I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer, but I always knew I was a storyteller. Since I can remember, my party piece was always telling a story. Thankfully, I had very indulgent aunts, uncles and cousins, who would sit for one of my ‘performances’ and give me a big round of applause at the end. I recently met a school-friend who reminded me of the poetry recitals we used to give at lunchtime – all our own material! So I suppose I’ve always enjoyed entertaining people with made-up stories, but the writing came much later.
My writing is really inspired by half-formed ideas, fragments of conversations and snippets that accrue over the years. Sometimes I’ll be trawling the net looking for something and alight on a completely different piece of information, which sends me on all sorts of tangents! History is my passion and this definitely comes across in my books. My debut novel, The Heirloom, is set (partly) in medieval Europe when the great Spanish Armada attempted to invade England. As it turned out, many of the fleet wrecked all along the Irish coastline following a devastating hurricane, so my story started from there. Many people have dived in these areas searching for Armada treasure, but if you want to find out what happens in my story, you will have to read the book!
My second novel, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris was actually inspired by a cookery show on TV. A chef wandered through the streets of Paris, pointing out various restaurants and where to buy the best ingredients. Finally, she came to a very inconspicuous bakery that had a very well-heeled clientele and was notorious for its privacy and secrecy. I’m not sure if the patrons wanted all and sundry knowing what kind of bread they bought, or whether the baker was painfully shy, but either way, it stayed in my mind and wouldn’t leave until I wrote a book about it! I was really able to indulge my love of magical realism in this story. Finding magic in the everyday is a very strong theme for me and one which I always return to.
My new novel, which is currently being edited, is also set in Ireland. Again, the inspiration came from research I was doing for something completely different! I discovered a book written by an anthropologist who came to Ireland in the early 1900’s to study… something very interesting! I don’t want to give anything away at the moment, but I will say that it is a story with dual timelines (or time-slip as it is sometimes called) which is my favourite format to write in and to read. I love novels that jump from the past to the future, as I always feel like I’m getting more bang for my buck! My belief is that the past influences who we are and who we become. Whether we are trying to escape something or leave something behind, or trying hard to hang onto something, it is always the past that motivates us.
Being an Irish writer also has a huge influence on my writing. I want to tell stories about my country and my culture in a way that hasn’t been done before. I want to remind people of our history and our folklore. My new novel really pays homage to the Ireland of a bygone era and to my ancestors, who lived so close to the land and lived their lives according to the seasons. It’s such a privilege to be a writer and to be able to tell these stories in my own, unique voice. Creating a world between pages is a special kind of alchemy that can be exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure! Yet the end result is worth every crippling doubt you had at the start and when someone says how much they enjoyed your book, it really is the icing on the cake.