The Last Fenian
Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Marina Julia Neary, accomplished
author and playwright of The Last Fenian.
SMB – Thank you for stopping by today, we really appreciate it. Before we
start, let’s give our readers some background. Can you tell us a little bit about
MJN – As my tagline says, I am America’s most Irish author to come out of
Eastern Europe. That’s all you need to know 😉 I like writing about political
disasters and ethnic tension because I happen to know a lot on that subject.
And they always tell you “write what you know”. Outside of my literary life, I
am a workaholic, caffeine addict and raging cat lover. Yes, I’m that creepy lady
who breastfeeds her furry friends in public and scares the neighborhood
SMB – I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to you before and I know that you’re
an author. How many books you’ve written and where we can find them?
MJN – I have six books with three presses. Fireship Press has my two Neo-
Victorian novels, Wynfield’s Kingdom and Wynfield’s War, as well as my last
Irish novel Never Be at Peace. All Things That Matter Press based out of Maine
have Brendan Malone (on which The Last Fenian is based) and Martyrs &
Traitors. Last but not least, Secret Cravings Publishing released my
autobiographical novel Saved by the Bang: a Nuclear Comedy featuring the
sexual escapades of classical musicians in the aftermath of the Chernobyl
SMB – What inspired you to start writing?
MJN-I guess it’s the fear of dying suddenly and taking all those untold stories
to my grave. Both my mom and birth dad are very egocentric and artistically
accomplished, so creative expression was always encouraged. I failed as a
ballerina and as a pianist, so literature became my outlet.
SMB– Your latest project The Last Fenian is a play, what inspired you to go
from books to stage?
MJN-My beloved Irish husband had been nagging me for the past two years.
He kept saying that the novel lent itself to a theatrical adaptation. And there’s
just so much arm-twisting a girl can take.
SMB– This takes place in the year 1910 in Ireland, how did you prepare
yourself for writing a period play?
MJN-Having worked as a research assistant at a university, I already knew so
much about the era and the nature of the conflict. While at La Salle in
Philadelphia, I had lived and breathed Irish history for four years.
SMB– Where did you find inspiration for your characters?
MJN– Most characters are composite, meaning they are based on real people
with a touch of Celtic mythology. The main character, Brendan Malone, is a
real person who identifies himself with Cuchulainn, a mythical hero. Isabel
McCormack is a fusion of Iseult Gonne and Evelyn Nichols. Of course, the
actors add a bit of themselves to the characters. Mythological figures are very
adaptable, and you can incorporate select elements of their personalities into
the fictional characters you create. It’s a balance of the unique and the
SMB– The story starts with the father Brendan and his two sons, Hugh and
Dylan on a pilgrimage for the Irish Republican Brotherhood, can you explain
what the brotherhood is?
MJN-The Irish Republican Brotherhood – also dubbed as the Fenian
Brotherhood – was a secret oath-bound society that started in Ireland in the
1860s as an attempt to create an organized revolutionary force. Fenians had
sympathizers on other continents, like North America and Australia. Pretty
much, wherever you had Irish presence, you had Fenian sympathizers who
funded the nationalistic activities in Ireland. Because the brotherhood was
run by fervent idealistic amateurs, there were instances of egos clashing. They
all had their own ideas as to what was best for their country.
SMB– Can you give us some insight into this family dynamic? Brendan seems
disappointed in the path that Hugh has taken, why is this?
MJN-Brendan’s parenting style is very consistent with the norms of his class
and era. It’s a patriarchal culture. Fathers were not expected to be nurturing
or sensitive to their children’s emotional needs or even overly involved in
their children’s daily lives. Early childhood education was overseen by the
Catholic Church. Fathers’ interest in their offspring was purely episodic. Given
that people married early, it was not uncommon for a man in his mid to late
thirties to have children in their twenties. It’s implied that Brendan and his
wife were teen parents. Kevin Marron who plays Brendan on stage is in his
30s. He plays slightly older very convincingly. The two actors who play his
sons, Graham Miles, and Scot Cahoon, are in their mid-20s. I like the fact that
the chronological age difference between them is minimal. It’s also poignant
that both sons are taller than the father, yet they are still intimidated by him.
The generation gap was minimal though the hierarchy was very clearly
outlined. Physical punishment was very common. Fathers would often strike
their adult children. The element of physical violence is addressed in the play.
Given the physical differences between the brothers, it’s Dylan, the older of
the two, who bears the brunt of his father’s wrath. Physically robust though
mentally juvenile and unconditionally obedient, Dylan endures frequent
beatings. Hugh, on another hand, a sickly bookworm whose loyalty to his
country is questionable, manages to dodge his father’s fists. In Hugh’s own
words, “There’s no sport in beating a runt.” Brendan regards his anglicized
younger son with a certain amount of suspicion as something foreign and
potentially threatening. And Brendan should feel threatened, for Hugh sees his
future with the English. He has no interest in joining the Fenian crusade.
SMB– Do you think Brendan will ever accept his youngest son for who he is?
Do you feel Dylan will see peace in his family?
MJN – I hate giving away the ending, but I am not for artificial happy
resolutions where everyone is enlightened and reconciled. There are no
happy endings in Irish history. The best you can hope for is bittersweet, and
that’s the best my audience will get from me.
SMB– I have to know, will we be seeing more of the Malone family,either on
stage or in books?
MJN – Absolutely. You can pick up a copy of Brendan Malone: the Last Fenian
and the sequel Martyrs & Traitors.
SMB– Where will we be able to watch this production? And where can we
MJN-We are done with principal photography, so we are waiting to have the
final product edited. I am targeting PBS, but I am also targeting Irish themed
SMB– What’s next for you? What other projects are on your agenda?
MJN-I am staying with the nationalist theme. Right now I am working on The
Gate of Dawn, a historical novel set in 1880s Lithuania where I spent many
summers as a child. I love the beauty of the Baltic countryside, the richness of
the folklore, and I can’t wait to expose my readers to it.
As you can see, Marina Julia Neary has plenty of experience in weaving tales to delight the senses. Please feel free to check out her work on Amazon and I can promise, you won’t be disappointed. This is an author to keep your eye on, she’s destined for great things.