When researching I always look for ways into a story – the hook, the idea, the character that makes you want to tell the tale… This will be the trigger for plot and story-line; mine came with the rediscovery of the concept of priest holes in connection with research into the whys and wherefores of the gunpowder plot… Specifically it came with discovering that a Jesuit priest named Nick Owen had been responsible for building many of the PRIEST HOLES created at this time… He was captured in 1606, shortly after the failed gunpowder plot, and thus in my mind a link between the two was born. His torture is portrayed in the image to the left, an image by Mathias Tanner. Engraver Melchior Kusell – “Societas Jesu ad sanguinis et vitae profusionem militans”.
Priest holes convey perfectly the idea of religious intolerances heightened to such an extent that one needs to hide in order to live and practice ones religion.
It is perfectly feasible that Owen is not only aware of the gunpowder plot but perhaps involved in it in some way – perhaps as a plotter, perhaps an opponent of the idea (its failure will surely bring more grief to England’s Catholics)… Owen becomes a player in my story ideas… Perhaps, in fact, he becomes a teller of plots; hidden away in a much more catholic Ireland where he is:
(a) someone who writes in what will become a different Ireland – one not cursed with a protestant reformation that oppresses the land. WHY? Because the plot has succeeded and – because luck is on their side – the Catholic faith has become ascendant in England… OR
(b) someone who writes in what will remain the Ireland we know. WHY? Because the plot has failed; indeed the plot was always meant to fail because it is a conspiracy engineered by Robert Cecil, King James 1’s chief minister, and historically reputed to have hated Catholics …