power after being placed back into the line of succession as she is presented as a model renaissance princess dulling embracing the reformation indicative with the bible open on her lectern and she is studious via her hands holding a book that is marked both by a bookmark and her own hands. I think this portrait is particularly self revealing as it shows Elizabeth to be somewhat defiant as her eyes seem to stare out, she is aware of her power despite being only 14 and this strength is what has made her legacy so lasting. Margret Irwin is my absolute favourite however, I only have one of her books but her first historical work “The Young Elizabeth” firmly cemented her as an excellent historian. I particularly love her take on Elizabeth’s life as she intermingles fact with narrative story telling and I adapted this when writing my own story about Edony. Alison Plowden’s work is also brilliant at uncovering the life of the Tudors, she is skilled in using real accounts from embers of the court such as ambassadors and personal correspondence to reveal people’s thought and views showing the gritty side of Tudor court and how it was a game that needed very skilled players in order to win the monarch’s favour.

FullSizeRender (40)My picture collage represents my love of the past. Despite not only adding colour to the room for me they often act as a gateway. If you look closely the postcard of the woman dressed in purple with black hair is actually quite old, she was recently given to me as a present but has been very hard to pin down concerning when she was made. This collection has actually exploded quite a bit as I’m always collecting things that inspire me and that are pleasing to the eye. I have a box filled with cuttings and paper that I hold onto in vain of trying to figure out what to do with them but I think I’ll never have enough wall space to achieve content.

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A Personal Assassin Book Summary

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Its December 1558, the up and coming reign of Elizabeth the first has begun.
Edony Mason has come to court the daughter of a merchant expected to climb her way up the court ladder through marriage. Instead she finds herself caught up in the midst of a spy ring lead by the one and only Sir Francis Walsingham from which her loyalties are tested.

A woman trapped by society. Longing for escape. But freedom like anything comes at a price. From here she will battle all kinds of foes, endure hardships unknown and emerge a broken woman, borne from the mould of a trained courtier into a force to be reckoned with.
Until she comes to face the ultimate force known to her. The will of a woman double crossed and left for dead.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Few know the meaning of such a phrase.
Few know the ultimate price such a thing entails.
Except Edony.

Wattpad Reader Comments:

“I’m feeling everything like I’m actually there. This is written so well…”

“Your writing is very poetic in nature and flows naturally, it’s very sophisticated, I’m enjoying it and your protaganists internal struggle is almost palpable. Bravo!”

“Your descriptions are marvellous, you’re a terrific writer. I would love to have such a way with words and extensive vocabulary such as yours!”

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Other Stories by Eilish Mulholland

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A Personal Assassin and Eilish Mulholland’s other stories are free on wattpad

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