Are you Irish or Irish-American?
My ancestors hail from the Emerald Isle, but we weren’t your typical Irish-American family. Mom was a lapsed Catholic, Dad’s folks had gone Protestant a couple of generations back, and he was a teetotaler to boot. And not one of us kids took step-dancing lessons. Although I was attuned to the Celtic vibe, Scotland, not Ireland, was my thing.
When I was seven, my dad went to Edinburgh on an academic fellowship, and brought back a doll for me, resplendent in Highland attire. Really, this lassie made Barbie pale in comparison. Dad also brought home a record of Scottish reels, recorded by Jimmy Shand's band, which had me prancing around the house in (a bad imitation of) a Highland fling. Then, when I turned twelve, I discovered Sean Connery and his Scottish brogue. For me, it was Scotland Forever!
So how did you start writing Irish love stories?
Around the time I was mooning over Sean, I discovered romance novels. I deserted my beloved “Little House” books and Little Women for something a bit racier: Gone with the Wind. Scarlett and Rhett, Margaret Mitchell’s unforgettable Irish-American hero and heroine, had given me something new to swoon over. Suddenly, I thought it was totally cool that I was Irish on both sides of the family.
Fast forward twenty years…I started my first piece of creative writing ever, a novel. It was a romance with a tortured hero and a haunted heroine, who happened to be Irish-American. After finishing the book, I continued to write love stories, each one darker and angstier than the last, but I hadn’t quite found my groove. Then came my real Irish revelation.
Not long after I remarried—to a guy who had Irish ancestors too!—I stumbled upon Maeve Binchy’s novels, and couldn’t get enough of her Irish voice. The same year, my daughter and mom visited Ireland, including a stay in County Monaghan, where Mom’s people are from. They came back with a treasure trove of photos, guidebooks, and Irish knickknacks, and Ireland was back on my radar screen in a big way. Soon after, I went to see Edna O’Brien, the famed Irish writer, at the local bookstore. Well, it was a Perfect Storm of Irishness.
But the true tipping point was the evening I was listening to “Thistle and Shamrock” on the radio. As an Irish tune came on the air, a mournful ballad about the sorrows of emigration, tears came to my eyes, and I got a shiver up my spine. These were my people in the song. Could there be an Irish voice inside me?
They say you should write what you want to read. I decided to write the Irish stories I longed for, about love and family and what it means to be Irish.
By now, I’d written several novels, but my Inner Irish Girl was finally getting kinda tired of dark stuff. Then came Marian…Keyes, that is. This Irish author’s novels were about brave, funny young Irish women bumbling their way through relationships and life, and I read every book she published. Suddenly I was writing more lighthearted stories, and I created Aislin (pronounced “Ash-lin”), a klutzy single mom heroine, and the little Irish village of Ballydara, in the West of Ireland. It Only Takes Once was born.
You've also written a homesteading memoir...how did you change from Irish fiction to a real-life story?
Some years ago, my husband and I made a move to follow our dreams. Lifelong city dwellers, we sold our home and moved to a rural acreage to live a slower, more self-sufficient life. Well, if trying to start up a little homestead doesn’t interrupt your writing, then you’re doing something wrong. Working Berryridge Farm was my new life--after loving Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, it was like coming full circle.
After a year and a half, however, I was eager to write fiction again. But out of practice, I developed a near-terminal case of writer’s block. Desperate to write something, anything, I began scribbling about our homesteading experiences, and within a few weeks, I’d written another kind of book, a memoir: Little Farm in the Foothills.
But then you started making things up again?
Yep--back to fiction. I wrote some short stories, then began my Morgan Carey series for kids.
But I love writing Irish stories best, and I can't get enough of all things Irish—books and films, travel articles,
recipes, slang, politics and culture. My Village of Ballydara novels now include Mother Love and
The Hopeful Romantic, with a fourth book, The Galway Girls, coming soon!