Last January, a serious family illness led to a roller coaster of a year and I fully expected 2022 to be an annus horribilis. However, to quote Dickens, it was ‘the best of times, it was the worst of times’.
The best? Our family, friends and neighbours who rallied around to help us, all the prayers and love, the cards, the lasagnes, the candles. How our priorities changed and we could see what was really important. The memories we made throughout the year, spending quality time with the children and with each other. We loved ‘The Bridge’ when it was on TV (You know, Saga Norén, Länskrim Malmö), so our one goal was to sail under the Øresund Bridge. On our 18th wedding anniversary last June, thanks to our friends Clare and Pál, we did just that. Krestine, a talented photographer who was also on board, took a fab photo.
The worst needs no explanation. Cancer changes everything.
As a result of all of this, I haven’t been very prolific on the writing front. My 7th book, yet unnamed, is at about 74,000 words. It starts about two years after Mosaic ends. I’m really enjoying it as I get to hang out with my characters again. Old faces crop up along with a whole new set of characters like Rosa Weber (a troubled young cellist) and Emilia Thomas (a film composer). Colin will probably pop up somewhere. Let’s face it, he always does.
Speaking of Mosaic, it was released in November 2021 and due to Covid restrictions, my book launch was cancelled. All I got to do were signings here and there, which was great, but not the same.
The wonderful people at Fiction at the Friary in Cork organised a ‘Lost Launches’ event for all the authors who missed their moment. Held in St Peter’s Church during the Cork World Book Festival in April, there were readings, book signings and a chance to meet other authors. The excerpt they read aloud was the opening chapter of ‘Mosaic’ which describes Cork in 1995: Doc Marten boots, Oasis, Sir Henry’s, mix tapes. If you haven’t read Mosaic, I’d recommend doing so as a lot of its main characters have big roles in my new book.
I wrote a play last summer called ‘One in Four’. It’s a one-act play set in a small town in County Cork and it will be performed at the Ballina One-Act Drama Festival next September. I can’t wait to see it come to life. I adore theatre so it was a challenge to write something stage-worthy.
Thanks to Declan and Skibbereen Arts Festival for inviting me to read an extract from my new book at a ‘Women in Literature’ event last July. I loved the whole experience. I introduced my new main character, Emilia Thomas, to the world and got to hear other authors and poets read their work. It was so lovely to celebrate local writers from multiple genres.
The theme of Skibb Arts Fest this year was the Roaring Twenties. The town dressed up as flappers and gangsters – it was such a laugh. Can’t wait for next year! I’m hoping for an eighties theme so I can go all out (like at Bertie’s party in Mosaic when he dresses up as Freddie Mercury).
In other news, I’m loving The SHSS Podcast, a student-led podcast that I produce with Transition Year journalists (equipment and post-processing by the fab Flux Learning Ltd). The interviews are short (about 20 mins), interesting and varied. The students research the guests and come up with their own questions. When we interviewed David Puttnam, they asked him what film he’d have liked to have been a part of, rather than about ‘The Mission’ or ‘Chariots of Fire’. We also interviewed historian and Michael Collins guru, Tim Crowley, and they asked him who he thinks killed Michael Collins. He paused and then answered with his own detailed hypothesis. That’s what makes these interviews so good. It’s all about the students’ perspective. Podcasting is another medium to tell a story and, as you know, I’m all about the stories. Check it out on your next walk or commute. It’s great.
In 2021 I was asked to write a chapter in an upcoming book called ‘Perspectives on the Teaching of English’ published by Cork University Press. It’s due to be published in 2023 and I can’t wait for the launch! Even though I love writing fiction, it’s nice to dabble in more serious stuff too.
I wrote this article a few years ago about using social media in language teaching. Check it out if you’re bored.
I actually love research and references and all that jazz. My chapter is about being a teacher and a writer, and my experience of same. Being a writer has definitely made me more aware of the impact of criticism on self-confidence. I mean, everyone gets bad reviews, but it’s not easy. Being a writer has made it easier for me to put myself in my students’ shoes. I’ll be so nervous when my play is performed for the first time or when number 7 finally hits the shelves. The FEAR never goes away!
Echoes of Grace was hands down the easiest book to write. I loved Aurora and James, and I used to get up at 5am to write before school. During lockdown, I wrote a pilot episode for an eight part TV series based on the book. Can you imagine the opening scene? The Cornish cliffs? The rain and the wind? To be fair, I haven’t had time to even think about it this year, but it’s something I’m definitely going to pursue. I just know that it would be a big success. I’d love to sit down on a Sunday night to watch it with a cup of tea, AND it would be on location here in west Cork (for the Cape Clear part). Imagine the excitement! Script-writing is something I’d love to master, and I’m pretty sure my aforementioned ‘pilot’ is pretty basic, but you’ve go to start somewhere.
There were many highlights to 2022.
Resuming our yearly pilgrimage to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the RSC perform ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was one. Due to Covid, the last performance we saw was ‘King John’ in 2019. I love Shakespeare. In ‘Echoes of Grace’, the Dixons’ dogs are called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In ‘Mosaic’, Constance O’Connor’s cats are called Greymalkin and Paddock. In my new book, Rosa quotes Friar Laurence to Caspian.
Another highlight was seeing ‘Starry Night Over the Rhône’ in the Musée D’Orsay on a school tour last April. I’m obsessed with Van Gogh and Arles is one of my top five places to visit, so it was amazing to see the painting in the flesh. In my trilogy (Indecision, Regrets and Promises), Luca and Lydia go to see ‘Starry Night’ in the MoMA. It’s their special painting. If you haven’t read my trilogy, you should. It is the basis to all the subsequent books. They are only available on Amazon. In ‘Echoes of Grace’, Aurora sings at Lydia and Luca’s wedding in Venice. Check out their story and how it came about.
This year I wanted to give back. We have been humbled by the expert care and support we’ve received. I raised money for The Mercy Foundation in Cork, the official fundraising body to the Mercy University Hospital, and for Cancer Connect, a vital service that John availed of a lot when he was going for chemo. I was delighted to help.
Another highlight was an online class I presented to the women of Network Ireland West Cork. It was about creative writing and how to market yourself through words. I was afraid of running out of things to say, but, true to form, I ended up babbling on and going over time. It was a great experience and I was honoured to be asked.
However, the best part of 2022 for me was visiting Jilly Cooper at her home in Gloucestershire. We had lunch and chatted about everything from W.B. Yeats to Rupert Campbell Black. She is truly an inspiration. I could have talked to her forever. I wish her all the luck in the world with her upcoming book. It will be a monster success.
Thanks for all the messages and kind words about my books. It means the world to me when people take the time to tell me how much they like my stories. I promise my new book will be out soon. 2023 will be a new start and a new opportunity to get back to writing. Thanks to Deirdre Roberts for getting me in gear to actually write a blog. I’m looking forward to working with her again soon.