New Release: In the Shadows of the Onion Domes by Mary Pat Hyland

Mary Pat Hyland has written six novels set in one of my favorite places: upstate New York.

Her newest book is IN THE SHADOWS OF THE ONION DOMES. This collection of stories  features newcoverportrait2_750x1000characters who live in in a part of the country not commonly written about: New York’s Southern Tier in a valley called the Triple Cities.

In Mary Pat Hyland’s words:

The shoe factories that originally drew thousands of immigrants from across Europe have long since moved on. What remains are the distinct ethnic flavors of a gritty community determined to overcome economic woes, adapt to the rapid changes in society and find true meaning in life.

Q & A with Mary Pat Hyland

Tell about where you live in New York.

I live in a picturesque river valley along the Southern Tier of Upstate New York that is fed by the confluence of the Chenango and Susquehanna rivers. After the initial settlement in the 1700s, the valley developed a strong manufacturing economy in the early twentieth century. There were two giants. First was Endicott-Johnson Shoes, a company that sewed the boots for all of the U.S. troops in World War I. Its founder was the inspirationally benevolent George F. Johnson who gave his employees not only jobs, but the 40-hour work week (radical at the time), benefits that included free healthcare and company-built homes sold at an affordable price. He also built countless parks and many include their own carousels. (There are six within the county.) Johnson’s company drew thousands of immigrants from Europe, notably Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia. The second was IBM, founded here by Thomas J. Watson. That drew brilliant minds from around the world for its research and provided countless manufacturing jobs. There was a lot of innovation in this valley, from Edwin A. Link who developed the flight simulator among other things, to IBM’s partnership with NASA that helped put man on the moon.

The area has had a lot of hard economic luck. Many of the best manufacturing jobs went overseas or across the country. At times that has tinged the area with the bleak mood/mean streets feel of an Edward Hopper painting. Perhaps that’s what inspired one of our most famous residents, Rod Serling, to create The Twilight Zone.

What inspires you?

oniondomes_cover_kindlePretty much anything in life can inspire me. I find the obsession with celebrities boring. What are more fascinating are the everyday lives of people around me. That includes subtle choices made by them early on that have colored every decision afterward; the overcoming of financial or emotional/physical difficulties; the casual perceptions made (based on their life experiences) toward others.

I enjoy meeting new people from abroad or different parts of this country and love experiencing their world vicariously through conversation. If I had plenty of money to spare and free time, I’d be travelling more. Long distance car trips are great because you witness so much by chance, such as hearing the meadowlark sing at dawn on a prairie fence, watching pronghorn antelope race across the sagebrush, or stopping at any crazy roadside huckster joint that catches your fancy. I have a deep fondness for Louisiana, with its Spanish moss-draped bayous and rich cultural history. Also, the Canadian Rockies and America’s Grand Tetons I find to be some of the most beautiful mountains on earth.

My ancestors came to America from Ireland around the time of the Great Famine. Up until my generation, almost everyone married other Irish-Americans. So the Irish culture and way of looking at life are deeply engrained in my genetics. It was always a dream to visit Ireland. I also had another dream to learn and master the Irish language. Who would have thought I’d be able to do both, spending a week one July in Connemara learning the language of my ancestors?

I love music, all genres. My strongest connections are to jazz, 70s-style funk, bossa nova and traditional Irish. It’s funny, but I prefer to just have the sounds of my environment in the background during writing sessions. If music is playing, I get drawn into it.

One of my former jobs was a cook, and I find preparing food for others a creative and inspiring challenge. You’ll often see food preparation and meals described in detail in my stories.

There have been several authors who have inspired my writing. Foremost is Eudora Welty, who inspired another favorite, Anne Tyler. I find Flannery O’Connor and Truman Capote’s short stories to be delightful, as are the characters in John Irving and Maeve Binchy’s books.

Do you have a favorite story in IN THE SHADOWS OF THE ONION DOMES? And what does the title refer to?

The connecting thread of these stories is the location—the river valley where I live. As I mentioned before, there were many immigrant settlers here. Many were members of the Orthodox faith. Throughout the valley you can see the gilded or blue domes of the churches they built. One church was even handmade by wood brought directly from Ukraine.

As for my favorite story, that’s hard. I truly enjoyed writing each one. Perhaps I’d choose “The Reluctant Magnolia,” because it was a very emotional experience writing it. I’ve known several elderly people who have died in the past few years, and in a recent job I ran a café for senior citizens. That has made me acutely aware of the enormous challenges this part of the population faces as the days left in their lives dwindle.

Are you working on a new book?

Yes. It’s a humorous suspense novel that skewers perceptions of social classes. I’m writing it as part of National Novel Writing Month. I plan to have it published by next March. Guess where it’s set? Here!

How do you want your books to affect readers?

I’m always grateful when a reader trusts me with their imagination. I aim to entertain, to transport them from life’s problems and create a memorable story they’ll think about after they’ve finished it and want to read again.


Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway contest to win an autographed copy of IN THE SHADOWS OF THE ONION DOMES, copies of her ebooks, or a piece of original art created by the author.

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Author Biography

Mary Pat Hyland is an Amazon Top 100 bestselling author and has published six novels and a collection of short stories. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies Seasons Readings and Lost Love Letters: An Indie Chicks Anthology. In 2013 the Arts Council of Yates County selected her as an Artist in Residence. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and has worked in the commercial/fine art, journalism, education, and culinary fields. Mary Pat resides in upstate New York, the setting for her novels, and enjoys organic gardening, gourmet cooking, visiting the Finger Lakes, and teaching the Irish language.

Local heroes

“I know these woods.”

Robin Hood, in Robin and Marian

I know something of rural New York, which makes me biased toward regional writers who set their stories there. I know those woods.

Place matters. It is significant that something happens in one place and not another.  And if particular experiences in particular places don’t matter, what the heck does?

Here are three regional writers I like. They have different subjects and styles. What they have in common is an exquisite sense of place.

Beth Peyton

Beth Peyton’s memoir, Clear Skies, Deep Water, was the best book surprise of the summer.  It is about a lot of things: life in a lakeside village after the summer people have gone home, having the courage to love deeply and passionately, the hard work that comes on the heels of choosing to follow a dream, and finding the place just right, meaning home.

Clear Skies is a particular story—personal, individual, and rooted in a real place—but it also is bigger than the simply regional.

Mary Pat Hyland

Mary Pat Hyland is an Irish-American writer who lives in the Southern Tier area of upstate New York (generally, west of the Catskill Mountains and along the northern border of Pennsylvania, including the cities of Binghamton, Elmira, and Corning). She is the author of six novels and a new collection of stories, In the Shadow of the Onion Domes.

Her stories are fictional but feel real. They grow out of deep knowledge of the place where she lives.

Anne Sneller

Anne Sneller is the only writer I know of who published her first book at age eighty. As it happened, she didn’t publish a second one, but not because she couldn’t have. She lived well into her nineties, probably vigorous and observant to the end.

The book is a memoir titled A Vanished World. It goes WAY back; Anne Sneller was born in 1883 on a farm in Cicero, New York. A dust jacket photo on the first edition shows a good-looking woman; she must have been beautiful when she was younger.

In  A Vanished World, she says, “Look! This is how it was. This is what my mother’s house looked like; this is what my crazy uncle was like, and my hard-worked and underappreciated aunts. Here are some images of death. And here are some of life.”

In my first novel, I quoted a passage from A Vanished World. That makes me the only writer in the history of the universe to quote a rural New York memoir in a science fiction novel set in the 22nd century. I hope that makes me interesting; it certainly makes me unusual.

I’m working on a story cycle with the working title of The Green Town Stories. It, too, is set in the 22nd century. However, Green Town is very old. In its earliest incarnation it strongly resembled the real Chautauqua, New York. At that point in its history its name was New Albion. It was a long strange trip to Green Town.

Chautauqua science fiction? I think that is another first.

Good reads: A Vanished World

My review policy

Writing a book is hard. If anyone doubts this, try it.

Never mind questions of quality. It is enormously difficult to achieve even ugliness, especially at the beginning. The ones who persist in their failures, failing better each time, get to the high place where they can think with justification, “This is good.”

Never mind  reviews. Good reviews feel wonderful. Bad reviews feel awful. Both are the result of readers completing stories in their own way. These things are out of a writer’s control.

I don’t review books very often, but when I do, my reviews are positive. This is NOT because I am nice. It is because I don’t finish books I don’t like and if I don’t finish a book, I have no authority to review it.  No writer deserves to be dismissed that way.

Praise means that a story got to me in a good way. It is 100% sincere. I was a reader long before I was a writer.





Circling back

As I work on the story cycle involving Green Town (an homage to Ray Bradbury, there), I am finding myself drawn to writers and books I liked when I was young. Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Marguerite Henry, C.W. Anderson, Walter Farley, Edgar Lee Masters.

I am glad I still have a copy of  the book that introduced me to poetry as a child: A Golden Treasury of Poetry. There’s good poetry in it.

What do these books and writers have in common? They made an emotional connection. I discovered that they still do. They are the deeps of my reading experience, That I am returning to them now is a very, very good sign.

A story that does not punch through on a deep level is a story that vanishes as soon as it is read. The Green Town stories are rooted in emotion. Though set in 2199, they will barely be techie. The e-beasts run everything (see the description of Warning: Something Else Is Happening to see HOW they run everything), but people ignore the e-beasts as much as possible.

Folks get on with life in Green Town. There is one sixteen-year-old girl for whom getting on with life means falling in love, leaving home, and trying to save the world.

What are the deeps of your reading experience?


Quick! Ten books that you can’t forget

The idea is to write down ten titles fast, without thinking much about it.

Here are my ten, in no particular order:

  1. Turtle Diary
  2. Something Wicked This Way Comes
  3. Dandelion Wine
  4. King of the Wind
  5. A Golden Treasury of Poetry
  6. Little Women
  7. The Jungle
  8. Lark Rise to Candleford
  9. The Lottery and Other Stories
  10. The Black Stallion

I read six of the ten before age 21. Come to think of it, I read seven: part of The Jungle was an assignment in a high school history class.

Only numbers 1, 8, and 9 reflect adult tastes.

It shows that what you read young has a disproportionate chance of sticking with you, for better or worse. In my case it was for better.

The Green Town story cycle I am writing now has its roots in Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked. Ray Bradbury is an author I have come to re-appreciate.

Which books stay with you?





Music to write by

Everyone has their favorites, but I prefer music that stays in the background. Soundtracks can be excellent, because they are composed to play under the action.

If you are working in a reflective mood, the lovely melancholy of the soundtrack to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford can be a friendly accompaniment. I love it that the people who made this movie gave it such a long name, as if they needed every one of those ten words to make their point.

It is a lovely, melancholy movie, by the way—just like its score. You can find the entire soundtrack on YouTube.

However, my go-to music right now is by Helen Jane Long. Repetitious in a chant-like way, with a core like a diamond. Every time I hear “Out of It All” or “The Aviators,” I smile.

(Today WordPress refuses to allow me to insert live YouTube links, or maybe the problem is YouTube. I don’t know. More time, that is, more life, lost forever down the great maw of Software That Doesn’t Work Right.)

Here is a link to The Aviators.

We’ve all got our music. What’s yours?

Stranded cows

I read Eric Hodgins’s autobiography, Trolley to the Moon. That is because I liked his other two books and blogged about them:

Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House

Blandings Way

In Trolley to the Moon is a  passage that perfectly describes my first drafts.

Sentences are deleted, paragraphs wrenched from their place and stuck bodily in some incongruous section, where they perch like cows stranded on barn roofs by a passing tornado.