Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Jessamine by Eugenia O’Neal

Welcome to Author Eugenia O’Neal

Eugenia O’Neal is a writer from the British Virgin Islands whose short stories have been published in regional publications. Her first book, From the Field to the Legislature: A History of Women in the Virgin Islands, was publised by Greenwood Press in 2001. Since then she has published two novels, Just an Affair and Dido’s Prize. Her next novel, Jessamine, will be out in June.

If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future?

To the future – in many ways, it looks as if it might be even more harrowing than life today what with global warming, overpopulation, water scarcity, etc. but there are also so many exciting developments happening in terms of technology and the way we understand so much more about the natural world and about our own biology.

If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you?
My ereader with as many books as possible on it, a carton of matches since I’m rubbish at the fire starting thing and a magically refilling bag of Cafe Britt’s chocolate covered coffee beans. What else could anybody want, really?

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
My favorite ice cream is Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk which has inexplicably disappeared off the island’s supermarket shelves for months now. #SupermarketsoftheBVITakeNote.

One food you would never eat?
Brussel Sprouts

Pet Peeves?
People who drive around with boomboxes blaring and people who don’t dispose of gum properly.

Skittles or M&Ms?

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
Because there are only a few works of fiction set in the post-abolition Caribbean and because it takes a rare look at some of the modern issues the region faces.

Any other books in the works?
Yes, my book The Water of Sunlight will be out in October and will take a look at one woman’s internal journey to make some sense of the things that have happened to her in her short life.

What inspired you to want to become a writer?
I was an avid reader as a child and I also had a good imagination. I was always thinking but “what if?” or “suppose this happened.”

If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world.. which would it be?
This is a hard one. I’d have loved to have been a Bene Gesserit from Frank Herbert’s Dune or a dragonrider of Pern from Anne McCaffrey but if I couldn’t be one of those characters I’m not sure I’d have wanted to live in either of those worlds since life seemed rather hard for most other people.

What is your dream cast for your book?
Jessamine is set in two time periods:- the late 1800s and the modern era. In the former, we meet English governess, Arabella, who arrives on the Caribbean island of St. Crescens just before tensions between the freed slaves and the planters erupt into violence. The blacks are led or represented in their aspirations by Leando Joseph, an agitator who seeks voting and other rights for his people. The section set in modern times is narrated by Grace Hylton, the African-American wife of islander Julian Hylton who returns to the island to launch a political campaign aimed at delivering St. Crescens from the clutches of the corrupt Carrington family. Reviewer Jane Hanbury of Booketta’s Blog said she could totally imagine Jamie Foxx as Julian Hylton and I think Viola Davis wuld be a great Grace! For Arabella, I like Kirsten Dunst while Dennis Haysbert (one of my favorite actors) would be wonderful as Leando Joseph.

What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
To never give up, to believe in themselves and in their story. Not to the point that they won’t edit it or get it critiqued through such places as and Critters but to the point where they take the self-publishing option if they can’t find a publisher willing to take a chance. The whole agent/publisher query process can be soul-destroying but once you’ve got a good story and it’s been well-edited and your critiquers have liked how you’ve polished it, take a chance. What have you got to lose?

If you could be one of the Greek Gods, which would it be and why?
Athena, of course. Who wouldn’t want to be the goddess of wisdom?

What was your favorite children’s book?
I remember liking a lot of Enid Blyton books – there was one with creatures who lived in a tree that I really liked and then I graduated to the Famous Five.

How do you react to a bad review?
I note it and move on. If the reviewer has said something I can use, I think about it but if the person just nitpicked or ranted about things that weren’t relevant well, I just figure they were having a bad day.

If you were a bird, which one would you be?
An eagle, soaring high.

What’s your favorite season/weather?
Summer if I’m living in a cold country but winter if I’m in a hot one. The December to March months in the Virgin Islands are lovely and cool.

How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
A couple of my friends took me out for a raucous lunch!

Favorite music? 

Favorite smell? 

TV or Movies? 

Chocolate or Vanilla? 

Action or Drama? 
Depends on my mood.

Sweet or Salty? 
Both together!

Cats or Dog? 


Jessamine tells the story of Grace Hylton, an African-American, who arrives on the Caribbean island of St. Crescens full of doubts about her husband’s political aspirations, doubts about her marriage and doubts about the wisdom of relocating. Her native-born husband, Julian, has lived most of his adult life in the States but has come back to St. Crescens, determined to pull his country out of the cauldron of corruption, nepotism and crime into which the leading political dynasty has taken it. An architect by training, Julian buys and restores Jessamine, an old Great House. What the Hyltons don’t know is that Jessamine is home to the ghost of Arabella Adams who lived there as a governess during the late 1800s. Jessamine is told from the alternating viewpoints of the two women – both foreigners, both married to local men. An old injustice binds them across the century that separates them, but can Grace discover its roots before St. Crescens is plunged into violence and chaos?

Giveaway Details
1 ebook of Jessamine
Ends 6/15/12

a Rafflecopter giveaway