My grandparents got married in Riverchapel Church in Co. Wexford in 1910. A lovely little, red-bricked church that perches prettily, high up on a hill.
I remember as a small child, being sent off for a walk with my grandmother in the afternoons when we holidayed in Courtown. These walks always ended up standing at the gate while she told me of their glamorous wedding day and the red carpet that led from the ornate iron pedestrian gate (no longer there), all the way up to the church door. I loved the romance of it all, especially the bit where she told me that they went to America on their honeymoon and stayed for nine months. However, it was only later I discovered that there had been a plan to emigrate, with a view to setting up a life there.
What drew them to Boston was that my grandmother’s uncle, Michael O’Keeffe, from Darragh, near Ennis in County Clare had gone over in the late 1800s and set up a grocery store. This uncle employed many of the relatives who followed him across the Atlantic in his burgeoning business. His venture eventually mushroomed into over 1600 supermarkets along the east coast of the United States and he was always in need of good staff. My grandfather worked for a while there, but my grandmother was unsettled and wanted to come home to Ireland to have the first of their nine children. And so it was that they only stayed in the States for about a year and hence, many years later I came into the world as a true born Irishwoman.
I didn’t know all this until I delved into genealogical research which reunited me with the American descendants of the original emigrants. Thus, I had the inspiration for my ‘Lives’ trilogy – a wealth of stories, many of which formed the basis for a fictional family saga.
My lucky break came as a result of winning an opportunity to ‘Meet the Publisher’, one of the competitions that formed part of the Wexford Literary Festival 2020. This resulted in a 3-book deal with Poolbeg Press. While delighted with this breakthrough, the unfortunate thing was, we were in the middle of the Covid pandemic – book shops and libraries closed for part of the time, no launches or book signings and no library readings, but still I had an exciting project to keep me occupied during lockdowns.
Publishers, with their hands tied behind their backs, were understandably wary of launching new authors onto the market, and so, some hedged their bets and released on Amazon only and thus my debut novel Lives Apart saw the light of day.
And then came Brexit. A disaster that saw chaos in the pricing system for anyone outside the UK. At one stage I saw it was costing over 30 euro to acquire a copy of my book from Amazon. Not exactly encouraging readers to purchase. But then I discovered Book Depository where books could be bought without the complications that Brexit had thrown up, thereby sidestepping Amazon. Calamity averted.
I’d been looking forward to the whole social side of having a published book, but now with the unusual circumstances that faced us all, I had to learn new skills. Not technically gifted, I was forced to jump into the sea of social media and become a Facebooker, Tweeter and Instagrammer, in order to survive. Betwixt many a slip I’ve cracked it, sort of, and while I’m not what you’d call a natural, I did enjoy being interviewed for Podcasts and Zooming into Book Clubs, some in America. Oh, the wonders of technology that I’ve been introduced to.
The first two books of my trilogy Lives Apart and Lives Without End were published on Amazon during the past year and a half but the good news is that now with the end of the pandemic in sight, Poolbeg have distributed my debut novel Lives Apart into bookshops around the country.
(c) Anne McLoughlin
About Lives Apart:
Lives Apart is a tale of emigration from Ireland to America after the Famine.
In 1877 young Johanna McNamara leaves her quiet life on the family farm and emigrates to America to join her successful businessman brother Hugh. Full of hope, she is determined to make a success of her life. However, tragedy strikes before she finds her feet in this new world, and she must put the care of others before her own needs.
Back in Ireland, farming life for the family continues through the seasons, with her brother Art struggling to deal with his troubled son Declan. Sending him to the USA is an option that might help turn him into a man.
Little does Johanna know what lies ahead, with the arrival of a nephew whose act of betrayal will blow her life apart.
Set in Ireland, Boston, San Francisco and Nova Scotia, ‘Lives Apart’ explores the experience of emigration, both for those who had the courage to venture across the Atlantic and those they left behind.
Published by Poolbeg Press and available in bookshops now.
Order your copy online here.