BY SHARYN ALDEN
SPECIAL TO ACTIVE LIVING
As a history buff and storyteller, author Rex Owens weaves together fictional stories around actual events in Northern Ireland. His “Irish Troubles Series’ includes his latest book, Dead Reckoning, and his previous books, Murphy’s Troubles and Out of Darkness. The series focuses on intriguing characters that face life-changing decisions and emotional burdens during the “Irish Troubles.” Readers identify with Owen’s fictional characters because everyone faces decisions of varying magnitude during their life. Owens points out, “I write about themes. Murphy’s Troubles is about how betrayal can be a two edged sword. Out of Darkness is about how both an individual and Ireland search for atonement following the end of The Troubles. Dead Reckoning is about how self-discovery through art (writing) and an act of contrition.”
Preparing to Write
When Owens grew up in Northwest Indiana he never thought about a writing career. He worked with the State of Wisconsin for most of his career and later in assisted living and managed care implementing Family Care in Wisconsin. In 1997 when he attended his first Wisconsin Writer’s Institute he says he was hooked.
He prepared for a writing life by taking writing classes such as Write by the Lake and Weekend with Your Novel. “I also joined a critique group and studied various books such as How Fiction Works by J. Woods, Take Your Characters to Dinner by L. Yourke, Building Believable Characters by M. McCutchen, and Creating Plot by J. Davis.” After his son visited Ireland in 1997 and brought back newspapers, Owens says. “I read stories about lingering IRA activities, and in particular, I read a story about a 12 year old girl being injured while playing in a Peace Zone in Belfast. That became the inciting incident for my first novel, Murphy’s Troubles.”
In addition to writing, Owens hosts a popular radio program, “My World and Welcome to It” on 103.5 FM The Sun Radio at: http://sunprairiemediacenter.com with archived shows at http://sunprairiemediacenter.com. He offers suggestions for first-time authors. “Today’s authors need to understand that writing and publishing is only half of the task. The other half is to find your readers, which means marketing and promoting,” says Owens. “The reality is that the skills needed to write and publish are completely different from those you need to promote your work and yourself. Authors need editors, cover designers, book layout, beta readers and those with marketing and promotion skills to bring a book into the world.
While researching his books he learned surprising facts. “I was surprised to learn that after voting for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement more walls were built in Belfast separating Catholics and Protestants,” he says. “I was also surprised that after the referendum for the Good Friday Agreement passed in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a renegade group formed calling themselves the Real IRA and they continued bombing public buildings. The Real IRA claim the Good Friday Agreement was a sham and would not abide by the terms of the agreement. The Good Friday Agreement required the IRA to turn in all their arms. I was surprised to learn they never fully complied with this requirement.” Owens adds, “Finally, the Good Friday Agreement required Gaelic or Irish be taught in schools in Northern Ireland. To this day this has not been implemented.”