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Sinéad O’Flanagan – Meet my main character

Last month Lyssa Layne interviewed one of my characters’ for her Saturday Morning Characters ongoing series. It was great fun for me, and I was so pleased with the result I asked Lyssa permission to repost the interview on my blog, which she kindly granted.

So I’m happy to present you Sinéad O’Flanagan, one of the main characters in my WIP Ghostly Smell Around.

Introduction to Sinead O’Flanagan

Good morning Sarah! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing.

I’m Sarah, I was born and raised near Verona (Italy) where I still live, although years ago I spent nearly one year in Dublin, working in one of her oldest café, the Bewely’s of Westmoreland Street, that has now sadly closed doors. I’m a bookseller in the university neighbourhood of Verona, job that I love.

I’ve written stories since the age of ten, got into fantasy at the age of sixteen. I’ve written short stories for years, but Ghost Trilogy is my first important project, a trilogy of novels, historically set, but with strong speculative elements. Some would call it dieselpunk. I’m in the process of preparing book one for submission. 

In your words, give us a brief summary of your book.


Chicago, 1926. Sinéad O’Flanagan arrived from Ireland one year ago, determined to leave everything behind her: her land, her family, her friends. Especially her gift.

In Chicago, the old woman who’s her charge, Kathlyn the midwife, asks her a favoure she wouldn’t ask off anyone else: to return an old coin to her estranged niece Bridget.

But as Sinéad looks for Bridget, strange, frightening dreams start to haunt her, dreams of hate and fire, of darkness and death, and she finally realises there’s a soul pulsing inside the coin, a angry soul, calling for revenge.

Do you relate to Sinéad?

Yes, definitely. Sinéad is a regular woman trying to make rhyme and reasons of a completely new world. True, I live in the same place where I was born, but Italy has changed a lot in the last couple decades. So I’d say that, whereas Sinéad moved to a new world (from Ireland to the U.S.), a new world has moved towards me. We both have to find a way to cope with so many new realities. 

Is this character based off someone you know in real life?

No, I never base my characters on people I know. I might give a character one or more traits from someone I know, but generally speaking, my characters are original, in the sense that they are their own men and women.

Love your characters like they're friends. Would you hang out with them in real life? #HistoricalFiction Click To Tweet

In real life, would you hang out with her?

I think I would happily hang out with Sinéad. We have lots of things in common. We both love Ireland, for example. We are both into traditions. And above all, we care for the same things. Family and friends are very important for both of us. 

What would you two discuss over drinks?

Well, first of all, although Sinéad drinks, I don’t. So I’ll let her have her Rob Roy cocktail, but I’ll stick to orange juice.

Then, as I said, there are lots of things we could talk about, because we share the same interests. We would surely talk about out countries, the way people live and think and would try to see similarities and differences. We would talk about our families and the stories we learned from them. I’d love to learn from her the properties of healing herbs and maybe she would like to learn from me what does it mean to be a storyteller.

Why do you love/hate about Sinéad?

Sinéad always tries to do her best. Sometimes she has doubts about herself and her worth, she still thinks that, if she has the tiniest possibility to help, she should do it. I think that’s how a lot of people feel, but sometimes our doubts and fear stifle our willingness to help. Sinéad fights to overcome her fears and be as helpful as she can.

Anything else we need to know about her?

She’s a decent dancer. She’s very open-minded, although she doesn’t quite realise it. She likes fashion and the modern life, but always taken in small doses, because she hates any form of excess. When she is among friends, she loves to laugh and have fun.

Interview with Sinéad O’Flanagan

Hi Sinéad! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Sinéad is a young woman in her mid-twenties and as she enters the room and sits down for the interview, it’s apparent she’s quite ill at ease about it.

“I don’t see why people would want to know about me,” she says with a shy smile. “I’m a regular woman.”

She sits with her back straight, clutching her purse with both hands in her lap.

“Do you like my purse?” she asks. “It’s a gift from a very good friend. She stitched it herself. Gifts are precious. They give you strength.”

She wears a very simple dress, tide with a sash at her hips. It’s a creamy colour that matches her cloche, which covers her hair almost completely, though rebel auburn curls escape and brush her cheeks.

Her face is all cover up with freckles, which she tried very hard to cover with make up, but still show through it. Her chestnut eyes are clear and large.

Please tell us about your family.


“I was born in a very little village in the Shannon Valley in Ireland. A very far away place, I now think, but…” Her voice trails away, but then she smiles. “It was home. It is home.

I never knew my father. Granny never told me about it. It feels as if my family was always a mostly female family. My mum dies of pneumonia when I was three and Granny raised me. She was a midwife, like most of my female ancestors. Like myself. She knew about herbs, and she knew about the soul and the spirit of people.”

She pauses only a moment, pensively. “I’m trying to follow in her footsteps as well I can. Granny taught me to speak by telling me the names of the different herbs and their properties. I learn to walk in the wood, where I help Granny gathering those herbs. When I was old enough – that means around ten – she started bringing me with her when she went to deliver babies.”

I have heard that your Granny was a wise woman.

“She was, even in the sense you mean.” She fidgets absentmindedly with her purse. “But my people understood it in a different way. Granny was a wise woman because she knew things only few people knows. People trusted her.” She wavered and bit at her lower lip. “Even dead people trusted her and sometimes they would come to talk to her.

Do they come to talk to you too?

“No. I can’t talk to ghosts.” Her fingers are still nervos over her purse. “Bones talk to me.”

"I can't talk to ghosts. Bones talk to me – Meet Sénead O'Flanagan, bonecaster #paranormal Click To Tweet

You mean divination bones?

If you prefers to call them that. They’re bones. They’re like spirits. If you ask them questions, they’ll answer. And they will always say the truth.

You look a bit uncomfortable talking about it.

Many people don’t like me talking about it. They think I’m talking about witchcraft, which is ridiculous. This is the world around us, it isn’t something dark or devious. But still, especially in the big cities, especially modern youths don’t like to talk about it and I know I’ll get into trouble if I do.

When I left my village and I went to Galway, and especially when I came to Chicago, I thought maybe life was showing me a new way. Maybe I was supposed to leave the past behind and embrace a new life. I tried to do it, I really did. But I discovered all the meanings were in my past and in the knowledge my ancestors handed down to me. My knowledge. My bones. That’s who I am. I can’t just shed it. And I don’t want to.” 

The Rock of Cashel is on a rocky plateau that rises 300 feet above the surrounding plain known as the Golden Vale of Tipperary. The name Rock of Cashel comes from the Gaelic “caiseal” which means “stone fort,” and it has been a known fortified position since the forth century of the Common Era.

We’ll go on to something more easy. Your favorites. Tell us your favorite and why:

Word- Heart. Heart is the most important part of any being. It’s where all the knowledge is kept and where all the emotions reside. The way your knowledge and your emotions mix… that’s you. That’s the person you are.

Color- Can I choose two? Green and grey. That’s my home. That’s Ireland. When it rains – and you’d be surprise how often it does,” she laughs, “the grass turns a brilliant emerald green, but the sky remains overcast and grey – though of a luminous grey. The two colours seem to complement each other and make each other more brilliant by contrast. It happens so often in Ireland.

Food- Ginger cookies. Granny baked the best in the world.

Drink- I don’t drink often, but when I go out with friends, I usually get a cocktail or two. My favourite is the Rob Roy.

Subject in school- Granny was my school. She taught me everything I know. Herbs properties, the needs of a woman’s body. The emotions and fears of a mother before and after she delivers. Midwives must know the minds of mothers as well as their body, if they want to be of help.

Then, when I came to Chicago, I met a woman, Kathlyn, a midwife like myself. Her mother came from Ireland too. Kathlyn taught me to read and count. She also reminded me I should believe in myself, in my knowledge and my skills. 

How did your last relationship end?

She stands still for a long moment, her face expressionless.

“I’m not sure there was any kind of emotional relationship with Cathal. I thought there was, but… you know, when Granny died, the world toppled upside down for me. People trusted Granny, but not me. I did my mistake, I won’t deny it, but I felt so lost and alone… and that was enough for them to think I was not a good midwife. I could not replace my Granny. It was hard. Hard and lonely  and Cathal’s company felt good… and long as it lasted. Then he too merged into the flow of people who didn’t think enough of me.

 Tell us your thoughts on love. Marriage? Kids?

“Love is such a precious, rare thing. We should be careful when giving it and when accepting it.”

She smiles. “But sometime you do find it.” She blushes so hard her freckles disappear under the make up. She lowers her gaze, still smiling. “I met this man, Michael. He’s a good man and he accepts me for who I am. He understands me. I don’t know whether we’ll ever marry, but I hope we’re spend the rest of our life together.”

If you liked the interview you might want to

  1. Leave a brief hello to Sinéad in the comment box
  2. Tell something about your own characters in the comment box, in case you’re a writer too
  3. If you’re a writer and you’d like Lyssa to interview one of your characters, by all means head straight to her site and contact her here (contact info at the foot of the page)

SarahZamaAuthor Sinead interview with my main character

Character photo by myakmysia
Photos of Ireland by Sarah Zama


  • Jack
    Posted September 6, 2014 at 17:17

    What a fabulous idea! I wish I’d thought of it. First “8 line Sunday” and now this. I’ve learned more from you in two weeks than I do from most of my cyberfriends in two years. And what a delightful character Sinead is. She’s somewhat like my Patience Hobbs, though Patience is a bit less guarded about who she is. I really can’t wait to meet this girl in her own book. I think she’s going to be a blast!

    I write about the late Victorian era, and in your 1920s stories, things haven’t changed that much for women. The only roles women are found in are either Ladies, sometimes noblewomen, whose function is to receive guests and badger the servants, or as one of those servants, basically a full-time slave from the moment she wakes until she goes to sleep. Or public servants, shopkeepers, bar maids, secretaries, etc. Those women are uninteresting. Interesting women are the ones who stand up and say, “I’ve been given this life, and it belongs to me. I’m going to live it as I see fit, not as someone (usually a man) tells me I should.” I love those characters, and can’t get enough of them.

    Well done. Write lots, I can’t wait to meet her!

    • jazzfeathers
      Posted September 7, 2014 at 17:51

      Hi Jack and thanks for stopping by. I’m happy you’re enjoying the blog. Sharing what we know and learing from each other… this is what it is all about, don’t you think? 🙂

  • Lanise Brown
    Posted September 6, 2014 at 21:23

    Fantastic interview, Sarah! I love your character Sinead. She seems so interesting and personable. In fact, I’m a fan of dieselpunk, steampunk, clockpunk, or anything punk really, lol. I will definitely have to read Ghost Trilogy when it comes out. 😀

    • jazzfeathers
      Posted September 7, 2014 at 17:53

      Hi Lanise and thanks for the many follows. I’m following you everywhere too now 🙂 Always a pleasure meeting new fellow dieselpunks.

  • Hákon Gunnarsson
    Posted September 7, 2014 at 09:59

    Great interview Sarah. The more I hear of Sinéad the more interested I’m in her. She seems to be a well thought out character, and the story sounds interesting. Best of luck with the Ghost trilogy. I would really like to read it when it comes out.

  • jazzfeathers
    Posted September 7, 2014 at 17:55

    Thanks, Hakon. I’m still working on polishing the novel, so it will still be a while before I start submitting. But I really hope one day this story will find a home.
    I’m happy you’re enjoying Sinéad’s story. There’s more about Ghostly Smell Around than just this, but Sinéad’s arc is a very important part of it.

  • rolandclarke
    Posted September 18, 2014 at 13:57

    Looking forward to the trilogy, Sarah. Have to find out more about Sinéad after reading this.

  • jazzfeathers
    Posted September 18, 2014 at 14:33

    I’m happy the girl is having such success 🙂
    Thaks for stopping by, Roland.

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