Meet My Main Character: Éirinn O’Connell

Hello and happy Wednesday!

Also, happy Women Physicians Day! Until recently, I didn’t even realize such a day existed, but it’s a neat one. Today is the birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States (in 1849). Today there are many women who’ve studied medicine, including some of my family and good friends.

It’s such a blessing to have so many dedicated medical professionals in the United States, both male and female. There are so many places around the world that are still lacking in that abundancy, and suffer from far more illnesses and life-threatening ailments than we do. My heart breaks for them, and I’m very grateful for those who care enough to put in the time, money, and work to help others wherever they can.

I’ve always wished I had a strong enough stomach to go into medicine; to be a nurse, surgeon, or EMT. Going to school to learn therapy has been a serious consideration many times, but I have yet to receive the go-ahead from God. Maybe someday it’ll be the right path for me, but as of right now, I’m continuing to pray and be grateful for those who God has already set on those paths.

It’s from that desire to help people physically that the protagonist in my novel, Cabin Girl 1, was born. Éirinn O’Connell is a sixteen year old girl living in the early-mid 1600’s Ireland when the story begins. Though there are plenty of differences between her and I (one of which being that she’s simply way cooler than I am, haha!), there are definitely places I drew off of my own dreams and life experiences to create her.

One of these things is Éirinn’s dream to become a surgeon (which is what a doctor, or physician, was called in that time – especially when having to do with seafaring).

I thought Women Physicians Day would be a fun chance to introduce you to my own woman physician character, and to give you a glimpse into the novel I’ve been working hard on for the last couple of years. I look forward to sharing the entire story with you this year, but until then . . . meet Éirinn!

(I grabbed the fun questions for this post – lightly edited for conciseness – from Maya Joelle’s ‘Meet My MC‘ link-up, which you can find here! Thank you, Maya!)

That’s Éirinn!

1. Introduce your MC. What’s their name? Age? Appearance?

As I mentioned above, my main character’s name is Éirinn O’Connell and she’s sixteen years old at the start of the story. That’s her above, on Cabin Girl‘s cover!

Éirinn lives during the 17th century (early-mid 1600’s), making her home in Southern Ireland. As you can see, she has the fiery hair to prove it, haha. She’s short and slight and walks bent forward because of her crippled back. Here’s a collage a good friend made to represent her and her story.

In terms of personality, Éirinn is a soft-spoken and sensitive person, whose greatest wish is to care for others. Her dream of becoming a surgeon stems from her desire to bring hope and healing to those struggling, both physically and emotionally.

She is a Christian, who trusted her life to Jesus after a traumatic event that completely changed her life (which I won’t spoil…). She continues to struggle with a near-crippling fear of the ocean, which, as you can probably imagine, makes being on a pirate ship quite challenging.

2. Explain how your MC fits into the plot of your book.

Cabin Girl follows Éirinn’s journey – from being abducted from her home by Barbary pirates, to enduring the role of cabin girl on the cruel Captain Gill’s ship, to being sold as a Moroccan slave, and on – fighting to return to her family the entire time.

Over the course of the story, Éirinn faces sharks, ship battles, storms, mutiny, death threats, and the constant torment and humiliation of the Captain, who finds great pleasure in watching her battle her fear of the ocean. As time passes, she learns that appearances are rarely what they seem, that physical strength is not the most important kind, and that redemption can come from the most unexpected places.

3. What’s the first thing your MC says in the story? The last? A random quote from the middle that you like?

The first thing Éirinn says is, “I thought . . . I did everything I could—”. Not terribly profound, haha, but I guess it shows her timidity and hesitation from the very beginning.

The last thing Éirinn says in the book is, “Really? And what’s that?”. Again, nothing quote-worthy, but it leads into what I feel is a satisfying ending for the story.

Hmm, a random quote from the middle… Here’s something Éirinn says that I think is a bit more memorable, in response to someone questioning why the only believer they’ve known acted worse than the people who didn’t call themselves Christians:
“Being a believer . . . it doesn’t mean you’re perfect or good. Believers can make some awful mistakes, and unbelievers can do some amazing things . . . . The difference is that believers have rested their future in the hands of Someone who is perfect. We try to be like Him, but when we mess up, our mistakes don’t trap us.”

4. Which other character would die for your MC?

Her sister, Ciara. She’s eight years old, a complete sweetheart, and remarkably mature for her age. I have no doubt she’d sacrifice herself to save Éirinn if such a situation came up.

5. Would your MC die for them?

Oh, absolutely. In fact, in early drafts, Éirinn did sacrifice herself for Ciara, letting the pirates take her instead of her sister and figuring she’d probably die as a result. The layout of events ended up changing, but Éirinn would definitely still take her sister’s place.

6. Have any major details about your MC changed since you first created them?

Hmm, a couple of things come to mind.

For one thing, Éirinn and her family originally lived in Spain, because her mama is Spanish. After certain story events I also shall not reveal, I figured they’d move from Ireland, where her Irish father (captain of a trader ship), had run his trade out of, and back to Spain, in an attempt to get her sickening mama to heal. Éirinn’s dream would be to go back to Ireland some day. However, it ended up being too complicated and unbelievable for them to make that much of a journey in that time period.

Now, they live in Ireland, where her father made their home after meeting his wife on a trade voyage and bringing her back from Spain with him. Éirinn named her sister Ciara, a Spanish name, in a like attempt to draw her distant mama back to them emotionally.

Another thing is that Éirinn used to have a carved wooden pendant that she treasured, which is now a compass instead. She also was never intended to have a crippled back. That detail came about as I wrote the story and got to know her character and backstory better. It’s now an integral part of her story, and I’m very glad it’s there.

Oh! And the last thing I can think of is that the spelling of Éirinn’s name has changed. Originally I simply spelled it ‘Erin’, after finding the name in a baby names book and liking it. After reading Cabin Girl however, a good friend did some research and pointed out that that spelling of her name wasn’t used until long after Éirinn’s story takes place. So now it’s a much more historically accurate spelling.

7. What characters (from other books or movies) remind you of your MC? Why?

Oh, I’m always so bad at coming up with these. After talking with a beta-reader, one character I’ve discovered is a lot like Éirinn is Olivia “Via” from Wonder 2 , because they both care deeply for their families, are very sacrificial, and also often internalize their thoughts and feelings too much. They have extremely similar personalities, and even both want to be types of doctors.

8. Share your MC’s favorites! (Color, food, type of clothing, place, type of music, season, smell, etc.)

In order:

  • Favorite Color: Green, the color of her papa’s eyes, and of growing plants.
    (Bonus – least favorite: Red, because it reminds her too much of blood)
  • Favorite Food: Bread, because her mama used to make a lot of it.
    (Bonus – least favorite: FISH)
  • Favorite Type of Clothing: Some of her papa’s spare clothing, which include breeches and a sailor’s shirt that’s far too long on her, but no shoes.
    (Bonus – least favorite: any kind of shoes or boots. They’re too restricting!)
  • Favorite Place: Ireland, lying in the grass and listening to the lapping waves, the twittering birds, and the breeze whispering through the weeds.
    (Bonus – least favorite: the bilge on The Lonely Eye; Captain Gill’s pirate ship)
  • Type of Music: Old hymns. She likes to hum them whenever she’s working.
    (Bonus – least favorite: sea shanties)
  • Season: Spring, when everything is growing and blooming and new.
    (Bonus – least favorite: winter, when their home gets too cold and the lack of shoes becomes painful instead of freeing)
  • Smell: Freshly-made bread, mud after the rain, salty ocean water, and carved wood
    (Bonus – least favorite: the bilge again, haha!)

9. If your MC wasn’t involved in your story, what would they be doing? (Basically: what’s their dream life? Where do they want to live, what do they want to do?)

Éirinn would be a surgeon, journeying around Europe, learning as much as she could about healing and helping as many people as possible. Though she’d enjoy traveling and seeing other places and cultures, she’d always go back to Ireland; her true home.

10. Share a fun extra.

Here’s a scene from the end of Cabin Girl’s second chapter:

My heart pounds. I clear my throat and will my voice to steady.

One chance. One reason I should live.

The man in the hammock moans, raspy and weak.

“I can heal him.” My words send a chill down my spine.

The pirates behind me shift, their murmurs dying.

The Captain raises an eyebrow. “Wrong answer.” Hauling me to my feet, he drags me toward the ladder, and I grasp at the passing hammocks, my fingers slipping across their rough fabric. The pirates follow, some cheering and others groaning protests.

“No, wait!” I pull against him. “Please! I’ve studied medicine. I can make him better!”

“Forgive me for not believing a crippled child can be a qualified surgeon.”

“But I know what he has!” My chest heaves. I drag my bare feet, and the Captain growls and jerks at me harder. “If you don’t do something, he’ll die!”

The Captain turns around, his grip on my wrist like metal. He narrows his eye. His gaze flickers past me, to the man in the hammock, and lingers there, its flaming intensity drawing goosebumps from my skin. He looks at me, a sneer curling his lip.

“Your name,” he says.

I swallow hard. “Éirinn.”

The Captain scoffs. “Ostrich suits you better.”

Please, God. Don’t let him throw me overboard.

The Captain’s brow furrows, and he looks again from me, to the hammock, then back to me. He releases his grip on my wrist and tosses me backward. Trembling, I stumble over my own feet, struggling for balance.

“I’ve made my decision.” The Captain’s voice rises. “We’ll not be throwing the wench overboard just yet.”

I exhale, my pulse racing. Groans rise from the pirates, but the Captain’s glare silences them.

“I’ll make it known,” he says. “That the first man to lay a hand on our new cabin girl will find themselves without grog for a month. And so help me, that’s the lightest they’ll get off.”

My breath hitches. Cabin girl?

The Captain meets my gaze, and his mouth twists into a chilling smile. “You heard me right, Ostrich,” he says. “Until we reach Morocco, you’ll be under my charge. You’ll follow my orders and obey my every command—and the moment you refuse will be the moment I reevaluate my decision to keep you alive.”

God, this isn’t what I meant! I didn’t mean—

“But, Captain,” a pirate says. “What about bad luck?”

The Captain snorts. “I’ll work the wench so hard, she won’t have strength to cause trouble. The Eye won’t be jinxed by a female while I’m captain!” He shoves me around to face the crew and cheers and chortles surge. “Men!” His voice booms. “Meet our new cabin girl!”

And that’s Éirinn! I had a lot of fun introducing her to you, and I hope you enjoyed meeting her! It’s been a privilege to see her character develop, and a blessing for me to hear how her story has impacted others. I look forward to sharing her entire journey (in Cabin Girl) with you in the near future!

I’d love to meet YOUR main character! How would you answer these questions about them? If you’d like, comment below and start the introductions!

1. You can learn more about Cabin Girl here!

2. The movie, Wonder.

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6 thoughts on “Meet My Main Character: Éirinn O’Connell

  1. I love this! It was so awesome to get acquainted with Eirinn while getting to read Cabin Girl, and it’s so fun to see some of your more personal thoughts on her!

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