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The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair: Joël Dicker

Joel DickerThe Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, written by Joël Dicker and starring Patrick Dempsey (of Grey’s Anatomy fame) will soon, courtesy of MGM, hit our screens.

Under Jean-Jacques Annaud’s direction, Dicker’s entire novel will be brought to life over ten episodes. This is a similar approach taken to The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood and starring Elizabeth Moss, which won a host of Emmy awards.

Back in the summer of 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dicker in Dublin for writing.ie:

Having finished The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair only days before the interview, I was intrigued to meet Geneva born Joël Dicker, a writer with a novel which belies his mere 28 years. He is hailed as Switzerland’s coolest export since Roger Federer, with rights sold to 45 countries in 32 languages and over 2 million copies sold in less than a year. For me, minus the supernatural element, it was reminiscent of a great Stephen King novel. Dicker laughs when I mention it – apparently, I’m not the first to make the comparison although he has not, yet, read any of King’s novels. I suggest that with his busy schedule he could try Joyland, far shorter than King’s regular books but, in my opinion, up there with some of his very best. Dicker, like King, has a way of bringing his books to life by producing such fully formed characters that you feel as if you already know them personally and you never want to let them go.

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is set in New Hampshire. Here’s the blurb:

In the summer of 1975, struggling author Harry Quebert fell in love with fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan. Thirty-three years later, her body is dug up from his yard, along with a manuscript copy of the novel that secured his lasting fame. Quebert is the only suspect.

Marcus Goldman – Quebert’s most gifted protégé – throws off his writer’s block to clear his mentor’s name. Solving the case and penning a new bestseller soon merge into one. As his book begins to take on a life of its own, the nation is gripped by the mystery of “The Girl Who Touched the Heart of America.”

But with Nola, in death as in life, nothing is ever as it seems.

Not just a book about an unsolved murder case, The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair explores the price of fame and the seduction of success, the ferocity of the publishing industry and the power of the media, love in all its forms and what it means to be a truly great writer.

Dicker is currently on a roller-coaster ride, jetting in and out of countries so fast, while promoting his book, that his feet have barely touched the ground. Yet, relaxing over a coffee in the Ballsbridge hotel, he is charming and humble, excusing himself for a moment while he finds a socket to re-charge his iPhone.

This is a guy who has worked hard for what appears to be overnight success. His writing career began at age ten, when he was Editor-in-Chief of a monthly wildlife magazine, and wrote factual articles about animals. Until then he had not considered short stories. “I wanted to feel free to tell the story I wanted, because with the magazine I was only able to write true facts, so I tried short stories.” Dicker admits he finds it difficult to be able to condense a story enough to produce a short story, yet he managed it successfully with The Tiger which won an award in 2005. Some accomplishment for him, he laughs, as he nods towards his current novel, The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, which is over 600 pages long. Perhaps another similarity between himself and Stephen King …

At age 24, he wrote The Final Days of our Fathers which won the Prix des Ecrivains Genevois (Geneva Writers’ Prize) for unpublished manuscripts. The novel was subsequently published in 2012. His passion may always have been for writing, but he may well have taken another road when he headed off to an acting school in Paris. “I’ve always really enjoyed writing and playing music and doing some artistical creative stuff.” But Dicker explains, “I always felt the need to have a back-up plan. After six months, I realised I was not made for that. I really felt I should have a degree in something.” I ask if that’s how he ended up studying law. He laughs easily and nods, “I was not very good at literature and horrible at mathematics, so, I chose the only faculty at the University of Geneva that has no literature and no maths!”

We chat about his book and I ask whether his publishers might have requested him to shorten the title. Apparently that was never the case, but they were a little concerned about the pronunciation of Harry Quebert for his English-speaking audience. Dicker came up with a novel way to get over this problem. The waitresses, at the local coffee shop where the great Quebert frequents, are given a lesson by the owner, Tamara, on how to bring his order and on the correct pronunciation of his name:

“The chorus of waitresses croaked like frogs: “Kuh-bear, Kuh-bear, Kuh-bear.”

It does the trick!

With his first novel, Dicker had tried to imagine what it would be like to have his book in the shops, expecting the bookseller to have it displayed in the front window. But unfortunately, back then, that wasn’t the case. Today it is a different story. Wherever he travels he comes across huge posters of The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair displayed in bookshop windows; most recently earlier today in Dublin. “I feel very, very lucky with this one. Each time I see a window I think of the first book and how disappointed I was.” When I ask where he was when he came across his first novel, he tells me it was “at a book chain in Switzerland called Payot. It’s a terrible memory actually,” he grins, “because the book was supposed to be out on 10 January and I told my friends, ‘go, try to find the book,’ just to make the bookseller think it’s a must-read. But there was a delay in the delivery of the book in France and Switzerland and no-one told me. So I was very disappointed. But then it came out a week after and I finally saw it and I was very happy.”

His love of books was fuelled by his mother who works in a bookshop called, La Librerit. Dicker tells me “it sounds like bookshop but it’s a play on words – to be free and to love.” Directly translated to For The Love of Books, this is a Geneva bookstore with an immense stock of children’s books which no doubt whet Dicker’s appetite from an early age.

Dicker chose America as the setting for his novel, mainly because of the amount of time he spent there as a child. His cousins lived in Washington DC and had a summer house in Maine; an ideal location for them to spend their summer holidays and a feeding ground for Dicker’s imagination.

I ask about Nola, a character loved, it seems, by all who come into contact with her. Dicker tells me that in the beginning, Nola was not in the novel at all. “The very first idea, the first layer, was just a house by the ocean. Then came Harry and then came Marcus and the relationship between them.” Joel goes on to explain his thought processes and how they developed. “I should give Marcus a girlfriend and so that was Nola.” Then he got the idea to change the dynamics, “I tried again, but Nola should be going out with Harry, that’s much more interesting. And then – she could be dead! She could have been murdered, which is even better, so always going one step further and one step further. I’m very bad with plans, I much prefer just to write and let the story unfold.”

Dicker had four novels rejected before he was finally able to find his first publisher, yet when I ask him for the best advice he could offer new writers he appears uncomfortable. “It’s to keep working. I feel out of place giving advice, or anything, maybe in thirty years . . .” he shrugs. “I’m just a very lucky guy.” At book signings, he regularly has writers asking him for advice; he says the only thing he can tell them is to “keep trying. It’s very hard at times, but maybe there’s nothing more than that. Keep trying and try again and again.”

While currently travelling and promoting his novel, Dicker is still “working hard, trying to keep the machine going. Even though I don’t have much time to write a lot, I’ll read some pages – write down some ideas and plot ideas.”

As the interview draws to a close he tells me that ultimately, ”you write to please yourself. You write for an audience, of course. You write because you want to be read; because you want to share your story. But if you tell a story that you don’t enjoy yourself, how can you expect people to read it and enjoy it?”

“The cleverest, creepiest book you’ll read all year. Twin Peaks meets Atonement meets In Cold Blood.
Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph.

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Dublin Writers’ Conference 2017

On 24 June, I attended the third Dublin Writers’ Conference. I left it feeling inspired, invigorated and with lots of new like-minded writers to connect with on social media. Having already attended the first conference I knew what to expect but, in my absence last year due to family commitments, the conference has grown substantially – word of mouth is a wonderful thing!

In attendance, were writers from all over Ireland as well as further afield with many from England, Scotland and America. The mix was electric. To give you a flavour of the day, I’ve included snippets from some of the speakers:

Susan_Tara_Louise_2017Tara Sparling gave a presentation on what you should do and, perhaps even more importantly, what you should not do to promote your book. Readers, she told us, are firstly enticed by a professional cover, then a great blurb and finally your book. They hate to be told what to do – so it appears that if you tell them to “buy my book” or “check out my book” – more often than not, they’ll rebel and do the opposite!

Laurence O’Bryan told us that the most important thing was to believe in your book. InLaurence_O'Bryan_2017 this ever-changing world, he recommends you should research your chosen genre: the latest books, authors, blogs etc. By the time your book is ready to reach its readership you will have worked hard to prepare it for delivery – writing, researching and editing until it’s perfect. The reader expects nothing less and it is their Amazon reviews that will sell your novel. Laurence suggests sending out advance review copies, aiming to receive at least 10 reviews a month, with the ultimate goal of receiving more than 100 positive reviews. 

Patricia_GibneyPatricia Gibney brought us on her writing journey. When life dealt a number of harsh blows, she told us, it was creativity that helped her through the dark times. She shared a few tips: Don’t procrastinate. Writing is hard work, but just sit and write. Push past the self-doubt, keep negativity at bay and overcome rejections which are the bane of all writers. Patricia advised that passion should appear in all of your writing and the key to success was to persevere, be patient and while you’re waiting use the time to perfect your craft.

Jane Thornley began by telling us that what sells is a great story, a great cover and that
Jane_Thornleybox sets are a gold mine – three books to be precise. Similar to Laurence, Jane felt it was very important to be aware of what is going on in the wider world. It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse so that you know your audience. This information is vital from a marketing perspective where even something as simple as the connotations your book title might conjure up, at any given time, could have a positive or negative impact on your sales.

Paul Feldstein from The Feldstein Agency told the audience that you should write for self fulfillment. When you’re novel is ready, he advised reading agents submission guidelines and following them to the letter. He also recommended reading the latest copies of the Writers and Artists Year Book and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents.

Conor Kostick gave us a crash course from the Finishing Your Novel course that he runs in the Irish Writers Centre and that many of us have already attended. There were many nuggets of information he imparted including how important it is to nail your point of view to ensure your reader has a seamless, immersive experience. He recommends grinding your research into dust to sprinkle through your novel. And when setting your scene, don’t be cinematic – instead use psychological adjectives, i.e. the mountain soars or the mountain looms – depending on the mood …

Susan_Conor_Louise_2017Louise Phillips, who also teaches at the Irish Writers Centre, opened by telling us:
To just turn up every day. To commit. To write. Writing 500 words each day will soon produce a novel. We were brought through various writing techniques she has used including Road Maps, Organic Writing and Mind Maps which are all useful at the three different stages of the novel. Part 1: where you set-up, establish and create your world. Part 2: the murky middle – full of self doubts – where she suggests you build a bridge to the next part if you’re stuck. And finally, Part 3: the resolution where, by now, your characters should have evolved. One of the most important things to remember, in order to engage your reader, is to make your characters real – as real as your family and friends.

Ken Athcity arrived on stage and we, the audience, watched first-hand as writers pitched their stories to the Los Angeles based movie producer who has created 30 major movie and TV productions and is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures (the Oscars). Ken’s feedback gave us all food for thought as we watched to see what worked, what didn’t work and what may have a chance to make it on the big screen.

The Dublin Writers’ Conference has become the annual must attend event, offering writers at all stages an opportunity to engage with some of the best in the industry. What better way to hone your craft while also having an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals from all over the globe.

You could ask for nothing more …

Dublin is the UNESCO City of Literature:
The city of Swift, Joyce, Beckett, Yeats, Wilde, Synge & Shaw as well as the modern masters: Edna O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Colum McCann and a dozen others.

Full conference details available here

Dublin Writers’ Conference

Dublin_Wrtiers_Conference

Take A Step Towards Your Dreams!
23 – 25 June 2017

This conference will help you to improve your writing craft, self-publish successfully, and plan the marketing necessary for any author to achieve success whether traditionally published or self-published.

Three Ticket Options Available: €58  |  €99  |  €149
Choose which works best for you!

This year, the line-up of conference speakers include:

Ken Athcity:
American movie producer, author, columnist, book reviewer and professor of comparative literature.

Heather Graham:
Multi New York Times best selling author. Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award winner and the Thriller Writers’ Silver Bullet.

Laurence O’Bryan:
Founder of BooksGoSocial.com, published mystery author, also self published, who provides self publishing support services for authors.

Louise Phillips:
Bestselling & Award Winning Irish Crime Writer & Writing Craft Instructor at the Irish Writers Centre.

Conor Kostick:
Award winning children’s author, Irish Writers Centre lecturer on Finishing Your Novel & prize winning historian.

Tara Sparling:
Leading European self-publishing expert, award winning author and social media consultant.

Patricia Gibney:
the Irish crime novelist who sold over 100,000 ebooks for her debut novel in one month in 2017, topping charts in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Paul Feldstein:
literary agent with many years of experience in the U.S. publishing world, now operating a Northern Ireland based literary agency.

Wendy Jones:
Author, leading Scottish crime writer, and author of Power Packed Book Marketing.

Orna Ross:
is an Irish author and the founder of the Alliance for Independent Authors, named one of the top 100 most influential people in publishing by The Bookseller.

Valerie Bistany:
Director, the Irish Writers Centre, Ireland’s leading writing centre, consultant in strategic & vision planning.

Dublin is the UNESCO City of Literature:
The city of Swift, Joyce, Beckett, Yeats, Wilde, Synge & Shaw as well as the modern masters: Edna O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Colum McCann and a dozen others.

Full conference details available here

Interview: Stuart Neville – Those We Left Behind

Those_We_Left_Behind_Stuart_NevilleMy eyes scan the luxurious Westin Hotel’s, Atrium Lounge in Dublin and land on the bearded guy in the corner, dressed in black. If it wasn’t for the fact that we’d already met, Stuart Neville would have appeared more rock star than author and my eyes would have moved on. I find later, that if he hadn’t caught the writing bug, that’s who he may have become. Although then he may have swapped his pot of tea for something a little stronger – in keeping with that rock image!

When we get talking about his life before writing he agrees that “it seems to be quite a common thread among writers that they’ll have done a lot of odd jobs over the years before they finally end up as writers. I worked in a music shop and I worked for a long time trying to break into writing music for film. I studied music in college” he tells me, “and then I did score one low budget feature.” He grins, “sort of a musical director – for want of a better word – on a short film with Ardhal O’Hanlon.” It appears that Stuart Neville’s hands have a claim to fame all of their own. In a scene where O’Hanlon has to play the guitar, it’s actually Neville’s hands that appear on screen!

Many readers have authors they admire and would relish an opportunity to chat to them about their craft. And every writer has a number of writers they feel the same way about. I was delighted to find that we were both fans of Stephen King who Neville actually met up with last year. “It was a bit of a thrill to meet him actually,” he says.

You can read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.

 

About Those We Left Behind

Those We Left Behind is the new DCI Serena Flanagan novel from the King of Irish Noir:

When 12-year-old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation.

DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran’s confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn’t forgotten the kindness she showed him – in fact, she hasn’t left his thoughts in the seven years he’s been locked away.

Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran’s confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still has over his vulnerable younger brother.

When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, fresh back at work after treatment for breast cancer, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.

Those We Left Behind is in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.

Fireworks and #Freedom

From The Front Row:
at The Launch of Freedom’s Child
One of 2015’s Hottest Books

At 6pm last Thursday, Dubray Books, in Dublin’s cosmopolitan Grafton Street, became a world filled with crime. But not the usual kind – this was a room buzzing with goodwill and anticipation as published and yet unpublished crime writers, crime readers and friends and family of Jax Miller (Áine O’Domhnaill) came together to celebrate her Dublin launch of Freedom’s Child.jaxmiller-PhotoGrid

Stacks of her orange and black debut novel are quickly snapped up, like prized possessions, as staff replenish them while topping up glasses of wine and prosecco. The cover is a haunting affair showing a lone figure walking towards you with the tag line:

All She Wants Back Is Her Daughter

Two powerful quotes are emblazoned across:

Original, compelling and seriously recommended’
Lee Child
 

A terrific read from a powerful new voice
Karin Slaughter

There are shouts, hugs and cameras flashes as introductions are made between old friends and new, until suddenly an eerie silence encases the room and all eyes turn.

Jax Miller has arrived!

Read the full article here on writing.ie

 

The crowd hushes as Miller reads the prologue from Freedom’s Child.

“My name is Freedom Oliver and I killed my daughter …”

 

Dublin Writers’ Conference Packs A Punch!

Margaret MurphyDublin city is buzzing on Saturday, 27 June as I walk along O’Connell Street towards 19 Parnell Square and the beautiful Georgian building that is home to the Irish Writers Centre. It is nestled between the Dublin Writers Museum and the aptly named, Michelin star awarded, Chapter One, in the soon to be developed Parnell Cultural Quarter. I am attending the second day of Dublin’s first Writers Conference so I’m keen to see what it has to offer. Running from Friday, 26 June to Sunday, 28 June it promised sessions on writing craft and digital marketing for writers.

Along the way I hook up with a back-packed lady from Idaho who asks for directions. It’s already 9.55am yet we are both compelled to stop and take a couple of photos as we battle our way through the throngs of colourful and good-humoured parade participants who congregate for the noon start from the Garden of Remembrance to celebrate the outcome of the marriage referendum.

Once we reach our destination, she enters Jessica Morell’s session on The Sizzle: Tension & Suspense in Fiction while I attend Margaret Murphy’s, Dialogue in fiction: more than an exchange of words.Water bottles are at the ready and a little good-bantered humour is bandied about as some of the attendees reminisce about the previous night’s social evening. But once Murphy begins the session, the only noise to be heard is the scribbles of pens across notebooks as writers take notes to ensure they don’t forget any of the writing gems she imparts to her captive audience. With nine critically acclaimed psychological thrillers to her name and over thirty years teaching, she is perfectly positioned to deliver an interesting and informative workshop.

LOB writers conference

You can read the full report on writing.ie by clicking here where I share some tips gleaned from Laurence O’Bryan’s digital workshop on his writing journey covering Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more …

And snippets from the inspirational after dinner speaker at the Gresham Hotel, Paul O’Brien, introduced as:

The Only Self Published Author ever endorsed by Rolling Stone magazine, “…. a one of a kind literary offering . . .” – Kenny Herzog, RollingStone.com

Paul tells an enraptured audience about his writing career, sharing a journey which has led him from Wexford to LA to work on a TV show currently being developed from his Blood Red Turns Dollar Green novels set in the world of wrestling.

O’Brien is definitely a rising star to watch – all that hard work, dedication and self-belief are paying dividends – as news just in that WWE legend Jim Ross announces to the wresting world that Paul O’Brien is onboard to help him write his autobiography.

The Writers Conference may be in its infancy but judging by the applause and chatter at the end of the night it’s guaranteed to become an annual diary event to arm new and established writers with tips, tricks and inspiration for the year ahead.

 Dublin is the UNESCO City of Literature:

The city of Swift, Joyce, Beckett, Yeats, Wilde, Synge & Shaw
as well as the modern masters: Edna O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Colum McCann and a dozen others.

Writers’ Conference: 26 – 28 June 2015

 Take A Step Towards Your Dreams!

This unique conference offers a road map
for you to achieve your full potential as a writer in the 21st century.

Enjoy a weekend in Dublin – an exciting and historic literary city – while traditionally published authors,
with industry experience, give you the inside story on this rapidly changing industry.

Ideal for both fiction and non fiction authors, this conference will be hosted at the Irish Writers Centre in the heart of Dublin and sponsored by BooksGoSocial.com, the leading global online book promotion service and will consist of:

  • Writing craft sessions to help you improve your craft and broaden your writing skills
  • Digital marketing sessions for writers will show you how you can gain readers, fast, online
  • Conference Dinner & Awards on Saturday night in The Gresham Hotel, O’Connell Street, Dublin
    – After Dinner Speaker: The Only Self Published Author ever endorsed by Rolling Stone magazine, “… a one of a kind literary offering . . .” – Kenny Herzog, RollingStone.com

The line-up of conference speakers include:

Laurence O'Bryan

Laurence O’Bryan
(founder of BooksGoSocial.com, published in 11 languages, Harper Collins & other)
teaches digital marketing at diploma level, has been training authors in digital marketing for 4 years and is also a published author. He spent ten years trying to break into the publishing industry and finally won a contract after starting a blog and launching a Twitter account in 2009.

Margaret MurphyMargaret Murphy
(Bestselling & Award Winning British Crime Writer & Writing Craft Instructor)
has published nine critically acclaimed psychological thrillers under her own name – in the UK and the USA, as well as in translation across Europe – receiving accolades from newspapers including The Times, Guardian and Telegraph in the UK, and starred reviews from both Publishers’ Weekly and Booklist in the USA.

Jessica Page MorellJessica Page Morrell
(Editor, author of a variety of acclaimed writing craft books and regular U.S. writing craft conference speaker)
understands both sides of the editorial desk–as an editor and author. She is the author of Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us, A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected; Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, How to Write the Bad Guys in Fiction; The Writer’s I Ching: Wisdom for the Creative Life; Voices from the Street; Between the Lines: Master The Subtle Elements Of Fiction Writing; and Writing Out the Storm.

Jean Gill
(Author, teacher and writing craft instructor)Jean Gill
is a writer and photographer now living in the south of France. Since 1988, she has published eighteen books in a wide variety of genres, both with traditional publishers and self-published. A member of the Welsh Academy and Writers on Tour scheme, Jean has led writers’ workshops for all ages and abilitites/disabilities.

Catherine Ryan HowardCatherine Ryan Howard
(Leading European self-publishing expert and social media consultant)
is a writer, self-publisher and caffeine-enthusiast from Cork. She started self-publishing in 2010 with the release of her bestselling travel memoir, Mousetrapped, and is known for the pragmatic self-publishing advice she shares on her blog, Catherine, Caffeinated. Since 2012 she’s worked with Penguin Ireland, helping them devise and execute their commercial fiction social media campaigns.

Debbie Young
(PR Guru & Commissioning Editor at the Alliance of Independent Authors)Debbie Young
had a long career as a journalist and PR professional. Having self-published two collections of short stories, Debbie is now writing her first novel. Her non-fiction books include the Alliance of Independent Author’s (ALLi) guidebooks. She also helps drive ALLi’s campaigns, launching #PublishingOpenUp at the London Book Fair in 2014 and #Authors4Bookstores in 2015.


Dublin is the UNESCO City of Literature:

The city of Swift, Joyce, Beckett, Yeats, Wilde, Synge & Shaw
as well as the modern masters: Edna O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Colum McCann and a dozen others.

Full conference details available here

A Date – With An Agent?

agent-slide-2

 Dreaming of writing a bestseller?
Five leading agents are looking for you!

The International Literature Festival Dublin, In association with The Inkwell Group and Writing.ie, is running Date With An Agent 2015 – Ireland’s largest ever talent-spotting event.

They are looking for 75 top quality authors to pitch their work to 5 leading literary agents keen to sign new talent on 16th May 2015.

Submissions to the event will be assessed by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin and a team of consultants from The Inkwell Group.  Experienced literary scouts Inkwell have assisted award winning and bestselling authors to publication and will be reading every application, matching the selected authors to agents including:

  • Simon Trewin, Partner and Head of Literary at WME
  • Sallyanne Sweeney of Mulcahy Associates
  • Clare Wallace, Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film agency
  • Julia Churchill, AM Heath
  • Paul Feldstein, Feldstein Literary Agency

Don’t forget the closing date for submissions is midnight, Friday, 27th March.

Full details available here – and don’t forget to drop back
and share your news . . .logo-ilfdublin-black

Good luck!

Artyfacts on KFM – Interned

I was delighted to have Interned featured on KFM Artyfacts, hosted by Brenda Drumm, on 6 August 2014. You can listen to the Podcast here.

Interned was also chosen for inclusion in Original Writing from Ireland’s Own, Anthology, 2012. You can read it below:Ballykinlar, 1921

Eighty year old, Jim, received a call from his older sister Monica, asking if he could repair the old piano in the parlour of their family home. It was there, hidden inside, that he discovered the bundle of letters. He opened twined knots to release a dozen, off-white faded and torn envelopes. Each with a two pence stamp pasted in the top right corner, the address beautifully penned in fading black ink.

Each was written by his father, John and sent to his mother during the war for Irish Independence, dating from 1921 to 1923, while he was interned in Ballykinler Prison Camp, in County Down. Their formal air spoke of different times, each signed off with “best of love to all at home, from your loving son, John,” with references to Father and addressed to Dear Mother.

“Rounded up and taken” along with many others to Wellington Barracks on 1 December 1920, John had scribbled notes, on scraps of paper, telling his mother that he was okay. He expected to be released soon, as he had “never mixed up in any party” and asked if she could bring a collar and handkerchief for his release. Mother had spoken to a Lieutenant at the Barracks who promised to see what could be done. A meeting with O’Neill & Collins Solicitors in North Brunswick Street had been arranged for 11 December 1920. In October 1921 letters from John were arriving – now from Ballykinlar Prison Camp.

Ballykinlar Camp Orchestra

Ballykinlar Camp Orchestra (circa 1921). 

The men pictured were detainees in Ballykinlar Prison Camp in Co Down during the war for Irish independence where Martin Walton (far right) formed and taught the camp orchestra. 

They rose at 7.30am, eventually retiring at 9.00pm when they would make Bovril, then rosary and bed at 9.45pm. Papers delivered to the camp could be bought for two bob. Camp rules allowed prisoners to post no more than two letters per week, of no more than two pages in length and both to be sent in the same envelope. Most letters were written on Sunday and were four pages long.
Parcels from home would be shared around. No eggs, but supplies of butter, tealeaves, fruit cake, cigarettes and strings – apparently one of his fellow interns was Martin Walton who formed and taught the camp orchestra to play the violin. He was yet to found the famous Walton’s Music Shop and the Walton’s music programme which always finished with the words: “If you feel like singing, do sing an Irish song”. Other internees included Peadar Kearney, co-author of the National Anthem and Sean Lemass who, in 1959, would succeed Eamonn De Valera as Taoiseach.

John requested a kit-bag from home so, that like the four chaps he shared with, he could use it to store his clothes neatly. He frequently requested pencils and colours. Among the letters were sketches he had made from Hut 29. Barbed wire covered the windows outside. Blankets and sheets piled neatly on low wooden cots. Small shelves set high on walls – milk and Liptons tea sitting atop one; a small selection of papers and books lay flat on another, beneath a chess set. Pegs were set into the wall and held coats and hats. Other sketches showed a row of rust coloured huts running down the camp, a dark mountain looming in the background, echoing the atmosphere. Another showed “The Altar, Ballykinlar”. Music notes for “Show a leg” appeared on another page along with a pattern for a suit jacket on the back. The last showed a hut with two crosses, one on either side of the door. The words “Where Sloan and Tormey Died,” written beneath, dated Jan. 17th 1921.

Sports Day arranged for March, 17th, 1921 – St Patrick’s Day – had not been a success due to the weather. “I hope the weather is better in old Dublin, it is wild here, but dry and the sand would cut the eyes out of your head. Talk about the sands of the desert,” he’d written. They had, however, enjoyed a concert that night.

On August, 7th, 1921 he mentions rumours that they may soon be returning home but that he will never forget 1st December 1920. “I think this will be a different Winter. I’ll not forget the 1st of Dec. 1920 in all my life. I don’t suppose any of you will at home. I have a good laugh at it by times, when I think of Father with the blanket round him. I don’t expect he will forget it in a hurry. Does he laugh over it? I don’t think so, but I will make him laugh over my times since, even though they are not all laughable ones I may tell you.”

In the final letter, John was looking forward to returning home and back to his job as a tailor/cutter with Messrs. Scotts.

He asked his mother to be sure that his blue suit would be ready for him to go “clicking.”

Storymap – The Secret Librarian

‘Storymap.ie brings Dublin absolutely alive… a brilliant idea’ – Tom Dunne, Newstalk FM

StoryMap_The_Secret_Librarian

I am delighted to have my short story, The Secret Librarian, on Storymap amongst such varied and wonderful Irish writers, poets and historians as: Paula Meehan, Eileen Casey, Roddy Doyle, Colm Keegan, Stephen James Smith, Shane MacThomáis and Paul Howard (aka Ross O’Carroll-Kelly), to name but a few.

What better way to pass your journey than by experiencing the charm of Dublin city. Storymap hosts a living world to spark your imagination – a world of stories, filmed where they happened, ranging from funny to literary; historic to places of interest and everything in-between!

You can watch The Secret Librarian here and don’t forget to check out a few of my favourites on Storymap, listed below, to give you a real flavour of Dublin.

If you like them, don’t keep them to yourself, share them!

Paula Meehan  The Lost Children  Paula Meehan
Eileen Casey  The Black Ballgown  Eileen Casey
Roddy Doyle  The Spire  The Spire
Colm Keegan Ode to the Coalman  Colm Keegan
Stephen James Smith  On Raglan Road  Stephen James Smith
Shane MacThomáis Strange bedfellows Shane MacThomais
Paul Howard
(aka Ross O’Carroll-Kelly)
I’m afraid this is my stop Paul Howard

A little about Storymap:

Storymap is the brainchild of two Dublin filmmakers, Andy Flaherty and Tom Rowley. Just back from working abroad, unemployed and in between film projects, the lads became annoyed with all the negative press the city was receiving. The bleak tales of recession, the gloomy accounts of unemployment and the notion that Ireland’s best and brightest had emigrated was completely at odds with what the lads were experiencing being back in their hometown.

“We wanted to do something to get people as excited about the city as we were. While loads of great people have left the country, you only have to walk into any gallery, gig or any of the fantastic spoken word or comedy nights to see that Dublin is a ridiculously fun and vibrant city with wonderful characters and a flourishing art scene. We wanted to bring the charm and character that had been pushed aside by the Celtic Tiger and bring it centre stage” – Andy

The lads came up with Storymap, a web based multimedia project that revives Ireland’s age-old tradition of storytelling and tries to capture the personality of Dublin city through its stories and storytellers. These stories are filmed being told where they happened and integrated into a live map to create a charming and layered collective vision of Dublin city made by the people of the city.

“Walking around the city – everyone has their own stories that they remember on certain streets, stories that flavour their personal experience of the city, that they tell on to friends. We thought it’d be exciting to pool those stories in one place, like one big pub where everyone shares their stories, creating a sense of what the city means to Dubliners. It’s a simple idea, but with complex possibilities, and we’re only just at the beginning of it.” – Tom

You can Follow Storymap on Facebook and Twitter

Events in Dublin

There’s plenty of events to keep all avid readers and aspiring writers busy over the next few weeks and plenty more to come. Check out a selection below.

Hope to see you there!

Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival

Trinity College Dublin and Glucksman Ireland House, New York University are holding a festival devoted to Irish crime fiction, featuring more than a dozen of the most exciting Irish crime novelists. This will be a memorable weekend, devoted to a key genre of contemporary Irish writing, so please make plans to join us.

Among the confirmed participants are Conor Brady, Declan Burke, Jane Casey, Paul Charles, Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Conor Fitzgerald, Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes, Arlene Hunt, Gene Kerrigan, Kevin McCarthy, Brian McGilloway, Eoin McNamee, Stuart Neville, Niamh O’Connor, Louise Phillips, and Michael Russell.

We’re particularly pleased to announce that our weekend will conclude with a major event: for the Irish launch of his newest novel, The Gods of Guilt (Orion Books, November 2013), Michael Connelly will be interviewed by John Connolly. After the interview, and questions from the audience, Michael will be signing books, which will be for sale on the evening. Tickets are required for this final event, and they are €6 (inc. fees) from eventbrite.com.

Date:  Friday, 22 – Saturday, 23 November 2013
Time:  6.30pm
Venue:  Trinity College Dublin
Admission:  Free events (€6 for Closing Event)
Admission:  Free


Book Launch:  The Outsider by Arlene Hunt

Arlene Hunt - The OutsiderFrom the time she was born, Emma Byrne was different from other children. Shy and reclusive, her world revolved around animals, so much so that by the time she was 15, Emma was a much sought after horse trainer.

So who would try to harm this gifted young woman? Who was shooting in Crilly Woods on that fateful August day?

Emma’s twin brother, Anthony, is determined to get to the bottom of what happened to his sister, and in the course of his investigations makes a terrible mistake, one that will change all their lives forever.

The Outsider: sometimes those who love us most hardly know us at all.

Date:  Thursday, 7 November 2013
Time:  6.30pm
Venue:  The Gutter Bookshop
Admission:  Free

Crime Pays: Writing Crime Fiction

Crime Pays: Writing Crime Fiction
presented by WritersWebTV

“A forensic examination of the essential elements of writing crime,” is what Vanessa O’Loughlin promises to deliver to crime fiction fans of everything from psychological thrillers to detective fiction.

But whatever your genre, the key secrets, tips and techniques unveiled by a panel of writers at the top of their game – Ken Bruen, Declan Hughes, Jane Casey and Niamh O’Connor – will furnish you with the tools to pace your plot and keep your reader hooked.

KenBruen_JaneCasey_DeclanHughes_NiamhOConnor

Questions will be answered:

  • Should you plot and plan in detail, and know the ending before you start, or can you write crime organically?
  • How many characters should there be and how do you reveal backstory without losing the forward movement of the plot?
  • What is foreshadowing and why does it play such a vital part in this genre?
  • Research is crucial, but how much should you include in your story?

And best of all, you can watch it live for FREE, from anywhere in the world – but only on Wednesday, 30 October, from 10.00am – 4.00pm.

All you need to do is enrol now on www.writerswebtv.com or, if you want to download the workshop and watch it later, you have the option to pay to keep the course.

Wherever you are, and whatever your lifestyle, you’ll be able to tune in and out throughout the day:

10:00 – 11.30  Ken Bruen

11.30 – 11.45  Break/Online Audience – a chance for viewers to interact via Twitter @WritersWebTV

11.45 – 01:00  Jane Casey

01:00 – 01:30  Break/Online Audience – a chance for viewers to interact via Twitter @WritersWebTV

01:30 – 02:30  Declan Hughes

02:30 – 02:45  Break/Online Audience – a chance for viewers to interact via Twitter @WritersWebTV

02:45 – 04:00  Niamh O’Connor

This one-day workshop will be streamed live from a multi-camera broadcast studio in Dublin. Bestselling authors interact with an in-studio audience of aspiring writers, who present their work for critique. Online viewers can communicate with those in the studio using Twitter, Facebook or email. They can ask a question, take part in a workshop exercise, comment online and benefit from on-screen feedback from the authors in-studio.

Led by experienced workshop facilitator, Vanessa O’Loughlin, founder of writing.ie, the panel will consider the key elements of fiction writing and furnish viewers with tips, advice and actionable insights to help them improve their writing and get it on the path to publication.

I’ll be there – as part of the studio audience – hope you’ll join me!

Lady Killers: Ireland’s Leading Female Crime Writers

Lady Killers

Is crime your thing? Crime fiction, I hasten to add! Then mark Friday, 18th October in your diary and get your tickets for LADY KILLERS: Ireland’s Leading Female Crime Writers at The Civic Theatre before they sell out.

If you’re feeling lucky, you might even manage to WIN two tickets to this wonderful night – read on to find out how . . .

Whether you are a reader or currently honing your skills as a writer, this is an event not to be missed. A unique opportunity to delve into the minds of three prolific writers as they divulge the secrets (we hope!) to their success and how they manage to get into the minds of their characters: the victims and the killers.

Feeling lucky? Enter our free competition to win two tickets to Lady Killers. All you have to do is come up with the most intriguing question – so get your thinking caps on and post your questions here. Deadline for entries is 10pm on Sunday, 13 October. The winning question will be put to the panel, on your behalf, on the night. Better still, why not introduce yourself and ask it yourself – after all, dear winner, your seats are already booked and waiting . . .

Crime Writing by Leading Female Authors: Alex Barclay, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips and special guest former Boulder Coroner Joanne Richardson in conversation with Susan Condon

A killer evening not to be missed! Some of Ireland’s most popular female crime writers share insights into creating a gripping thriller. Special guest Joanne Richardson, former County Coroner of Boulder Colorado, brings an interesting element to the evening as she shares her experiences in this challenging role.

Alex Barclays first novel Darkhouse was a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller. Since then Alex has written several bestselling thrillers and won the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award at the Irish Book Awards for her third novel, Blood Runs Cold, which was the beginning of the Special Agent Ren Bryce series.

Arlene Hunts dark and atmospheric stories perfectly capture the grimy underworld of Dublin and beyond. She is the author of a series of fast-paced crime-thrillers, featuring John Kenny and Sarah Quigley from Quik Investigations. Her sixth novel Undertow was nominated for best crime novel of the year in 2009. Her current novel – a stand alone set in the US – entitled The Chosen, was voted as TV3′s Book of the Month for November 2011.

Louise Phillips bestselling debut crime novel, Red Ribbons, was shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2012) in the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards. Her eagerly awaited second psychological crime novel, The Doll’s House was published August 2013

Joanne Richardson was County Coroner in Boulder Colorado from 2003 to 2012 and was responsible for determining cause and manner of death, which indicates whether the death was accidental, natural, suicide or homicide. Despite having what many would perceive to be a morbid profession, Richardson is upbeat, colourful and frank about her work.

Susan Condon is currently editing her debut novel – a crime fiction thriller set in New York City. Her writing career began in 2008. She has won many short story awards and was Longlisted in the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition 2012 and 2013.

Date:  Friday 18th October
Time:  8pm
Venue:  
The Civic Theatre, Main Auditorium
Admission:  €12/€10 concession

 

Don’t forget – the deadline for entries is 10pm on Sunday, 13 October. 

I’m looking forward to your killer questions!

Red Line Book Festival 2013

There’s plenty of events to keep all avid readers and aspiring writers busy over the month of October and more to come . . .

Check out a selection below which includes LADYKILLERS – when, as part of the Red Line Book Festival, I have the opportunity to chat to some of my favourite crime fiction writers – Alex Barclay, Louise Phillips and Arlene Hunt – not a night for the faint-hearted!

Red Line Book Festival 2013:  Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About

Ireland’s leading performance poets take you on an emotional journey about what it really means to be a man. With Stephen James Smith, Colm Keegan & Kalle Ryan.

Venturing where few men have gone before they talk life, love, family and feelings in a show about universal truths, the things that make us human and the things that mess us up.

“…each of the men brings their own energy, tone and distinct poetic style to the composite structure…”**** The Irish Times

Contains some strong language, suitable 15+

This event is supported by Poetry Ireland

Date:  Wednesday 16th October
Time:  8pm
Venue:  The Civic Theatre, Main Auditorium
Admission:  €12/€10 concession

  


Red Line Book Festival 2013:  Against the Black Sky We Listen : an Irish Peacekeeper’s Poems

Michael J. Whelan is a soldier-poet, historian and United Nations veteran. Michael writes powerful, emotive poems of witness, tragedy, friendship & loss brought like baggage from war zones through which many Irish soldiers have passed; he is a voice of moments in the past.

In, Against the Black Sky, We Listen, he writes poems inspired by his experiences and memories as an Irish soldier with the peacekeeping forces during the conflicts in Lebanon and Kosovo.

Michael will read from his collection of poems placed 2nd in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Awards 2011, some of which have been published in New Irish Writing 2013 and other literary journals.

Date:  Thursday, 17th October
Time:  7.30pm
Venue:  RUA RED Arts Centre, Tallaght
Admission:  Free


Red Line Book Festival 2013:  LADYKILLERS

Crime Writing by Leading Female Authors: Alex Barclay, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips and special guest former Boulder Coroner Joanne Richardson in conversation with Susan Condon

A killer evening not to be missed! Some of Ireland’s most popular female crime writers share insights into creating a gripping thriller. Special guest Joanne Richardson, former County Coroner of Boulder Colorado, brings an interesting element to the evening as she shares her experiences in this challenging role.

Alex Barclays first novel Darkhouse was a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller. Since then Alex has written several bestselling thrillers and won the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award at the Irish Book Awards for her third novel, Blood Runs Cold, which was the beginning of the Special Agent Ren Bryce series.

Arlene Hunts dark and atmospheric stories perfectly capture the grimy underworld of Dublin and beyond. She is the author of a series of fast-paced crime-thrillers, featuring John Kenny and Sarah Quigley from Quik Investigations. Her sixth novel Undertow was nominated for best crime novel of the year in 2009. Her current novel – a stand alone set in the US – entitled The Chosen, was voted as TV3′s Book of the Month for November 2011.

Louise Phillips bestselling debut crime novel, Red Ribbons, was shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2012) in the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards. Her eagerly awaited second psychological crime novel, The Doll’s House was published August 2013

Joanne Richardson was County Coroner in Boulder Colorado from 2003 to 2012 and was responsible for determining cause and manner of death, which indicates whether the death was accidental, natural, suicide or homicide. Despite having what many would perceive to be a morbid profession, Richardson is upbeat, colourful and frank about her work.

Susan Condon is currently editing her debut novel – a crime fiction thriller set in New York City. Her writing career began in 2008. She has won many short story awards and was Longlisted in the RTE Guide / Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition 2012.

Date:  Friday 18th October
Time:  8pm
Venue:  
The Civic Theatre, Main Auditorium
Admission:  €12/€10 concession

 

Whether you are a crime fiction reader or currently honing your skills as a crime fiction writer, this is an event not to be missed. An opportunity to delve into the minds of three prolific writers as they divulge the secrets (we hope!) to their success and how they manage to get into the minds of their characters: the victims and the killers . . .

At the end of the night, there will be a chance for you, the audience, to ask those burning questions that have been eating away at you. If you can’t make it on the night and that burning question will not go away, post it here. The most intriguing question will be asked, on your behalf, on the night.

Hope to see you there!

Photos from Dublin Writing Events

A selection of photos with writers, from all genres, that I have had the privilege to meet.

I admire them all, not only for for their work, but also for their attitude and their willingness to help fellow writers.

And lots more to be added soon, I hope!

The National Emerging Writer Programme
Dublin City Library and Archive
9 January, 2013:

Annmarie Miles, Vanessa O'Loughlin, Susan Condon
Annmarie Miles, Vanessa O’Loughlin, Susan Condon

Hazel Gaynor, Paul Fitzsimons, Carlo Gébler, Susan Condon, Declan Hughes
Hazel Gaynor, Paul Fitzsimons, Carlo Gébler,
Susan Condon, Declan Hughes

Vanessa O'Loughlin, Hazel Gaynor, Paul Fitzsimons, Carlo Gébler, Declan Hughes, Susan Condon
Vanessa O’Loughlin, Hazel Gaynor, Paul Fitzsimons,
Carlo Gébler, Declan Hughes, Susan Condon

#TXS2 at The Westin Hotel
November, December 2012:

Louise Phillips, Jillian Godsill, John Ivory, Maura Donaghue, Susan Condon
Louise Phillips, Jillian Godsill, John Ivory,
Maura Donaghue, Susan Condon

Susan Condon, Trish Nugent
Susan Condon, Trish Nugent

After Crime Night at the Civic Theatre
November, 2012:

533511_10151163759547911_320014214_n (1)
Susan Condon, Fergus Doyle, Trish Nugent,
Ruby Barnes, Louise Phillips

553695_10151163759772911_668106002_n (1)
Shay Condon, Susan Condon, Fergus Doyle,
Tanya Farrelly, Ruby Barnes, Trish Nugent,
Louise Phillips, Declan Kerins, Rhoda Kerins

Three Voices/Three Forms
Loose End Studio, Civic Theatre
14 November, 2012:

Susan Condon, Colm Keegan
Susan Condon, Colm Keegan

Susan Condon, Colm Keegan, Eileen Casey, Louise Phillips
Susan Condon, Colm Keegan,
Eileen Casey, Louise Phillips

Louise Phillips, Susan Condon
Louise Phillips, Susan Condon

Eileen Casey, Susan Condon
Eileen Casey, Susan Condon

Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards
Saggart Heritage & Arts Centre
November, 2012:

Susan Condon, Michael J Whelan, Doreen Duffy
Susan Condon 1st Prize Short Story
Michael J Whelan 3rd Prize Poetry
Doreen Duffy 1st Prize Poetry

Susan Condon, Michael J Whelan, Doreen Duffy
Susan Condon 1st Prize Short Story
Michael J Whelan 3rd Prize Poetry
Doreen Duffy 1st Prize Poetry

SDCC European Week Against Racism Poetry Competition
SDCC County Hall
27 March 2012:

Mayor of Tallaght, Susan Condon
1st Prize
SDCC European Week Against Racism Poetry Competition, 2012
Deputy Mayor of South Dublin County Pamela Kearns, Susan Condon

Brigid Flynn, Susan Condon
Brigid Flynn, Susan Condon

Tallaght Library Writers Group
Rua Red
August 2011:

Doreen Duffy, Orla Coffey, Tanya Farrelly, Michael Whelan, Des McInerney, Paul Tylak
Doreen Duffy, Orla Coffey, Tanya Farrelly
Michael Whelan, Des McInerney, Paul Tylak

Michael Whelan, Des McInerney, Orla Coffey, Doreen Duffy, Tanya Farrelly, Susan Condon
Michael Whelan, Des McInerney, Orla Coffey
Doreen Duffy, Tanya Farrelly, Susan Condon

SDCC Bealtaine Short Story Competition
SDCC County Hall
28 May 2010:

Susan Condon, Mayor Michael Duff
1st Prize
SDCC Bealtaine Short Story Competition, 2010
Susan Condon, Mayor of South Dublin County Mick Duff

City of Dublin VEC Creative Writing Competition
Teachers’ Club, Parnell Square
29 April 2010:

John MacKenna, Susan Condon - 1st Prize - City of Dublin VEC Short Story Competition, 2010
1st Prize
City of Dublin VEC Short Story Competition, 2010
John McKenna, Susan Condon

John McKenna, Susan Condon - 3rd Prize - City of Dublin VEC Poetry Competition, 2010
3rd Prize
City of Dublin VEC Poetry Competition, 2010
John McKenna, Susan Condon

Out and About at Writing Events:

Susan Condon, Mick Halpin, Nell McCafferty, Louise Phillips, Liam Flood
Susan Condon, Mick Halpin, Nell McCafferty,
Louise Phillips, Liam Flood
After Inspiring Crime Writers
Dublin Book Festival
The Porterhouse, Temple Bar (15 November 2012)

Louise Phillips - Red Ribbons Launch
Louise Phillips
Launch of Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips
Hughes & Hughes Bookshop (5 September 2012)
Photo by Ger at Taken by Titch

Susan Condon, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips
Susan Condon, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips
Launch of The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly
The Gutter Bookshop (31 August 2012)

Jillian Godsill, Valerie Healy, Michelle Jackson
Jillian Godsill, Valerie Healy, Michelle Jackson
Launch of The Terrace by Maria Duffy
The Clarion Hotel (2012)

Jane Travers, Susan Condon, Derek Flynn
Jane Travers, Susan Condon, Derek Flynn
Launch of The Scarlet Ribbon by Derry O’Dowd
Hodges Figgis Bookstore (10 February 2012)

Susan Condon, Joseph O'Connor
Susan Condon, Joseph O’Connor
A private Reading of Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor
at the home of Orla Coffey (13 April 2011)

Melissa Hill, Susan Condon
Melissa Hill, Susan Condon
Irish Women’s Fiction
Eason, O’Connell Street, Dublin (31 March 2011)

Dundrum Irish Crime Fiction Writers
Mick Halpin, Ann Usack, Patrick Fay,
Brian Roche, Laurence O’Bryan, Louise Phillips
Dundrum Irish Crime Fiction Writers
(only some of them and taken by me!)

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