Canada’s Great Unsolved Murder

Ann Shortell
Ann Shortell Author Interview

Celtic Knot follows a young girl who’s caught up in a murder mystery that has national consequences. What was the inspiration for turning this historical event into a thrilling mystery novel?

It was true inspiration, through a dream. I awakened with the vision of a girl, writing by candlelight, “I was on the other side of the door when Mr. McGee was shot.” I knew she meant the 1868 assassination of Canadian Father of Confederation T. D’Arcy McGee. Irish rebels were blamed, and one was hanged for the crime. Yet this remains Canada’s great unsolved murder mystery.

Clara is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

Thank you, Thomas. Readers have described Celtic Knot as “Alias Grace meets a dark, twisty Anne Of Green Gables”. Certainly, Canadian author L.M. Montgomery’s heroines, such as Anne Shirley and particularly her writer protagonist Emily Byrd Starr, served as inspiration. There’s a bit of Jo March in Clara as well. Yet Clara is a young female immigrant, the ultimate outsider viewing a strange new world with the particular gaze of a post-famine Irish-Catholic (& one hiding her late mother’s scandalous mixed-marriage to her negligent Anglo-Irish Protestant father.) Clara is bright, & surrounded by powerful men, yet absolutely powerless—except for her education, her knowledge of events, and her ability to ferret out information. She must work as a domestic servant to live, and must always make a fine calculation to balance her ethical duty and her best interests.

I enjoyed the historical references used throughout the book. What research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate?

There is a plethora of information available about McGee and his assassination, including books, trial transcripts, his own writings, newspapers of the day, and letters of prominent politicians & their civil servants. There is also no dearth of lore surrounding this story in the Irish-Canadian community, to this day. Much of what I’ve written is factual, but I’ve also learned facts and then taken great liberties with them. The trial is a representative pastiche, and I invented some character backstories and subplots—including the ending. One fact that still intrigues me: when slain, McGee did in fact have a recently-completed, politically-sensitive manuscript that went missing.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Yes, Thomas, young Clara Swift off having more misadventures–this time amidst a western Canadian rebellion, followed by high-level American Washington D.C. political intrigue, all of which culminates in a border raid of Canada by Irish-American Civil War veterans. This work-in-progress is titled An Irish Goodbye A Clara Swift Tale, and its publication date is Clara’s—and my—latest mystery.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website | LinkedIn

1868 Ottawa

Politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee is assassinated. As Prime Minister John A. Macdonald cradles his friend’s bloody head, he blames transplanted Irish terrorists: the Fenian Brotherhood. Within a day, Patrick James Whelan is arrested. After a show trial, Whelan is publicly hanged.

That much is history. Did Whelan do the deed?

What if Clara Swift, a mere slip of a girl, sees the trace-line of a buggy turn off Sparks Street, moments after the murder? What if housemaid Clara understands her dead mentor’s shorthand, and forges an unlikely alliance with the Prime Minister’s investigator? And ends up being trusted by the condemned man’s wife — and by Lady Agnes Macdonald . . .

Celtic Knot.
It’s reimagining a crisis that tested a new country.
It’s history with a mystery.
It’s A Clara Swift Tale.

And it all begins with a shot in the dark.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on November 24, 2020, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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