Meet the Ladies in Red- Interview with Morgan O’Neill

Hello readers! My name is Nikkie Locke. You might have read my introduction in an earlier post. Today, I’m interveiwing the writing team Morgan O’Neill. This team is made up of two really great ladies. The book Love, Eternally is available now from Crimson Romance. Let’s get started!

NL: First things first, tell us about your book.

Morgan O’Neill: Love, Eternally is the first book in our Roman time travel series. In it, a witch’s ancient curse propels our 21st century flute playing heroine, Gigi Perrin, back to A.D. 408, to the court of the depraved Emperor Honorius and his admirable sister, Princess Galla Placidia. Enslaved by Honorius, Gigi escapes with the help of a pagan military commander, Quintus Magnus, a man exotically different from anyone she has ever known. On the brink of a dark and war-torn age, Gigi joins forces with Magnus, battling to save a princess and her people, and ultimately finding love amid the ashes, before the fall of Rome.

NL: Morgan O’Neill is actually the name for a writing team made up of Deborah O’Neill Cordes and Cary Morgan Frates. How does your partnership work?

Morgan O’Niell: We met at a writers’ conference and discovered our mutual love of time travel and historical fiction. Our eventual collaboration necessitated the search for a pen name, since our given names were much too long for book covers. Our maiden names provided a great solution – and “Morgan O’Neill” was born.
From the start, we decided to write about pivotal historical events and unique locales. We find ways for our time traveling heroines to learn, or already speak, the foreign languages they encounter, allowing us to choose more exotic settings like ancient Rome and medieval Italy, without stretching credulity. In other words, our heroines can’t speak modern English and expect to be understood once they travel back in time. Our first attempts at writing together sounded foreign to our ears. We had different styles – and different ways of thinking! Our efforts at co-writing suffered from fits and starts, and it was a difficult transition for two individual brains to “merge” for the creation of something as intimate and personal as a novel. Our hard work ultimately paid off, and we’ve now co-authored several Morgan O’Neill books, with plots sparked by things as diverse as Deb’s discovery of a new ancestor through her genealogical research, or Cary’s study of and fondness for the prowess of a vibrant English queen.
Regarding the actual nitty-gritty of writing – although we write what has been characterized as historical fantasy, we weave our plots around actual history. Time travel fiction is intricate by its very nature, because one must create something akin to two separate plots: the present day and the past, which must be seamlessly woven together by the characters and their experiences. Deb’s MA in history and talent for research provide the historical framework for our novels, and Cary’s experiences while living in Europe, her language skills, and her knowledge of horses and seamanship give added layers of authenticity. That’s not to say Cary doesn’t provide historical information or Deb color commentary on European surroundings. It’s a definite give and take. As they say, two heads are better than one.
Once we’ve started on a novel, we get down to the basics and divvy up who will write what, then edit and reedit each other’s work, taking the time to hash things out if we disagree. Rarely do we come to blows over this, but if we’re nearing the edge of the precipice, coffee or tea, lots of chocolate, and a good chat usually settle the matter. We admit to having had a few great screaming matches, followed by periods of utter silence, but, so far, we have not drawn blood. The love of what we do – and our mutual admiration society – keeps us, and will continue to keep us, coming back for more. <grin>

NL: According to your website, you both have backgrounds excellently suited for writing time travel novels. How did you decide to use your knowledge to become writers?

Deb: I’ve always loved history, particularly books and movies of an epic sweep. I was the child with my nose stuck in historical novels like James Michener’s Hawaii, or James Clavell’s Shogun. I also adored watching movies such as “El Cid”, “Dr. Zhivago,” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” Sure I loved the kid things, too, but the epic always pulled my mind back, to dream of faraway periods and exotic locales. I guess that’s why I love the intricacy and challenge of writing time travel fiction. I would love to do what my characters do – but without the danger of trying to survive in the past!
Cary: History thrills me. I’ve always preferred really big books, that taught me something about history, while weaving a wonderful tale. Since early childhood, I’ve wished I could travel through time (always to the past) and have kept a mental check list of what I would take with me, given the chance. I love the ‘ancient-ness’ of Europe. I’m intrigued by those who lived before, who built and toiled and gave their lives to create all that we now enjoy. From the lowest slave, to the most powerful leaders, I honor them by telling the stories of their struggles and triumphs. 

NL: Tell us a little bit about each of you. Married? Children? Day job? Love where you live?

Deb: I’ve been married to the same wonderful guy, my dear “hubster,” for 36 years. I was a secondary school teacher (social studies) for fourteen years, and now I write novels and screenplays. I love walking my two Westies, beachcombing, and swimming – in Hawaii, preferably. The hubster and I happily call the Pacific Northwest home, although Kauai continues to beckon to us, with its emerald cliffs and turquoise waters. My genealogical research also causes travel longings in a different direction, Europe being another favorite destination. I do admit to merrily traipsing through graveyards and cathedrals, searching for the tombs of my ancestors, the hubster in tow (his reward for this is several pints of Guinness). Cary: I am a fifth-generation Washingtonian, which means my toes are webbed. My husband and I still live in the Pacific Northwest, and just celebrated our 24th anniversary. We have two children in college, two English Setters, two cats, and fifteen chickens. We love to combine sailing and travel as often as possible, and recently returned from our third visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a truly lovely part of the world, filled with truly lovely people. France is also a destination favorite. I lived there for five years and love to return as often as possible. On the last trip, my daughter and I worked the vendange – the grape harvest – in Provençe. When I have down time (never), I paint (oil on canvas), or work on stone sculpturing. 

NL: Sexiest Man Alive. Go!

Deb: Although he’s not living, Cary Grant is so iconic, gorgeous -and timeless. I am also quite taken with the very much alive Channing Tatum, who played the Roman warrior in the film “The Eagle.” I think he evokes everything I’ve come to know and envision about our hero, Quintus Magnus. Cary: Gregory Peck, bar none. I know he isn’t literally alive, but just watch a film of his, “Roman Holiday,” for instance, and he will live in your heart forever. Okay, alive: Hugh Jackman. Yum. I’m picturing him a day or two past his last shave, and he’s just come into our country home from chopping wood on a crisp October day…. Need I say more? He could do wonderful things in the role of Magnus in our Roman time travel series. Uh oh! Tatum vs. Jackman – sounds like we might have another screaming match in the offing!  No, wait, we’d be casting a film based on our novel.  Never mind.

NL: Why am I not surprised that the time travel author both picked dead men as the sexiest man alive? LOL!! 😀

Two authors writing as one, Cary Morgan Frates and Deborah O’Neill Cordes specialize in recreating pivotal moments in history, epic adventure and romance- with a time travel twist. Love, Eternally, published by Crimson Romance, is the first novel in their Roman timeswept series. The sequels, After the Fall and Return to Me, will follow in October and December of 2012.

Connet with Cary and Deborah





  1. Please tell me you’re considering writing about Theodora, the lowly but beautiful and vivacious actress/escort who won Justinian’s heart and ascended to the throne of Rome. She’s such a remarkable and fascinating charcter in history. Even if only on the periphery, I think she’d be a very intriguing woman to weave into a future book. And you’re the perfect team to do it because you make history come alive.

    • Thank you, Tara! Cary and I are so busy wrapping up this ancient Roman time travel series that we can’t possibly think about anything else. 🙂 But Theodora would be marvelous, wouldn’t she?

    • Thanks for the great suggestion, Tara. We’ll have to check her out over coffee one of these days. We LOVE strong women!

  2. I was finally able to download Love, Eternally to my Kobo. I am loving it, except that you are keeping me up at night! I couldn’t stop reading. I can tell you’ve done your research. The book is so very well done. I’m going to recommend it to my daughter who just came back from Italy. We traveled France together years ago. Whatever you ladies do to write as a team works!

    • Thank you so much, Sharon! It thrills me that you are having as much fun reading LOVE, ETERNALLY as we had writing it. Cary and I have had quite an interesting ride together, so to speak, and we always end up being quite happy with the end result. However, mothers always love their babies, so it’s very good to know our readers feel the same way about our “little darlings.” 🙂

    • Thanks, Sharon. I’d say staying up nights with Magnus is worth it! He kept me up more than a night or two. So glad you are enjoying the read. We promise sleepless nights with books two and three, also.

  3. I’m enjoying “Love, Eternally” both the story and the refresher course in Latin I’m getting. Am in awe of the work the two of you did to research and write it together. I co-wrote a YA with a friend a few years ago. Research was fun. Co-writing, not so much! Never got past the third draft.

    • Thank you, Peggy! The Latin prelude to Gigi and Magnus actually understanding each other was a hoot to write. Very tricky, actually, because we couldn’t go on and on – and get BORING (as Gigi would put it). And as for our collaboration, we do have a ball most of the time, especially when we write some of the love scenes. In fact, we’re thinking of doing a writer’s conference workshop on HOW TO RUIN A LOVE SCENE. He, he, we’ve had a lot of fun thinking about that and laughing, before we settle down and write something that passes muster. 🙂

    • Thank you so much!! We’ve had some memorable times writing, mostly hilarious. Be sure to tell all your friends about Love, Eternally. We wouldn’t want them to miss out on refreshing their Latin!! 🙂

  4. You two look so adorable in your picture together! Great interview!

    • Thank you, Jen. I had Cary’s help with the make-up, and thank goodness it was a good hair day! And photo-shop is a wonder! 🙂

    • Thank you!! It’s amazing what a little bit of duct tape and a dab or two of war paint can do! Glad you enjoyed the interview. We had fun doing it.

  5. Only two more weeks until my more techno-savvy brother will help me determine which reader is best. Then, I’ll be able to download your book, which is first on my list. My friend, with her new kindle fire just showed me my book today–for the first time! I really need to get with the 21st century instead of being mired in the 1850s!

    • I know the feeling, Becky. 5th century Rome is my “mire” spot. I think all of the Crimson Ladies are doing admirable jobs negotiating through the intricacies of blogs, e-book readers and Social Media. This is a fascinating time to be alive – and it’s also so challenging to keep up with the new technology!

    • Its a big step, Becky, but just remember, Magnus will be there to welcome you once you power up…. Happy 21st Century Personal Revolution!

  6. I’ve already snagged my copy of Love, Eternally, and can’t wait to read it. What a refreshing storyline!!!

    • Thank you, Berinn. When we were initially researching the historical elements that led to the plotline of our series (the sack of Rome, Princess Placidia’s involvement, etc.), we realized it was something that had never been done before in the time travel genre. We hope you enjoy LOVE, ETERNALLY and the rest of the series!

  7. Congratulations, ladies! More time travels following this?

  8. Dear Kay,

    LOVE, ETERNALLY will be followed by more novels in the Roman time travel series, including AFTER THE FALL (to be released by Crimson Romance in early October of 2012) and RETURN TO ME (December 2012 CR release). In addition to our Roman time travel series, we have two works-in-progress: a London/Elizabethan England TT series and a medieval Italy TT series. Thank you for your interest and happy reading!

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