Monday, October 31, 2011

The Irish Eyes of M.J. Neary, Just Who Is She Anyway?

My literary career began in Neo-Victorian fiction and

drama. I am the author of the acclaimed novel Wynfield’s

Kingdom that appeared on the cover of the First Edition

Magazine in the UK and the sequel Wynfield’s War. The

two novels were adapted for stage as historical

tragicomedies, Hugo in London and Lady with a Lamp


Last year I decided to temporarily leave the slums of 19th

century London behind and relocate to the heart of early
20th century Dublin, the hearth of nationalistic activity,

where every week a new alpha-rebel usurps the power.

That is precisely the setting for my iconoclastic novel,

Martyrs& Traitors: a Tale of 1916.

Introduced to the concept of cultural activism at an early
age by my father, a prominent operatic coach and language

revivalist, I always found it fascinating how various ethnic

groups have addressed the concept of national identity,

especially when it was in peril.

While examining any nationalistic movement, it is vital to

remember that some individuals perceive their facial

features and their language as mere technicalities, while

other – as definitive elements of their personhood. Some

can effortlessly divorce themselves from their roots, move

to another country and marry someone from another ethnic

group, while others would find such acts blasphemous.

Some are willing to fight not only their perceived enemies

but even those comrades who show insufficient zeal,

branding them cowards and traitors. At one point does love

for one’s heritage become unwholesome and destructive? I

don’t attempt to answer that question.

One of my goals in writing Martyrs was to challenge the

innerving stereotype of Irish rebel as being a financially

disadvantaged Catholic and fond of drink. The protagonist

is the complete opposite – a middle-class Quaker of Anglo-

Scottish origin and a vehement abstainer. I find that the

Protestant angle is largely underrepresented.

My choice of focal character has been questioned on

several occasions. I have been asked: “Why did you choose

Bulmer Hobson for your protagonist? That’s not a name

you hear frequently.” And my answer is: “Because Michael

Collins has been done to death, and I have nothing more to

say about him.” To me historical fiction is not about brand

recognition.  I am not interested in capitalizing on the star

power of canonic figure. With the risk of sounding

arrogant and elitist, I do not read bestsellers, nor do I

watch blockbusters. My lifelong quest is to dig up lost

treasures, literary and historical, and bring into light those

figures that have remained in the shadow for whatever

reason. Currently, Bulmer Hobson is not a star in the

popular epos of Irish nationalism, but he certainly was a

star in his day – a star that was abruptly extinguished. The

story of a man so precocious and egotistical in his politics

yet so naïve in matters of the heart fascinated and moved

me, and I hope it moves my readers. This novel is my

hymn for all prematurely extinguished stars.


  1. M.J. Tis the Irish in me that beckons to hear more of your stories, though no one must be of Irish decent to thouroughly enjoy your tales.

    As long as you keep writing, I'll keep reading your exceptionally crafted stories.

  2. I love M.J.'s books and I love her personality even more.

  3. There are few topics of conversation to which M. J. Neary could not contribute. She is brilliant! No surprise her books reflect her way with words.