Halfway through my all girls primary school (I'm not sure what the American equivalent is, but I was about 8) I was put into a 'house' called Charlotte. The headmistress explained when 'houses' were introduced that she had picked the names of 4 famous women who would be good role models, and talked a little about each of them – Florence (Nightingale), Elizabeth (Fry), Octavia (Hill) and Charlotte (Bronte.) All great women. You should look them up if you haven't heard of them.
I should explain, here, that for a good part of my life I didn't consider that being a woman was a disadvantage. My home, and my schools, treated me as in every way equal to boys – if not rather superior. It was only as an adult that I came across the strange idea that women were less intelligent and inferior in lots of ways to men. I still didn't believe it, of course, but it was certainly annoying.
I wrote lots of things for years, seeing little success in terms of published work. A few poems, quite a few articles – all of them unpaid. This wasn't what I was aiming for. I wanted my fiction to be both published and paid for – I needed to be a professional. Meanwhile, I married twice (my first husband died very young) and had 4 children – 2 per husband, which seemed reasonable, I used to joke. When my youngest child was ready for school, I took on a full time job, working in the Civil Service. Writing was still very important to me, but time was at a premium.
That was the first Old Seamus story, The Tale of a Teacup. I still have a great love for it. Since then, Ireland's Own has published over 30 of these Old Seamus stories, the tales of an Irish rogue who lives by poaching and tells stories going back to his own childhood or youth, full of humour, nostalgia, and sentiment. The first 12 have now been published by Precious Oil Publications, at a deliberately low price, around a dollar or 77p, so that anyone interested can easily buy them on Kindle. This is my most recent book. It went straight into the Amazon top 100 for 'romance – short stories', which was nice.
But back tracking slightly, I was very happy to have stories published in a magazine, but my aim was still a full length fiction book. Some of the signposts on the way, which confirmed my belief that my writing wasn't too bad, were winning the Cuirt International Award for New Fiction for my short story Primroses, and being short listed, runner-up, and commended in a number of other literary competitions for short stories. Around 20 of these more literary short stories have also been published by now.
Well, Harper Collins wanted a lot of changes before they would consider publishing Belfast Girls, which doesn't fit neatly into just one of their genres. But meanwhile, a number of much smaller publishers had expressed interest in the book. Among these was Night Publishing, run at that time by Bruce Esler (who later dropped out) and Tim Roux. Bruce was enthusiastic about my book, and so, in July 2010, out of the several offers made to me, I accepted a publishing deal for Belfast Girls with Night Publishing. By the end of the year, the book was out. Now, just over a year later, it's sold well over 2,000 copies and is on its way to 3,000. It entered the top 100 for its genre in March 2011, was picked as Book of the Month by the Ulster Tatler in the same month, won the Night Publishing Book of the Year Award in April, and continued to climb the best seller lists. Usually it has been in the top 100 on 3 genres in Amazon UK; Women's Literary Fiction, Literary Fiction, and Contemporary Romance. It has climbed as high as #2 in Women's Lit. Fict – my ambition, of course, is to reach #1. For the last two months it's been consistently in the top 10.
And now, as I mentioned above, the first 12 of my Tales of Old Seamus has been published, just last week, with the title The Seanachie.
I'm pleased to see these stories out in book form at last. I have a sentimental affection for them, as my first actual success, The Tale of a Teapot, is the first story in the collection. Lots of people have enjoyed these stories in magazine form, and in the podcasts I made of the first 5. I hope they'll buy it on Kindle – the same price as a bar of chocolate, and not even fattening, as the publicity says.
Now I've 3 plates to keep spinning, and I'm working on a fourth. This is a huge revision of the first book I wrote as an adult. I still think it's got something, but I can see the faults now very clearly. If I can make a good job of it, it will be out later this year. It's another romantic thriller, set between Belfast and Greece, with the new title Angel in Flight (unless I change that, too!).
Time I stopped this very long post, I think. A belated Happy New Year to you all! And you can buy my 3 books at the links below. 2 of them are ridiculously cheap, and Danger Danger is extremely reasonably priced. Hope you'll get them and enjoy them as much as others have done.
See you soon (in a manner of speaking!)