The idea for my most recent novel, Echoes of Grace, came from years of reading classics of the romance genre. Being a teacher, I get to study stories like The Great Gatsby and Wuthering Heights, and of course, analyse the ‘whys’ and the ‘could’ve beens’ with my students. Inspired by passionate tales of lost love, I decided to write a proper romantic novel with genuinely nice male characters and a gorgeous heroine. So, Echoes of Grace came about.
George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones was another big influence when writing Echoes of Grace. I was fascinated by hero Jon Snow’s story – how his dying mother begged her brother Ned to look after her son. How he had no idea about his noble birth. The idea for Grace and Aurora came from that. Secrets and legacies and all that jazz.
My mother Ann was supremely important in shaping who I am today. I’m very lucky. I still call her up when I have a problem. At seventy-one years of age, she is still as astute and as active as ever. Recently back from a trip to Peru with my father, she never stops and never lets her age slow her down. She has that razor sharp West Cork wit. No one has notions around my mum. She has a saying for everything, like ‘What’s wrong with you, Caragh? Tell me right now. I know you boiled in oil’ or ‘Do you think I was born yesterday?’ with a raised eyebrow.
She is hands down the most amazing woman I know.
So, when I was writing about Aurora – a young girl denied that relationship with her mother – it made it all the more poignant. I could see how Aurora yearned for information about Grace. The fact that she was almost a mirror image of her only added to the tragic element. I felt for my character – I could see why she felt like there was always something missing.
Writing romance novels began years ago. I met an old school friend of mine recently and she said, “How are the books going? God, I remember you in school, writing stories when you were supposed to be studying your physics.”
Like Proust when he ate the madeleine, I was thrust back into the past.
Suddenly, I remembered those books – dramatic tales filled with affairs, murders, suicides and fame – all the ingredients of an adolescent fantasy. Then I realised that I had been writing since I could hold a pen. In one way or another. Even ‘My News’ in Junior infants, back when I was five years old, was filled with drama and hyperbole. I embellished everything, often portraying my family as maniacs, just to entertain my teacher.
Then in UCC, I wrote the odd article for The University Examiner. Then there was a lull. I started teaching French and English full-time, got married and had five beautiful children. As you can imagine, I was a little bit bit busy so I didn’t start writing in earnest until 2011 – the same year I started a Master’s in Education at UCC. Now, this may seem odd. Why would someone start writing a romance novel when knee deep in academic research? Sounds bonkers, I know.
However, irrespective of being flat out, I still managed to produce my first draft of Indecision, which I self-published on Amazon. Then came the second book Regrets and then the third, Promises. I had a small cohort of ‘fans’ and I had many a wine-fuelled book launch. Then a friend of mine organised a book critic to review my third book for a national newspaper. The review was more positive than negative, so I sent it to two or three publishing houses. Poolbeg Press took notice and the rest is history.
So now I have four books published. The Follow Your Heart trilogy and now Echoes of Grace. The trilogy is the love story of Luca and Lydia, set predominantly in Cork and sometimes in New York. ‘Echoes of Grace’ is a new story but has cameos from characters in the trilogy. I remember reading Jilly Cooper when I was younger and loving that cross-over aspect of her novels. Rupert Campbell Black would pop up all over the place and I adored that. It was familiar to meet an old character and exciting to see him in different contexts. I’m hoping my readers will be just as happy to meet Colin McCarthy again. Hands down, my favourite character in my own books.
I have two more books in the pipeline and they will be released over the next couple of years. If romance novels aren’t your thing, I also write the odd travel blog and I’m currently working on an academic research piece on using Twitter as a teaching tool in a second language classroom. Yep, I’m deadly serious.
If you want something done, ask a busy person. And boy, am I a busy person. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
(c) Caragh Bell
About Echoes of Grace:
Even in death, love survives.
Grace Molloy was the darling of the theatre scene. Young and dazzling, she gave it all up to marry the playwright Henry Sinclair, thirty years her senior. Then, one stormy night, she died giving birth to her daughter, Aurora.
Left with no memory of her mother, Aurora is raised by Henry and her nanny, Maggie, in a huge old house on the Cornish coastline. All the little girl has of Grace is a portrait – a painting of a woman in a white dress, her beautiful face frozen in time.
Aurora grows up, resembling Grace in looks and talent. She pursues her dream of being on the stage and soon achieves great success in the world of theatre, like her mother before her. Then a secret unfolds – a secret that could threaten all that she holds dear . . .
Echoes of Grace is the story of a young woman who, having overcome a painful past, must now embrace it to find her real self.
Order your copy online here.