Eugenia O’Neal is a true woman of the Caribbean – her mother was from the Dominican Republic and her father was born in Cuba. She, herself, grew up in the British Virgin Islands and went to high school in Barbados before studying journalism in Philadelphia. She’s currently living and working in London while working on several manuscripts.
Ella: Introduce us to your new book, Dido’s Prize.
Dido, a slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation, runs away to join Henry Morgan’s privateer fleet and find the treasure that will allow her to buy her family’s freedom. What she doesn’t bargain on is falling in love with El Negro, a pirate captain with no particular yen for a long-lasting relationship. As Morgan sails the Spanish Main, sacking first, El Puerto del Principe in Cuba, and then the great city of Porto Bello in Panama, Dido becomes a valued member of El Negro’s crew. After the ships return to Jamaica, Dido thinks she will never see the pirate captain again, but he comes to her rescue when she is in peril. They flee deep into the Blue Mountains, but El Negro knows he will never be safe on the island. Together, Dido and her pirate, head back out to sea to find a place where they can live and love in freedom.
Ella: Where are you from? How did you start your writing journey?
I started writing when I was very young – I love writing as much as I love reading. I started my first manuscript before I finished college but I never completed it, I just shelved it and didn’t bother trying to polish it up. Then when I was in my early thirties I thought about it and decided to have another go – the manuscript that became Just an Affair looked very different after all my revisions than it had when I first wrote it. I hadn’t known anything then about conflict and dark moments and those sorts of things.
Ella: Who are your two main characters and what do you like most about them?
Dido’s Prize tells the story of a young slave girl determined to find freedom for herself and her family who runs away and joins a pirate ship. Dido and El Negro are the two main characters of Dido’s Prize. Dido is great – very determined, very resolute, very brave. She also doesn’t pay much attention to her looks even though she’s a beautiful woman, that’s one of the things I like about her.
El Negro is the perfect match for her – a man’s man – also very brave, he doesn’t take s–t from anyone. He was once a slave but he fought his way out of that condition while not losing his compassion for others.
Dido finds the treasure she dreamed of and more, but can she and her pirate lover escape the violence and turbulence of their times? You have to get the book…LOL
Ella: What makes your book stand out and would entice a reader pick it up?
Dido’s Prize is set in an era and in a region that many people don’t know a lot about yet it’s completely based on facts – Henry Morgan was a real privateer and the raids on Cuba and Portobello that Dido and El Negro participate in really happened. There have also been black pirates in the Caribbean, probably ever since there was piracy – not too many were captains but el Negro is a plausible character. Many readers have told me that they love the history – love learning about pirate life, about the Maroons (free black communities), about the Tainos (the indigenous people).
Ella: Ultimately, what do you want readers to gain from your book?
A sense that they’ve learned something about the lives of people who lived just a few hundred years ago who had to surmount incredible odds just to be together and to live their lives as they wanted.
Ella: What advice would you give a new writer?
It’s advice you hear everywhere but that’s because it’s so useful – to read a lot and to write a lot. The more you read the better you become at understanding what works and what doesn’t and the more you write, the better you will be at incorporating what you’ve learned in your own writing. I’d also add to get out there and experience as many new and different things as you can – taste new foods, travel to new countries or communities, attend different festivals and fairs – keep your mind and your eye open to different and learn how to describe what you’re seeing so others can see it too without being there.
Ella: Name 3 things that it takes to make a successful author, in your opinion?
Persistence, hard work, lots of patience!
Ella: What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve sent in a new historical novel that I’m very excited about. It’s set in two different eras and tells the story of two women who appear to be very different on the surface but who have more in common than you might first think. And I’m working on a couple other manuscripts as well so I’m trying to keep busy while taking my own advice and enjoying life.
Ella: How may readers connect with you online:
My Facebook page
My Shelfari page
Eugenia O’Neal author of Dido’s Prize, Parker Publishing
Dee Dailey, The Romance Studio