Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am an Irish writer, mother of four incorrigible but lovely kids and a teacher. In a previous life I was a university lecturer of history and a tour director for groups of Americans visiting Ireland. I’ve written two books. The first is called The Tour and it is a lighthearted novel set on a bus tour of Ireland. A group of American visitors and their Irish tour guide learn a lot about each other an themselves as a disparate group of strangers find their lives and stories intertwining in poignant and sometimes funny ways. It is not a memoir, though some of the characters are amalgams of people I met over the years.
My second book is a historical novel called So Much Owed.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
So Much Owed – the title is taken from Winston Churchill’s iconic speech where he praised the work of the RAF stating that ‘never in the history of human conflict, was so much owed, by so many, to so few.’
The story begins and the end of the First World War and follows the lives of the Buckley family of Dunderrig House in West Cork, Ireland. This book is really a fictionalization of the research I did for a PhD which was related to the activities of Irish Women in the Allied forces during WW2. I realize academic writing is not for me so I prefer to use my academic background to write fiction.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Well as a mother of four its a miracle I even have a writing habit! I suppose the thing that surprises my friends is that I can write anywhere, for ten minutes or for ten hours. The noise level around me is irrelevant, I grew up with five brothers and sisters and our house was like a train station so you had to learn to block out noise if you wanted to focus on anything. I don’t need to get ‘in the zone’, I can just pick up the story where I left of almost instantly.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I am influenced by so many writers and I dream of having the powers of description of authors like Sebastian Faulks, or the warmth of Maeve Binchy. I remember reading Captian Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres when I was about 20 and I never wanted it to end. The film was a terrible dissappointment. The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas by John Boyne made me cry, while A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka hade me laugh out loud. I read anything Bill Bryson writes, he is hilarious and fascinating.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m writing a book that connects 2016 in New York with 1916 in Ireland. 1916 was the year of the Irish Revolution and one item of supreme historical significance, which is believed to have been destroyed, reemerges. The item links strangers a century apart.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Well I’m not sure. By far the most lucrative was a Bookbub promotion I ran on my first book earlier this year. I blog, (not as much as I should) but for me its a lot of trial and error. I’ve been very fortunate and my book sell well, not enough to retire yet but certainly heading that way.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Just write. Don’t get too hung up on editing as you write. Get the words down on the page any way you can. Once you have a product you can fix it but we are inclined to rewrite too much in the early stages. I just get the story down while its happening in my head, complete with misspells and passive voice and all the other mortal sins and then get my editors to carve it up afterwards. By the way, you DEFINITELY need an editor. Everyone does.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Pay a good editor.
What are you reading now?
the first draft of a friend’s novel. I’m loving it. Other writers are great people to bounce ideas off, and a great support.
What’s next for you as a writer?
My goal is to match my salary from my permanent pensionable job and become a full time writer. I’m hopeful that I can achieve that in 2-4 years.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Empty ones. So I could pass the time away making things up and writing them down 😉
And a thesaurus.