Writers In Ireland: Amanda J Evans

This week on ‘Writers In Ireland’, I am chatting to Amanda J Evans, an award-winning author writing paranormal and fantasy romance novels as well as children’s stories. Amanda lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. Her first novel Finding Forever won Best Thriller in the 2017 Summer Indie Book Awards and her second novel Save Her Soul won Silver for Best Paranormal in the Virtual Fantasy Con Awards 2017. Amanda has a publishing deal with Handersen Publishing and her first children’s book, Nightmare Realities was released on the 25th of September 2017. Her latest story, Hear Me Cry, a fantasy romance telling of the old Irish myth of the Banshee won the Book of the Year Award at the Dublin Writers Conference 2018.

Growing up with heroes like Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones, her stories centre on good versus evil with a splice of magic and love thrown into the mix. An early tragedy in her life has also made its way onto the page and Amanda brings the emotions of grief to life in her stories too. She is the author of Surviving Suicide: A Memoir from Those Death Left Behind, published in 2012.

Welcome, Amanda and congrats on your multiple awards! So, how long were you writing fiction before you were published?

I joined a writers group in early 2016 and this gave me the motivation to start writing every week. I’d always wanted to write for myself and have the confidence to put pen to paper but self-doubt always got in the way. In July 2016, we began a page a day challenge and that led to my first complete story, Finding Forever. I didn’t have the confidence to submit it to agents or publishers and after some great feedback from beta readers I chose to self-publish in January 2017. Finding Forever later went on to win Best Thriller in the Summer Indie Book Awards.

And did anyone – famous or not – inspire you to write?

No, writing has always been my go to for comfort and enjoyment for as long as I can remember. I spent hours in my bedroom writing as a child, filling copybooks with stories and scripts for new episodes of my favourite cartoons. Teenage years were spent writing poetry, and as life went on, writing took a backseat. It was always my go to though if I got down or needed answers and I love the joy that comes with putting pen to paper and just allowing the words to spill out. It’s therapeutic and I’d love to see journaling being added to school curriculums.

Do you write every day?

Yes. I write every morning, Monday to Friday. I usually get up at 7am and once I’ve checked all my social media and emails, I sit down with my iPad and type for about 40 minutes. I use my iPad because I have no distractions and no notifications. It’s just me and the screen and it works really well. Once I’ve completed my own writing, the rest of the days is taken up with client work. I am an SEO content manager for a large company in Canada so my days are spent typing up reviews and website content.

And you enjoy writing in multiple genres?

I think it might get boring to stay with the same genre forever. I don’t know any readers that only read the same genre of books, so I think it’s okay for writers to experiment in different genres too. Even Stephen King writes in different genres and everything isn’t just horror anymore. He mixes genres in a number of his books including epic fantasy, westerns, sci-fi, and more.

What are the themes you explore in your writing, Amanda?

I write YA and adult romance in a number of subgenres. I love happy ever afters and this is something I strive for in my books whilst still focusing on dark themes. I focus on the struggles and the pain of finding that happy ever after. In Finding Forever, my main character Liz is quiet and can’t make a decision for herself. When her husband goes missing, she is forced to rely on herself and find her own strength as she fights to get him back. In Save Her Soul, a paranormal romance, my main character Kate is a very strong, independent, young woman who is hell-bent on getting revenge on the people who murdered her sister. Hear Me Cry, my latest novella is a fantasy romance retelling of the Irish legend of the Banshee and deals with a lot of dark and deep emotions as well as reminding readers about the important of time.

How long does it take you to complete a book?

That all depends on characters and how willing they are to dictate their stories. In reality, it takes anywhere from 2 to 3 months to get a first draft done and depending on how busy my editor is, it can take another month or two to get the book polished.

Given that you have received so many, literary competitions and awards are obviously worthwhile?

I think literary competitions and awards are great for getting your name out there and getting recognition. I’ve read many interviews with authors who got their big break after winning a literary competition.

And your thoughts on Indie publishing?

I think indie publishing has turned the publishing industry around. It has given serious writers a way to get their stories out in to the world and have more control over the entire process. It also has a negative side in that anyone can publish a book and this, in the beginning, led to a lot of poorly edited and badly written books being published. It tarnished self-publishing and many people assumed that if you were self-published it was because you couldn’t get a “real” publisher. This is not the case and there are quite a lot of traditionally published authors who are choosing to embrace the self-publishing model too. I think on a whole it’s a wonderful way to get your stories out there, but it’s a lot of hard work too and you need to ensure that your book is the best it can be. This means having a professionally designed cover, paying for a professional editor, and taking the whole thing very seriously.

Do you have an agent?

I don’t have an agent at the moment as I have been self publishing, but I am working on a novel called Winterland that I plan to submit to agents and publishers in 2019. I don’t think it’s necessary to have an agent but I would love one. I think their expertise and knowledge of the publishing industry is invaluable and with an agent by my side my writing could reach a bigger audience.

And marketing and PR?

I do all my own marketing and PR work as a self-published author and it’s extremely difficult. I’d love to have a marketing or PR company to help me with this.

Thoughts on social media for authors?

Social media is a necessity in today’s world. It is expected of authors and part of your marketing. It’s time consuming too, but it has its benefits such as being able to engage with your readers.

Do you read your reviews, and if you have received any, how do you handle negative ones?

I had one negative review (1 star) for Finding Forever. The reviewer stated that they read the sample and enjoyed it so bought the book only to be disappointed to find the F word in the second chapter. Initially, I was gutted and considered rewriting and removing the F word, but after speaking with a number of other authors, I realised that my book won’t be for everyone. Surprisingly, when I mentioned that I’d received a 1 star review in one of the book groups on Facebook and the reason for it, my sales soared. 

Name six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with, and why?!

First off it would have to be my dad. I miss him so much and would love to be able to sit with him and talk about my life. After that, Roald Dahl because I loved his books growing up. Also Stephen King because I’d just love to get inside his mind and see how he comes up with his story ideas. Others would be Enid Blyton, Charlotte Bronte, and one of my writing friends, (they could argue about it themselves and choose who would come along).

And is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?

There are a number of books that I’ve read over the past couple of years that have had a profound effect on me. Carnage by Lesley Jones, Bright Side by Kim Holden, and A Thousand Boy Kisses by Brittany Cherry, all showed me the power of emotions and allowing the reader to feel them. These were the first books to ever make me cry and after reading Carnage, I couldn’t even tell anyone about it without breaking into tears.

Tell me about your latest work and what inspired it?

I have a number of projects on the go at the moment. One of these is a second collection of short spooky stories for children aged 9+, called Nightmare Realities 2. This is for my US publisher Handersen Publishing. I’m also working on a new paranormal romance series, The Cursed Angels. Book 1, Visions, is complete and available in the Angels & Magic Collection until January 2019. I’m working on Book 2, Power. This series came about following a called for angel and magic themed stories. Once I read the post I immediately had an idea about two cursed angel brothers and a witch.

And finally, Amanda, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. Write as much as you can and as often as you can. Just go for it whether you’re a planner or a pantser, without words on the page you don’t have a story, and without a story you have nothing to work on. Get the first draft written and be proud of that. There are so many aspiring writers that never even get as far as completing a first draft so praise and congratulate yourself every step of the way. Once you have your first draft you can decide what you want to do next. Another very important thing – Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy writing, the publishing world isn’t for you.

You can find links and more about Amanda’s books HERE

Writers In Ireland: Lindsay J. Sedgwick

On Writers In Ireland this week, I’m chatting to Lindsay J. Sedgwick. A former journalist, Lindsay is a versatile and imaginative award-winning screenwriter and playwright with more than eight hours of credits for TV and film work, including a feature film, TV series and short films. Her series Punky has been recognized as the first mainstream cartoon series in the world in which the main character has special needs (Down’s syndrome). It is available in over 100 countries with around 5 million hits on YouTube. She founded the Creatives in Animation Network in 2012.

A screenwriting tutor since 1995, she regularly runs courses, workshops and masterclasses in libraries, colleges, universities and festivals around Ireland. As Screenwriter-in-Residence at Maynooth University/Kildare Co. Council Library and Arts Service 2016-7, she published Ireland’s first comprehensive guide to screenwriting, Write That Script in April 2018. Lindsay has had 14 plays produced around Ireland and the UK and has published two novels, Dad’s Red Dress and The Angelica Touch.

A prolific and varied writing career, Lindsay! So when did it all begin?

I can remember writing poems when I was six or seven; I wrote my first book when I was nine. It was 56 pages of a journal and I can remember making the words very big towards the end to fill the pages. But I can also viscerally remember the intensity and excitement of putting those words down and seeing the story build. Very melodramatic, it was about a cousin who was due to visit Ireland only a witchdoctor substituted his daughter instead. There were voodoo dolls, poisoned chocolates, mind control, the whole lot.

And your publishing journey to date?

My first feature article was published in 1984 when I was 17 in the Evening Herald, after which I worked as a freelance journo until 1997 in Ireland, Australia and also for publications in Europe, the UK and the US, while writing plays on the side. I’d been steered towards journalism by my mother, creative fiction was meant to be the hobby. In 1989, I got my first book commission from a publisher. It was a history of the Olympia Theatre up to 1990, all based on original research after the music hall era since the records had all been dumped in the ‘50s. The day after I delivered the manuscript, the publisher went bankrupt. End of first publishing break! Then I wrote a few novels between 1993-96. I got nice replies from agents and publishers that said I fell between literary and popular fiction. I focused on screenwriting from 1997 onwards, but did return to rewrite those first books, but I never felt I got them right and put one aside. The other I will return to. In 2010 or so, I tried turning some of my family features scripts into books. Again, ‘polite’ no’s. There seemed to be a very real chance of Dad’s Red Dress being published by a traditional publisher in 2016 but when that fell through at the last hurdle, I decided to self publish in 2017. I self-published Dad’s Red Dress when I was Screenwriter in Residence in Maynooth Uni & Kildare Co Council Library & Arts Service because I had the time to focus on it. Then came The Angelica Touch in Feb 2018 and Write That Script in May 2018.

Do you have an agent, Lindsay? 

I had one as a screenwriter from 1998-2012. The first ten years were great but in the end he was frustrated with the deals he was able to make with Irish producers. Since he wasn’t sourcing work for me or able to make better deals, I suggested we part ways for a year.15% is a lot to hand over unless they are actively earning you more in the deals you get. He was also only ever interested in dealing with TV and film work and I was also writing books and plays. Now, when I have a number of book projects at different stages, plus some TV series that seem to be of interest and a new play, I’m looking for an agent again. I want someone who is able to cope with the range of material I write and direct my energies!

How much of a contribution do you make to the marketing and PR of your work?

All of it. Trouble is I concentrate on it for a while but once I start writing, it gets put aside. This is definitely a mistake because then I lie awake at night thinking of all the opportunities I am missing by not sending the books here and there, not pushing them properly. I keep promising myself that I will organise my time better – put certain hours aside to do marketing and nothing else, but it hasn’t happened yet. When I do focus on it, it seems to take up the entire day and I go to bed frustrated at not getting enough creative work done!

Did anyone – famous or not – inspire you to write?

Eilís Dillon. I did a short course of hers in Listowel during Writer’s Week, in the late ‘80s or early 1990s. I missed one class – food poisoning – and when I came in the next day, I was greeted with, “So does anyone know who this Lindsay Sedgwick is”. Turned out they’d discussed my work at length the previous day, mostly flash fiction, possibly a play and she had been raving about it. When I told her I’d written for TV too, she turned around and said that basically the novel was all that was left and why didn’t I write one? I started two while I was there for the week but neither of them were strong enough to finish.

Have you formed any structure to your writing time? 

Not really. Everything begins longhand. Then I’ll print it out and edit those pages. If I can’t settle into it or haven’t slept well (which is often), I sneak down to a local cafe with a chapter or two and scribble over a flat white. Then I find I’m itchy to get onto the computer and type it up and that gets me back into the world. I need chocolate nearby and walk the dog when I’ve been sitting too long. If it’s going well, I forget to eat and end up ravenous. That’s when pizza becomes the reward! I’m always burning food because I get wrapped up in work so I’ve learnt to put the timer on my phone. I can remember my daughter, when she was still quite young, maybe 8 or 9 appearing at my office door – at that time I worked in a shed in the back garden – asking me shouldn’t I have told her to go to bed. I’d lost track of time. But those are magical days when the work flows. A lot of time gets taken up with marketing, emails or trying to break the work I want to do into small chunks so that I can feel I’m making progress. Editing and re-editing seem to take so much more time than fresh writing. I have really productive days and days when I’ve achieved nothing. If I’m teaching, prep time for that will eat into the day too. I can be distracted easily most days and a good book will steal hours from me too! I often tend to take a bit of work that’s proving tricky to bed and force myself to brainstorm or edit it. It’s often the clearest time to work things out. On a good day I could be working at 8 and still working at 11 but there will be big glumps of time when I’m not doing anything remotely connected with writing in between and I only really have those days when my husband is away!

And on average, how long does it take you to complete a book?

Write That Script took a year, from the day I began to the day I received my proof copy. Dad’s Red Dress, which had been around in an earlier draft, I think I worked on it for about 6 months but then I had spent a few months on it earlier in 2016 and in 2015 so that’s not very accurate. The rewrite of Angelica, which had also been around in a very basic draft, took about 8 months but I was working on a lot of other stuff at the time. The current book, Moving On, is the sequel to dad’s Red Dress. I’ve been it at since July 2017 but I had the ending of it for about a year before that. I brainstormed ideas for it until September or so because I was working on Candlemist but I’m hoping to have the first draft finished by September 2018. Candlemist is my other book – and that goes back to 2005; I get a few months to work on it intensively and then something else comes up and I put it aside. At about 110,000 words unfinished, it has a dozen of more threads and I know that each of them needs to be tracked and traced through the book to make sure it all holds together. I worked on it from September to December last year, and now it’s like a sweets jar I can’t wait to dive into when I have a reasonable space of time to do so. So it varies, I guess. Another book, part memoir, has been around in some form from 2008 but I haven’t found the right narrative structure to underpin it yet.

In terms of genre, how would you describe your writing?

My first two novels don’t seem to fit a genre. I’d describe them as general fiction/ humour but because the main characters and 13 and fourteen respectively, bookshops have chosen to categorise them as YA. I think you have to write the stories you are passionate about. I do feel life would be less complicated if I wrote genre, just from a marketing pov but so far it hasn’t happened and I don’t think you can force it – unless someone is offering you payment; then you can write in any form and with passion, as I know from being a professional writer for 30 odd years! I do have two TV series that would make good genre novels/series and I’m actually really curious to know if I could make them work in prose because I love the characters and stories, but there are about five books in between waiting to get finished.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Writing is a muscle you have to keep using. Even when you don’t feel like it. Grab ten minutes here and there and make yourself write. On the bus, during a tea break, waiting for someone. Deliberately arrive early for a meeting or to pick your child up and write while you wait. Don’t expect to write brilliant or even good stuff each time you sit down – you have to write the bad stuff too but at least then it’s not in your head anymore.

Last question, Lindsay – is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?

Love in the Time of the Cholera by Gabriel García Marquéz.


You can find Lindsay’s books HERE, her online store, and with Irish Library Suppliers. Read her Blog HERE


Writers In Ireland: Pam Lecky

Today on Writers In Ireland, I’m chatting with Pam Lecky, an Irish historical fiction author, also writing crime, mystery and romance. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century.

Pam’s debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; and long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award. Her short stories are available in an anthology, entitled Past Imperfect, which was published in April 2018. She is currently working on her next couple of novels, a Victorian mystery series.

Tell me about The Bowes Inheritance – what inspired you to write this story?

My debut novel is a Victorian romantic suspense, set against the backdrop of the Fenian dynamite campaign in Britain during the 1880s. It started out as a simple romance but as I did my research more and more interesting facts emerged. Having the threads of a mystery/crime running through the story gave it more depth and I have to admit I do prefer to read stories like that myself. The premise for the novel was a woman inheriting a property in a different country and having to fight to keep it. I have always been fascinated by the relationship between the Irish Ascendancy and the British upper classes. So I had lots of conflict to make the story interesting!

What is it that attracts you to write historical fiction genre?

Overall my work is classified as historical fiction although I have written contemporary and ghost stories as well. There were a lot of influences in my childhood and the earliest one that I can remember was actually television. Historical dramas in particular caught my attention, even though at that young age I didn’t really understand the stories. Ah but the costumes, the architecture and the way people behaved – something clicked. My father was a great reader and encouraged me to be as well; as a child and a teen I devoured books and I mean devoured. Then Dad bought me the complete works of Jane Austen and a foundation was laid. For those familiar with the 19thcentury world, I think I actually became a bluestocking! I munched my way through classics, dined on crime (modern and historical – Dorothy L. Sayers and P.D. James my absolute favourites – what fantastically twisty minds those women had), and supped at the feet of Georgette Heyer’s heroes and heroines. So I suppose it was only natural that I would lean towards historical mystery and crime with a pinch of romance.
However, I would like to try my hand at other genres and other eras of historical fiction. I just need to find more days in the week!

How long does it take you to complete a book?

My debut novel took 6 months to write the first draft but from start to publication was about 18 months. My second book, which is currently out with publishers, took a year plus about another 4 months of reworking for my agent. My short stories can be written in a couple of hours or weeks depending on whether the muse is co-operating or not!

On literary agents, I’ve spoken to authors who don’t think it is necessary to have one, and others who absolutely depend on their agents. What’s your opinion, Pam? 

Earlier this year I signed with the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency in London – a huge step forward in my career. My agent, Thérèse Coen, has been a great support and has given me lots of feedback and advice. What impressed me most about her at our first meeting was her saying she viewed our working relationship as a long-term thing not just about one book. My next novel, No Stone Unturned, the first in a trilogy of Victorian mysteries, is currently on the desks of commissioning editors in the UK. Hopefully, the book will find a publisher and I know my agent is pushing it as best she can. As to whether an agent is necessary or not depends on what you want. I have happily self-published but find the lack of support and enthusiasm from the Irish literary community very frustrating. My debut novel has been longlisted and shortlisted for literary competitions but, because it’s self-published, it doesn’t get noticed. My reviews are generally four and five stars, so I know I have produced a good book and people have enjoyed reading it. I feel to get the recognition my work deserves I need help and an agent can do that. A traditional deal, if only for a couple of books, would be a huge boost to my career. Don’t get me wrong – I love self-publishing but I want my work to have a chance to compete. I will self-publish again, I have no doubt, and earlier this year I published an anthology of short stories (mostly historical fiction), entitled Past Imperfect.

What’s your opinion on Indie publishing in general?

Well, I love it but then I love to be in control. It’s not for veryone – you need a fair few skills to do it completely independently. And, there are a lot of scam artists out there preying on vulnerable authors (vanity publishers, etc.). The reality is that traditional publishing is a business and I think many authors forget this. Publishers want guaranteed sales so tend to look for tried and tested work that unfortunately can be a bit formulaic. Indie publishing throws the doors wide open – you can write what you want, mix up genres (which is something that brings trad publishers out in a cold sweat!) and experiment to your heart’s content. Big plus for creativity. Unfortunately, with opening the floodgates to creativity you can lose out on quality. Thankfully, most Indies realise they need professional editing and graphic design, but there are still far too many poor quality books published. Why should I care, you may ask, but poor indie publishing hurts all of us and reinforces the negative reputation that’s already out there. We are competing with the big publishing houses with big budgets – you owe it to your readers to produce the best quality book you can – after all, you are taking their hard earned money. And you are shooting yourself in the foot – you only get one chance to make an impression with your work.

And on literary competitions and awards – how important are they, in your opinion?

I can only comment on my own experience. The Historical Novel Society made The Bowes Inheritance their editor’s pick and then long-listed it for the HNS Indie Award. That was such a thrill for me and obviously it was something I could use to promote my work. Luckily, I discovered the Carousel Aware Prize, the brainchild of Carolann Copland. This competition is for Irish self-published authors only. To my amazement Bowes was shortlisted for the novel category. Again, it was a huge confidence boost with the added pleasure of it being for such a worthy charity as Aware. Last year the book was awarded the Indie B.R.A.G. medallion. I was able to use these listings and the award in my submissions to agents and publishers. I’m not sure if it made any difference, but I’m sure it didn’t do any harm. The Carousel Aware Prize, in particular, wants to promote quality Irish indie work and hopefully will become synonymous with it. Part of the prize is the opportunity to have your books stocked in bookshops – something which is difficult for indie authors in general.

Being such a prolific writer Pam, how much do you contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?

Presently, I do all the marketing and PR. It’s all about creating a brand and to do that you must write well, have your work professionally edited and have great cover s (professionally designed). A cohesive look to your work and your social media platforms will help to create your brand. As I work part-time I dislike sacrificing writing time to marketing, but it is necessary. However, one of the most positive things about jumping on the social media rollercoaster is that you meet the most amazing and supportive people. The Indie author community in Ireland is wonderful and with the formation of the Irish Independent Authors’ Collective, it will go from strength to strength. We are promoting quality paperbacks by applying a minimum standard for an author’s books to be included, and plan to host Indie book fairs a couple of times a year. Through the use of social media I have found an amazing editor and writing groups and heard about competitions and awards. I use Facebook and Twitter and have a blog/website. Writing is a very solitary business so it is wonderful sometimes to walk away from the laptop and go online to see what everyone else is up to. For new writers social media can be very daunting. You have to experiment and when you find the one or two platforms that suit you, you’re comfortable with and actually work, then stick with those and ignore the rest. There are only so many hours in the day – you have to use your time as cleverly as possible … you also need to write! The more work you have out, the better chance of success (I define success as readers finding your work and loving it).

And what about reviews – do you read them? And If you’ve ever had any negative ones – how do you handle those? 

I don’t think you are a proper author until you have received at least a few stinkers! They hurt – of course they do, particularly if they aren’t warranted or a bit silly (I got a 3 star one because the reader had to pay a lot of postage to get the paperback – Amazon’s fault not mine, but I took the hit!). I read all my reviews but tend to monitor my overall rating as opposed to obsessing over the negative comments. But sometimes those negative comments are helpful, even constructive. You have to ask yourself does that reader have a valid point and if they do, act on it, particularly if a few people make similar comments.

Finally, Pam, can you share with us what you are working on now?

I am currently in the very early stages of the second book in my Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series. The working title is Footprints in the Sand and it is set in Egypt in 1887 and involves a murder and the notorious black market in antiquities. The first book in the series, No Stone Unturned, is the one my agent is promoting at the moment. I am really enjoying this book as I have always loved reading about Ancient Egypt. I get a buzz from doing research too, so you could say I’m in author heaven at the moment!


Check out Pam’s website HERE. | TwitterFacebook | Her books can be found HERE

Writers In Ireland: Catherine Kullmann

This week, the featured author on my Writers In Ireland series is Catherine Kullmann. Born and educated in Dublin, following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. She is married and has three adult sons and two grandchildren.

Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. She loves writing and is particularly interested in what happens after the first happy end—how life goes on for the protagonists and sometimes catches up with them. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society.

Catherine’s debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, was short-listed for the 2017 CAP Awards (Carousel Aware Prize for Independent Authors). Her latest novel, A Suggestion of Scandal, was released on 1 August 2018.

Welcome, Catherine, and congratulations on the publication of A Suggestion of Scandal. Can you give us a snapshot of what it is about?

When governess Rosa Fancourt surprises two lovers in flagrante delicto, her life and future are suddenly at risk. Even if she escapes captivity, the mere suggestion of scandal is enough to ruin a lady in her situation. In Sir Julian Loring she finds an unexpected champion but will he stand by her to the end?

What inspired you to write this story?

The initial impulse came from a notorious Regency divorce case that was triggered when a governess surprised her employer with her lover, her hand inside his military pantaloons. The lovers made no attempt to hide their guilt but I began to wonder what if they had tried to do so. What would have happened to the inconvenient witness?

Tell me more about your interest in the Regency genre?

It is the period rather than the genre that attracts me. The first quarter of the nineteenth century was one of the most significant periods of European and American history; an era whose events still resonate two hundred years later. The Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland of 1800, the Anglo-American war of 1812 and the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 all still shape our modern world. But the aristocracy-led society that drove these events was already under attack from those who saw the need for social and political reform, while the industrial revolution saw the beginning of the transfer of wealth and ultimately power to those who knew how to exploit the new technologies. It was still a patriarchal world where women had few or no rights but they lived and loved and died, making the best lives they could for themselves and their families, often with their husbands away for years with the army or at sea. And they began to raise their voices, demanding equality and emancipation. It interests me to explore women’s lives in particular against this background. It is not so long since many of these restrictions, whether legal or social, still applied in Ireland. It is important to realise how far we have come, and also to be aware that that which was gained can also be lost.

Do you think that authors should stick to writing in one genre only? 

Authors should follow their muse wherever she leads them. They should not shy away from challenges and be willing to accept commissions if they are prepared to put the time and effort into them. Good writing is as much craft as art. Although I only started writing fiction after I retired, in my professional life I wrote a lot and rarely had a choice of subject. I learnt to express myself as clearly and as elegantly as possible. I don’t see why an author should not write in one genre for their bread and butter and in another for their jam, for example, or write in various genres as the stories come to them. It may make it less easy to build a brand and, if they are writing in two conflicting genres, it might be advisable to use a pen-name for one of them, but if they feel the urge to try a new genre, they should go do so.

Did anyone – famous or not – inspire you to write?

I was introduced to the extended Regency period not only by Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, but also by the great essayists such as Hazlitt and Charles Lamb, and the romantic poets—Keats, Wordsworth and Shelley. All of them have inspired and influenced my writing, as have the great military diarists and auto-biographers of the day such as Harry Smith and Kincaid of the Rifles. Print was the only mass medium then and there is a wealth of contemporary writing from that time. The print shops also thrived; thousands of hand-coloured engravings – fashion prints, caricatures, illustrations, portraits—have survived and are tangible reminders of the period. I now have a considerable research library to which I add constantly and any free space between the bookcases is hung with prints from the time.

How long does it take you to complete a book?

About a year, excluding breaks. I like to set an almost completed work aside for several months and then look at it with a fresh eye. Apart from A Suggestion of Scandal, I have a novella, The Duke’s Regrets, and another novel, The Potential for Love, more or less ready for publication and plan to release them next year. In the meantime I shall start on a new book to be published in 2020.

Do you write every day, Catherine? If so, how is your writing day structured?

I write almost every day. I started writing after I took early retirement and I am usually at my desk by eleven a.m. at the latest. I work until lunch-time and, again in the afternoon for three to four hours. Work includes writing, research and marketing. The amount of time spent on any one of these activities depends on where I am in a new book. As I write this, I have a new release due next week so marketing and promotion is a priority at the moment.

And your thoughts on social media for authors and marketing?

As an indie author, marketing is part of my job description and I find social media invaluable. But they are not only useful marketing tools. Writing is a lonely business and it is wonderful to have access to the various online communities of writers who are, in general, very supportive.

Which leads me to my next question – your opinion of the current business of publishing?

I am indie published—my books do not fit comfortably in current genres, falling, I am told, between the stools of historical fiction and historical romance. I call them historical women’s fiction. The protagonists are fictional but they live in an authentic historical world and their behaviour, attitudes, morals etc. reflect this. The stories are relationship-driven—I like to consider what happens when life gets in the way of love—and I feel a happy end has to be earned. To come back to your question, I think that the decisions of many of today’s publishers are both genre- and formula-driven. For example, at a recent workshop on pitching to agents, participants were advised to compare their books with recent debut authors in the genre, as publishers tended to want more of the same. Indie writers have more freedom when it comes to genres and topics.

And finally, Catherine, would you like to share with us what you are working on now?

I am at the very beginning of a new book, still at that stage where wisps of ideas are coming together. It is the story of a woman who deliberately breaks society’s rules and the consequences for her and her family.

Check out Catherine’s Website HERE | Facebook | Twitter | Catherine’s Books HERE

Writers In Ireland: Derek Flynn

This week, I’m chatting to Derek Flynn, an Irish writer and musician with a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. THE DEAD GIRLS is his second novel. Readers called his debut novel BROKEN FALLS “a gem of a book”, and “a perfect crime drama”.

Derek’s short story “The Healer” was featured in “Surge”, an anthology of the best new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press. His non-fiction has appeared in a number of publications, including the Irish Times. He is also a regular contributor to Writing.ie, where he writes his “Songbook” column. Like most writers, he is fuelled solely by caffeine and self-doubt…

Welcome to the series, Derek, and I’ll start with a question we writers are often asked – when you first began to write?

When I was twelve/thirteen, I was obsessed with comics. I would write comic scripts and either draw them myself or give them to more talented artistic friends who would draw them for me. Eventually, I moved on to writing stories. But that took a back seat from about the age of 16, when I joined a band. Music became my main passion for the next few years. I moved to New York in the late 90s and played music there for five years. It was while I was living there that I got an idea for a novel.

And how did you get your first publishing break?

After I moved back from New York, I started to write the book that I’d gotten the idea for over there. This was around 2004. But it was another 10 years before I published anything! I wrote a couple of novels in that time and submitted them to agents, often coming tantalisingly close. My first publishing break came in 2014, when one of my short stories was published in an anthology of the “Best New Irish Writing” by O’ Brien Press. Then, in 2016, I was offered a bursary from my local arts office to self-publish one of my novels. So I decided to take the plunge!

As a self-published author then, you must contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?

I have to – there’s no one else to do it for me! Being an independent author brings with it a lot of work when it comes to marketing and so on. But, at the same time, I love being in control of that side of things and trying to come up with new and innovative ways of getting my books in front of readers.

Do you find social media useful for marketing?

I can only speak as an independent author, but from my point of view, it’s essential. There are so many books and authors out there, that it takes a lot to cut through the noise. And social media is a great way of speaking directly to readers. I published my first novel, Broken Falls, during the Waterford Writer’s Weekend 2017 which was curated by Rick O’ Shea. There were some members of The Rick O’ Shea Book Club there and they happened to pick up a copy of Broken Falls. They went on to post some very lovely comments about it on the ROSBC Facebook page and word of mouth spread from there.

Is there anyone you would credit with inspiring you to write?

As I said, I was a huge comic’s nerd, and the one comic that made me want to be a writer was the science fiction comic 2000AD. And the 2000AD writer who inspired me the most was Alan Moore, who would later go on to write Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell, amongst others. For me, Moore was – and is – a genius. And he’s a magician! What’s not to love?

Do you write every day, and if so, how is your writing day structured?

What is structure!? I aim for structure but it usually descends into farce! Having said that, when I’m working on a book, I do try to write every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. Every little helps, as they say!

Tell me a little about the genre of your work?

I think of my novels as occupying the territory somewhere between crime and thriller. And the great thing about those genres is that it gives you the opportunity to explore issues that might not necessarily be associated with them. So, in my first novel, Broken Falls, I looked at the legacy of the Magdalene laundries and the “Mother and Baby” homes in Ireland through the lens of a crime story set in Newfoundland. Likewise, my second novel, The Dead Girls, looks at the horrifying story that has recently come to light in the US of hundreds of women who were murdered, their bodies dumped by the side of the highway. Forgotten women who slipped through the cracks. Being able to explore those kinds of issues while telling a good story is what attracts me to these genres.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, Derek?

Just go for it. I was asked in an interview recently what my biggest fear was. My answer? Not having tried. You’ll hear a lot of naysayers telling you you can’t do things. I say ignore them. I’ve recorded albums; I’ve written books; I’ve just staged my first play. And it’s all gone pretty well. I’m not buying a house in the South of France, but I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. People think the worst thing is to fail – I think the worst thing is to never have tried.

I couldn’t agree more! Now, a fun question – is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?

The Sandman comic series by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is mostly known now as a novelist (and the husband of Amanda Palmer) but he got his start in comics and The Sandman is his magnum opus. Incorporating fantasy, horror, historical fiction, and just damn good storytelling, it is stunning.

Final question, Derek, can you share with us what you are working on now?

I’m about to start work on my third novel in my Detective John Ryan series. I’m also working on a Young Adult novel which I’m very excited about.


Check out Derek’s Facebook Page HERE

THE DEAD GIRLS is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US Or from the author’s Website HERE

Writers In Ireland: Sharon Thompson

This week on my Writers In Ireland series, I am delighted to welcome Sharon Thompson, author and co-founder of #WritersWise tweet-chat on Twitter. Sharon has also recently set-up an exclusive, online writing group (indulgeinwriting.com). Her short stories, articles and other writings have been published in literary magazines, newspapers and online resources such as writing.ie. She writes a regular column, Woman’s Words on donegalwoman.ie, as well as recommending new book releases on indulgeme.ie (#indulgeinbooks).

Sharon’s debut crime novel, ‘The Abandoned’ was published by Bloodhound Books UK in January, 2018, launching at #1 Bestseller in Kindle Irish Crime Fiction. She has signed for two more crime novels, and has a further two manuscripts on submission through her agent.

Welcome to the series, Sharon, and congratulations on co-creating #writerswise, such a valuable resource. It is so nice to see writers encourage others on their journey, and with that in mind, how long were you writing before you were published for the first time?

I was writing in a sustained way, for five years, before my debut crime novel ‘The Abandoned’ was released. I entered writing competitions and joined online writing groups. I practiced. My short stories were accepted into literary magazines and this helped me go on to try novel-length pieces and to have them read and subsequently submitted to agents and publishers. It was a long road with lots of words and many stumbling blocks along the way. It feels like it was a longer process.

Did anyone inspire or encourage you? 

Carmel Harrington, the Irish Times bestselling Harper Collins author is my writing, fairy god-mother. She is called @HappymrsH on twitter and she is my leading light in the writing world. We found each other many years ago now and she lead me to start taking writing seriously and she has helped me every step of the way. I cannot thank her enough for all of her support. Carmel changed my life.

I see from your bio that you have an agent. Do you think it necessary for writers to have one?

Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary agency, is my agent. It also feels like I fought long and hard to get my great agent. For me, an agent is necessary. It is a lonely enough road sometimes. I like having someone in my corner, who works in my best interests. I don’t annoy Tracy (I hope I don’t) but we communicate regularly and I would be lost without her.

From my experience in talking to authors, marketing is often the most daunting aspect of the work. Do you contribute to the marketing / PR of your writing?

My life is full of social media and what I consider marketing. Outside of actually writing the manuscripts, all of my work is connected to writing and being immersed in the industry. All of the platforms I contribute to, hopefully extend my readership and support other writers.

Last question, Sharon. What are your thoughts on writing in multiple genres?

I hope that we can write anything that takes our fancy? I love to write across genres. I am drawn to dark crime or historical fiction, but I also write fun pieces. I try to write contemporary romance or ‘lighter’ fiction. I tend not to worry about the genre or the box I fit in, but merely write. I love what I do and write whatever I enjoy. I need to explore and read across even more genres and see if I could write in them as well. I am thinking on a project a fellow writer asked me to collaborate on – a script for a play. This is all very exciting!

That is lovely to hear, Sharon. I wish you the very best of luck with all of your projects!

Find Sharon on Twitter at @sharontwriter and on her website HERE

Link to The Abandoned HERE

Writers in Ireland: Niamh Boyce

Today, I am delighted to welcome Niamh Boyce to the ‘Writers In Ireland’ series. Niamh’s first novel, The Herbalist, won Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2013, and was long listed for the IMPAC Award. Her stories have been adapted for stage, broadcast, published in literary magazines and anthologized, most recently in ‘The Long Gaze Back- Irish Women Writers’ and ‘The Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction. ‘ Niamh has just published Inside The Wolf, her first collection of poems.

Niamh, congratulations on the publication of Inside The Wolf, a collection I am thoroughly enjoying at the moment. The poems feel interconnected, exploring issues such as death, memory and transformation. Did you plan to write this collection, or have they been gathered over the years?

Yes, that’s true Caroline, those themes – especially transformation – reoccur throughout the collection. I was always interested in reclaiming forgotten voices, and in subverting fairy tales, especially the wolf and Red Riding Hood. But there was no plan to concentrate on certain themes in any way. The poems were just written over the years, reflecting my interests, or my life – some go way back. Night Feed is sixteen years old, written during a wakeful night with my baby. Poems from that time are short, echoing the conditions under which they were written, baby in one arm, pen in the other. I felt very close to the elements then, very primal. It was a creative time, despite the exhaustion!

The rest of the poems were written over the years since then, and I wasn’t aware of the themes until I had laid them all out on the floor in front of me last year. That’s when I saw that there were art poems, ghost poems, fairy-tale poems, transformation poems and so on. The interconnectedness was not immediately obvious to me, it took a while to figure out how to shape the book; in which order to place the poems – some fitted together naturally – the ones about The Beast, Bluebeards Wife, Sleeping Beauty and so on – but seeing exactly how the others spoke to each other, took some time. At that stage, I sought out Grace Wells, as I needed a fresh perspective, someone who could see what I was too close to the work to see. That was very fruitful, as Grace has a very clear eye and was very honest. Its only now, looking back that I realise that what I thought of as the end stage, was actually the beginning of a potent process of transformation itself – any number of editorial decisions about placement and inclusion, could have led to many different types of book.

You also write novels, but what is your first love, poetry or prose?

Poetry is my first love, and I find poems most satisfying as a writer, closest to the bone. Sometimes they come in an organic way, unbidden – poets often refer to poems that come that way as gifts, and they are. They are pure joy. Others require a lot of redrafting, I was Swallowed by a Harry Clarke Window, a pretty short poem from the collection, was originally four pages long. But I enjoy working like that too – whittling away at the words, trying to find the poem within the poem.

You are traditionally published, with a great deal of success. Why self-publish Inside The Wolf?

Yes, my novel The Herbalist was published by Penguin, and I was very happy with that. When it came to the poetry collection, a poetry press that I greatly admire, told me it would take two years; if they were to decide to publish my work. That was one of the main reasons I went ahead and set up Red Dress Press. My collection was ready, and I didn’t want to have to wait till 2020 – not if I didn’t really have to – before publishing it. I wanted to go to print this summer, and without being flippant, why not self-publish? I enjoy all aspects of creating and love a challenge – plus it gave me full control over the timing, the cover, the contents. So, I found it a relatively easy process, and will probably publish my next collection under that same imprint.

It is a beautiful publication, and the cover is very evocative, and eye-catching. How much input did you have on how it would look?

Thankyou! I am so happy with the cover. I commissioned Jessica Bell to design it. She asked me to fill in a detailed questionnaire about the book and read some of the work. She responded to the information with three different cover ideas, one of which I loved immediately. We exchanged ideas back and forth, and she tweaked the image until it became the one on the cover. It was a very smooth process as Jessica really ‘got’ what the book was about.

Well congratulations, Niamh, I wish you every success with it. Also, you have a second novel in the works, I believe. Can you tell us anything about it?

I can yes – the novel is called Her Kind and was inspired the Kilkenny witchcraft trial – an event which occurred after a bishop called Ledrede accused a local moneylender, Dame Alice Kytler of sorcery. It was a 14th century case which required all sorts of fascinating research. It will be published in April 2019 by Penguin Random House.


You can check out Niamh’s Blog HERE. Inside The Wolf is available to purchase HERE

Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Niall Queenan

Niall Queenan is a screenwriter from the North West who currently lives in Dublin and graduated from the National Film School at IADT in 2012 with a Masters in Screenwriting. He was recently awarded an emerging screenwriter talent development mentorship from the Irish Film Board, won the gold prize in the thriller/horror category of the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards for his feature thriller script NEXT OF KIN, and the bronze prize in the thriller/horror category of the World Series of Screenwriting Awards for his feature thriller script SHADOW OF THE BLACKBIRD. He was consequently signed by manager/producer Peter Katz of Story Driven in Los Angeles. His feature debut, THE HIT PRODUCER, an independent Irish crime thriller, screened and won awards at a number of international film festivals and recently had a limited cinema release in Dublin. He has worked with Irish director Cathal Black under his Nightingale Films Ltd production company in a script development capacity and also co-produced his recent short film BUTTERFLY. He has completed feature re-writes for Propaganda Italia in Rome, Bee Holder Productions in Los Angeles, and is currently developing a slate of spec genre thrillers.

Impressive work, Niall. So, when did you first begin to write for screen?

Six years ago. My initial forays were a total disaster. I wrote two scripts without knowing a thing about the craft, thought they were gold, and paid a professional screenwriter to critique them. To say he hated them would be putting it mildly. That said, he was very understanding and gave me some really solid advice. Three months later I still felt like it was something I wanted to do, so I started over, read pro screenplays and began to study the craft. The learning continues and I can’t imagine it ever ending.

Did anyone, famous or otherwise, inspire you?

Well, they’re famous in our house, but my father always made up stories when we were kids and it was time to shut us up for the night, and my mother got me hooked on mystery novels, so I imagine the seed was planted there. But it wasn’t until I saw ‘Catch Me If You Can’ that I knew I wanted to write screenplays. Something about that film really captured my imagination and in that case, for whatever reason, I quickly came to the conclusion that the magic had started on the page. From then on the desire has been to write something that will ultimately result in an audience being as engrossed and involved in a story as I had been that evening. So, I suppose you could credit Jeff Nathanson, and also – shocker – Steven Spielberg.

Do you write every day?

When I’m working on something new I write every day. I believe that it’s important to keep your head in the same space while plotting and writing the first draft. If I’m between things or planning to re-write I’ll leave it alone, or work on something else, and let the subconscious mull over whatever it needs to, which I find productive in the long run… plot holes, inconsistencies and bad dialogue always seem to spring to mind during down time. I don’t have a specific daily structure, but I tend to write a lot at night and into the small hours.

Do you have a preferred genre?

I usually write thrillers, be they crime, conspiracy, supernatural etc. I just love being in that headspace, where there’s a sense of mystery, danger or intrigue, and working out how to assemble the pieces of the story into a compelling read.

How long does it take you to complete a script?

Usually somewhere between three and four months to outline it and get a solid first draft down.

And on your first production break? How involved in the process were you?

I’ve had just one film produced, an indie crime thriller called ‘The Hit Producer’, which had a very limited Irish release a few weeks ago. I met the director at a pitching event set up by the writers’ and directors’ guilds, and after swapping scripts/ideas he sent me his treatment for it. We unsuccessfully pitched it as a Storyland project, but by then had come up with enough material for a feature so I wrote the script. The budget (€18,000) came from a lot of blood, sweat and tears on the crowdfunding campaign, which I was heavily involved in, and after that I was on set as and when bodies were needed to chip in during the shoot. I sat in on the edit for a time during post-production and once that was done so was I. So, very much a DIY break, but it has led to other opportunities and was absolutely worth the effort. Big thanks again to all who backed the campaign and in fact gave us that break!

Do you have an agent, or think one is necessary?

I don’t have an agent, but as of very recently I have a manager! I think when you’re an unknown you have to prove yourself, which means writing strong spec scripts, completing assignments and getting your name out there. I expect that once work generates positive word of mouth, and assuming there’s a demand for the writer, an agent gets involved. I think if a writer was in serious demand an agent would absolutely be necessary. The contractual/negotiation side of things alone is a headache that I’m sure few writers want to spend their time dealing with, but want to make sure their best interests are served, so an informed manager/agent is likely vital in ensuring things get done right.

Thoughts on social media and marketing for filmmakers?

It’s absolutely necessary where you’ve made an independent film or you’re looking for backers for your crowdfunding project, nobody else is going to talk you up, but with hashtags and viral marketing tactics it’s possible to build buzz. That aside, when writing, or developing ideas etc., the less time spent on social media the better… it’s a total time suck unless you’re incorporating social media into the progress of your project in order to engage.

And do you contribute to the marketing of your own work?

I use a few social media platforms like Stage32, Twitter and LinkedIn, and post updates if I feel like something is worth sharing, but outside of that I don’t really “market” myself. To be honest, I’d rather be writing, but if there’s a project I’m involved in out there then I’ll absolutely help the team get the word out.

What’s your opinion of the current world of film? National? International? Indie Film?

Where indie film is concerned, I expect that there are tonnes of gems going undiscovered that word of mouth and cult status in their respective countries will eventually bring to a wider audience. Indie film in the US seems to be defaulting toward a Sundance style formula but there’s still plenty of really interesting stuff being made. In the mainstream, I’m a bit tired of the superhero films because they all play out in the same way – more or less – and few risks are taken. Similarly, everything these days seems to be based on book franchises, or is inspired by true events, and it feels like spec scripts are for writing sample purposes only, which is borderline a crime. Where Ireland is concerned, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2020’s prove to be our golden age. A widespread confidence in craft is emerging on all levels, which is very exciting, and will hopefully result in greater funding for the respective bodies and lead to more opportunities for Irish writers and filmmakers.

Having just won a PAGE Award – and mighty congratulations on that – what is your opinion on the importance of screenplay competitions?

I think they’re a useful way to judge where your writing is at, and if you win, or place, or make the finals, it definitely justifies contacting producers/managers/agents – or will see them contact you. That said, I think a lot of aspiring screenwriters make the same mistakes I made before and submit scripts that just aren’t ready, in hope of magically hitting the jackpot. Even if you’re confident that the basics of the story work, I would suggest taking additional time to be brutal with your dialogue, and to work the hell out of the descriptive passages. There are tonnes of ways to describe a room, but maybe only a couple that fit the tone of your story, so print it out, red pen it, grab a dictionary and don’t just settle for the easy option before you shell out your hard-earned cash.

And since you have been heavily involved in crowdfunding – what has that experience been like?

I’ve worked on two crowdfunding campaigns, the first was for ‘The Hit Producer’, and the second was for a short film called ‘Butterfly’ – both were hosted by Fund It and, fortunately, both were successful. Crowdfunding is tough, though, and while my experiences of it were ultimately worthwhile, they were extremely time-consuming and exhausting. Engaging your audience on a personal level and putting in the time to talk about their projects is just as important as promoting your own, and it’ll pay dividends when you’re looking for likes/shares/re-tweets. What’s even more key is beginning the process of building your audience a long time in advance of the campaign launch. Trying to get people to notice you when the clock is already ticking is a stress you don’t need, so my advice to anyone considering it down the road is to set up your Twitter/Facebook pages now and start communicating. Talk about the development process, ask opinions, basically involve people so that they’re invested in its progress. I’ve a lot of admiration and respect for those who stick their necks out and decide to crowdfund, and even more respect for those who pledge and green light aspiring creatives. It’s a huge leap of faith and the hope for those who get to move forward is that your backers will ultimately be proud of the work.

Any advice for aspiring film writers, Niall?

Well, I’m still one of them, but from my limited experience I think writers should write the ideas that they personally connect with and can’t stop thinking about, as opposed to writing what people tell them is more suitable for the market/funding bodies. Getting to the end of a script is hard enough, but if you’re not engaged in it, or just doing it for the sake of it, then that’s what will come across on the page. Also, trust your instincts. If something’s bothering you in the script and you just can’t shake it, then cut it or re-write it. For me, re-writing is the best part of writing screenplays… it’s like being given back a test paper and getting to change the answers to something “correct” or at least closer to it, with the benefit of perspective and hindsight.

Is there a film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

There are hundreds. ‘Taxi Driver’ by Paul Schrader, ‘Once Upon A Time in the West’ by Sergio Leone & Sergio Donati, ‘The Usual Suspects’ by Chris McQuarrie, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ by Jeff Nathanson … those are the first that come to mind.

Can you share with us what you are working on now?

I’ve written a very rough first draft of a psychological thriller which I’ve been working on with the assistance of script editor appointed by the Irish Film Board as part of their emerging screenwriter talent development initiative. I’m also developing a high-concept single location thriller that I’m very excited about, and a handful of other genre ideas.

Would you consider directing your own work?

Yes, at some point, but I think before trying I’d like to shadow someone else just to get a better idea of what to expect, and maybe make a really cheap short or two, just so it’s not all new. Even at that, I’d definitely be dependent on the crew’s technical expertise, but I love the idea of working collaboratively with a creative team to achieve a particular vision with a view to ending up with something unique that holds up over time.

And just for fun…six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!

For the sake of seeing just how crazy things would get… Charles Bukowski, Oliver Reed, Jack Nicholson, Richard Pryor, Elizabeth Taylor and Chris Farley – all while at the height of their infamy.


You can find Niall on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Stage32


Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Carolann Copland

From Dublin, Ireland, Carolann Copland is the founder of Carousel Creates, a writers’ centre in the Dublin Mountains. She has a Bachelor of Education in English and Drama and has been a teacher for sixteen years. Her first book, Summer Triangle was published by Emu Ink in October 2013, followed by Scarred launched in June 2015 and a third novel is currently underway. Carolann has also lived in the Middle East and the United Kingdom. She is married to Neil and is a mother of three children aged twelve to twenty-four. She is a member of two writing groups and works to promote other writing groups in Dublin. Through mentoring writers of all ages, from all walks of life, Carolann is happiest when she is sharing her passion for writing.

Welcome to the series, Carolann. Begin by telling us about your writing journey so far?

I’m not sure if I used to scribble stories as a child, but I definitely told stories. (Or lies?) As an adult, I first discovered writing stories when I went to university to study English and Drama at the age of 30! The last thing my English professor said to me when I left was Don’t forget to write and he wasn’t talking about a postcard… I was forty before I eventually joined my first creative writing class and I became addicted. I was writing novels for about three years before I published.

And how do you structure your writing time?

I need to write every day. I have a full-time job as a teacher so my writing day begins at 6am and ends at 7.30am. I often find time later in the day too but that’s a bonus… and then there are the school holidays. Most of my first drafts are written in the summer. My first drafts are written in a few months. The re-writes and edits take at least a year.

How would you describe your novels, in terms of genre?

I want to write stories that I haven’t read yet. My reading is of such a wide variety of genres and my novels reflect this. Real life is not trapped in only crime, politics or romance. Life is all of these and more.

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

Disagree. I do believe we should use our experiences to authenticate our writing, but writers are inquisitive by nature. I want to learn about a subject before I write about it, but I don’t need to have lived it. If we could only write what we know, novels would be quite boring. Our lives are not always about death, heart-break and horror. But our readers want to read about such things as well as love, relationships and redemption. We make stuff up. It’s what we do.

What is your opinion on the importance of literary competitions and awards?

I think that the written word, like every art, needs competition to keep it moving forward. But we shouldn’t find ourselves too engrossed in only reading award-winning authors.

Do you contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?

Completely. I think the days of authors writing the book, then sitting back and letting it all happen are gone. All my author colleagues work very hard on their own marketing and PR. I do put things by my publisher before I make big decisions though. Two heads are always going to work better than one. I also run Carousel Writers’ Centre in Dublin, where I facilitate writing courses for adults and children, so my life is pretty much surrounded by writing and writers.

And social media?

Social media is very important to me. My books meet their first readers through facebook and twitter before the snowball effect takes root. Also, the support that others in the writing industry give on social media is the push that keeps my pen flowing.

Do you think it would help to have an agent?

I don’t use an agent. When I’m struggling through PR and marketing, I do sometimes wish that I could let someone else take the strain. But my publisher is so supportive and knows the business so well that I don’t feel the need for a middle person. She’s bossy too in the best kind of way. I have huge respect for her.

What’s your opinion of the current world of publishing?

I think that the current international world of publishing is at a very exciting crossroads. The ebook has contributed to a massive increase in readers and authors. Our reading choices are much wider but it can also create a feeling of being swamped. Nationally I think we’re taking things a lot slower. Many Irish authors are saying that they might take the plunge into independent publishing but few are jumping.

And on Indie publishing?

I have read so many brilliantly indie published books over the last few years. I’m loving the choice that the readers now have and the competition it gives to traditionally published books. My own books are independently published using an assisted publishing company, Emu Ink, and for now this suits me very well. My readers hold me in as high esteem as my traditionally published writing colleagues. Indie Publishing works for me.

If you’ve ever had any: How do you handle negative reviews?

I don’t think you’ve made it as a writer until you get people thinking on your subject and arguing back at you. I like that. I’ve never had anyone tell me that my writing sucks. I’ll let you know how that feels if it happens.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Have faith in your story. Stick your bum to the seat. Write every day. Discipline your time on social media. Involve yourself in creative experiences. Mix with other writers. Love what you do.

And finally, Carolann, can you share with us what you are working on now?

I have just spent the summer in Andalucia, writing a novel set between Spain in post-civil war years and modern-day Ireland. I am deeply in love with all things Spanish and it was inevitable that it would creep into my writing eventually.

Summer Triangle and Scarred, published by EmuInk, are available to rent as ebooks from Emulink and are available to buy from Amazon also in paperback.

You can also find Carolann on Twitter | Facebook | Author Website

Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Vanessa Gildea

Vanessa Gildea studied film as part of a Liberal Arts Degree at the University of Limerick. Subsequently she worked in film training for nine years, mostly for Filmbase. She has directed short documentaries for Amnesty International Ireland and award-winning Dublin based production company Venom Films. In 2006 she wrote and directed the Irish Film Board funded short film ‘The White Dress’ which won numerous awards (Best Short Film Foyle Film Fest, Belfast Film Fest, Cinema Tout Ecran Geneva, awards at Galway & Kerry Film Festivals) and was nominated for an IFTA. It has been purchased / screened by RTÉ, Swiss, French and Italian Television.  In 2009 Vanessa wrote and directed a short film called ‘The Beast’ for award-winning production company Venom Films. She has received three IFTA nominations including ‘The White Dress’, Dambé – The Mali Project, a feature-length music documentary shot in Mali, West Africa, which was nominated for an IFTA 2009 in the Best Feature Documentary category, and ‘John Ford – Dreaming the Quiet Man’ in 2013. Also in 2013, she was the first recipient of the Tyrone Guthrie ‘Film Writing Bursary Award’ and in 2014 she received the Arts Council’s ‘Film Bursary Award’. As writer / director she completed an Arts Council Project Award film called ‘The Abandoning’ which won BEST SHORT FILM at The Sky Road Film Festival, 2014, a Special Mention at The IndieCork Film Festival, and was highly commended at The Belfast Film Festival, 2015.

Vanessa, with such accomplished writing, directing and producing credits, can you tell us when it all started for you?

I was always playing around with ideas, since I was a teenager but I only started to write in my 30s. The first film I wrote was called ‘The White Dress’, I wrote it in one sitting and I never did any re-writes, but I had written the film in my head a hundred times, and luckily it got funded.

Did anyone, famous or not, inspire you to get into film?

The first filmmaker that blew my mind was Mike Leigh. When I saw ‘Life is Sweet’ as a teenager it changed my view of what a film is, up until then I had only seen hollywood movies. I didn’t know people made films like that, reflecting real life back at the audience and I thought it was the most exciting and moving film I’d ever seen. I still love it and when I’m writing I think about authenticity and Mike Leigh is always somewhere floating around that thought process.

And your first production break?

I had made a short doc for Amnesty [International] and someone from the Irish Film Board had seen it and she decided to take a chance on me as a first time writer / director of a drama. I am forever grateful.

Do you write every day?

No. I work in production, research or teaching. When I’m not working I can spend time writing but not as much as I’d like.

Is there a film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

There’s a hundred. I am in awe of Charlie Kauffman, the complexity, simplicity and brilliance of ‘Adaptation’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. Also, I wish I had written or could write something as good as ‘The Visitor’ by Tom McCarthy.

Do you have an agent, Vanessa, or think it necessary to have one?

No I don’t have one and I think if you want to write as your profession then yes, an agent is a good idea.

Do you contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?

A little, but I dislike that side of things, I’d much prefer someone else do it.

And on social media for filmmakers?

I have mixed feelings about social media but it’s here and it can be a very useful tool. It is boring to use it solely for self-promotion though, better to have a bit of fun with it.

What’s your opinion of the film industry in general?

There are great films being made all the time, some are Hollywood, most of the films I really love and admire are not from the Hollywood system. I have to seek out the films that I like, but it’s not hard, with the IFI, the Lighthouse and VOD platforms like volta.ie, but one major problem I see is the lack of women storytellers, women centric stories and characters. I recently heard most film crowd scenes have 70-80% men in them, what is going on? Women are not coming forward, they’re not being allowed to and when they do the kind of films they want to make are not getting the same support. We are 50% of the population, we should be telling 50% of the stories.

And on the importance, or not, of film competitions and awards?

Winning awards can be a bittersweet experience but the recognition is good and it definitely helps when it comes to getting the next project funded, well I think it does.

Have you, or would you, consider crowdsourcing to produce your own work?

I haven’t, but I have supported plenty of projects, I would consider it.

If you’ve ever had any: How to you handle negative reviews?

Of course you have negative reviews, I would like my films to provoke a reaction in people, but you have to learn to shrug it off, and also sometimes the person critiquing the film might have a point. I equally take praise with a pinch of salt, I know when I am happy with my work, I know the moment when I am happy to say that’s it, it’s finished, that’s all we can do. I also know when I have worked hard and done everything in my power to realise the idea. After that, I don’t think you have a clue what people will think or how they will react, but you make it to be seen and the rest is beyond your control.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

No, because I am still one myself.

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

I think if every writer stuck to that as a rule, we would have lost out on some great fiction and dramas, but you can write what you know about life, love, loss, emotions in to characters, in to situations without it being necessarily autobiographical.

Can you share with us what you are working on now?

I am about to start an MA in Screenwriting at the National Film School Dun Laoghaire, so I am playing with a few ideas for that as part of the course we have to write a feature script. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

And just for fun…six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?

My Dad, my grandparents and Brendan Behan.


Vanessa’s film, The Abandoning, will shortly screen as part of the Short Film Programme | Irish Women in Film, I am curating at the MFFA