Right now I am writing non-genre contemporary fiction which aims to tell some kind of truth about life and living, but in the most entertaining way possible. I am also working on a non-fiction biography of a 20th century academic associated with the spiritual writer Thomas Merton.
Wives of the Saints, published in Dec. 2016, tells the story of two long-married couples, four people in middle age, all raised in a strict, traditional Catholic way and all grappling with the consequences—both good and bad—of that. It also deals with the frustrations of being married to the same person for a very long time and the temptation to stray or flee.
The Novice Master, published in November 2015, is a coming-of-age tale that focuses on a childhood brain-cancer survivor, Evan, who is seeking a mentor to help him figure out life and God. But he picks the wrong man, his history professor, an embittered ex-monk who nevertheless has some valuable things to teach him. A crucial subplot has them both sexually involved with the same manipulative woman, the professor’s teaching assistant, who is uses both for her own means.
Secret Vow: My long-ago debut novel, published in 1996, which describes the painful love affair a young widow has with a runaway (and mentally ill) priest, an affair which nearly proves tragic to both. The priest, Ellis Barlowe, survives and later becomes the cranky professor of The Novice Master.
My “Irish” books: Historical, young adult
These are based on my own Irish heritage, which traces directly to the O hAllmurrain (O Halloran) line of Galway, the Clann Ferghal thought to have first settled the city as Viking raiders. Our claim to fame is that the historian James Hardiman, in his history of Galway, pronounced the family powerless and ‘destitute’ by 1700—and we have been ever since! There are three books in this series, and there might be more in the future, since I’m still a card-carrying member of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society.
The Raven Girl: Set in the year 1488—a mere few years before Columbus sailed for America (did you know he visited Galway first?), a teenaged Native American, escaping her Basque-whaler captors, washes ashore on a remote isle at the mouth of Galway Bay. A young scholar from the city, helping Church officials investigate her status (she might be a witch!), is instantly smitten with her, and she with him, and the action proceeds from there…My best reviewed book, which even Publisher’s Weekly deigned to smile upon.
The Hounds of Nemhain: Set in the early years of Christianity—and inspired by the travels of Saint Patrick—a boy orphaned by a fire joins a band of rough and primitive pirates, and eventually faces a moral and practical dilemma, solved in part by his friendship with several feral hounds, and his own devoted dog Archu.
The Foreigner’s Stone: Set in the Viking-settlement age, about 1000 AD, this thorny romance between an Irish girl and a Viking lad examines the issue of invading and clashing cultures, but also celebrates the fierceness of female warriors.
A quick sketch of my life: I was born in Hartford, CT, the granddaughter of British/Irish, Polish and Danish immigrants. All my DNA is connected with the Baltic,the North Sea and the North Atlantic. My Danish forebears fished the waters off Eastern Greenland, so I’m pretty sure I’m part mermaid, too ( a cold-water mermaid, but they are the most warm-hearted). In the US, most of those intrepid immigrants worked in one or the other of Hartford’s big typewriter factories. I grew up in Parkville, in the industrial southwestern part of the city, right in between the Underwood/Olivetti factory on Park Street and the Royal, which was at the end of our street. My grandmother, in whose house we lived in, worked with trays of typewriter keys– literally a woman of letters–and I think of her every time I peck away at the keyboard.
Early education: Classic urban New England Catholic parochial, but with very good and intelligent nuns: Our Lady of Sorrows in Parkville till 5th grade, then Cathedral of Saint Joseph uptown, all of which contributed heavily to my predilection toward spirituality and fascination with Big Sins. (But did nothing, alas, for my penmanship, despite years forced to study that art) Attended Manchester High School, in Manchester CT—after my parents were finally able to buy a house in the suburbs.
College: Saint Bonaventure University, in Allegany, NY: BA in journalism, with a minor in Sociology. My mentor was Dr. Russell Jandoli, who founded the journalism department at Bonaventure, but whose great secret love, unbeknownst to many, was fiction. Which I know from many afternoons spent in empty classrooms talking with him about it. Dr. Jandoli not only encouraged me to begin submitting my work but also kindly read over and edited many of the original stories I sent out.
Other personal stuff: My last name, which is ancient and Sicilian in origin, was the gift of my husband on my wedding day. I should say I chose it willingly, as my maiden name, Petersen, is heartbreakingly common; I wanted something different and faintly exotic. Luckily, I’ve managed to stay married to said husband, Frank Cecala, since 1981—he’s a graphic artist. The artist-writer marital combination works pretty well: We don’t actually work together, but we understand each other’s creative craziness. Though we met in Manhattan, we have built a house together in northern New Jersey, raised a daughter, and we have a mutual passion for books (our house is literally overflowing with them) and history. Our child is Francesca, whose gift and talent is in music: She dances, sings and plays instruments, but works primarily as a sound technician, making other people sound good. She has a very successful career in Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m sure she’ll give me beautiful grandchildren one day, when she gets around to it…
Contact me: I don’t have one of those fancy contact boxes, but drop me a line at kpcecala at yahoo dot com. I try to answer all missives in a timely manner.