The Ark of Dun Ruah: Where Legends Begin and Heroes are Made | Magazine | Children & Young Adult | Interviews
The Ark

By Maria Burke

A remote monastic island, jagged mountain peaks, a blue owl, green swiftails, and the eyes of an enigmatic prophet, these were the images that filled the pages of my sketch book back in 1999. My husband and I had just moved from Dublin to Lahinch in County Clare. I found a job in the local bookshop and the owner encouraged me to read what was on the shelves so I could help the customers. That year was the first year of my marriage. Living away from the familiar city, friends and family I found I had a lot of time on my hands. I spent my days walking the country roads, reading, painting and musing. My sketch books and canvasses were filled with characters. They seemed to tell a story and I wondered if I would be able to write a book.

After I gave birth to my son Aidan, painting became more difficult. The oils and their fumes didn’t mix with my new babyworld so I abandoned the canvasses. Instead I threw myself into writing, snatching moments in between feeds and naps to put words on paper. During those years I battled with ulcerative colitis and all my writing was done on notepads as I lay on the couch. I wrote long-hand not caring about  spelling, grammar or punctuation, only about writing the story and getting it down. I felt I was running a new race. I didn’t know what was around the next corner or were the finish line was but I was desperate to tell a story.

PENTAX ImageThe first draft went down in a few weeks and it turned into a full-length novel. The writing process was like tuning into a radio station. Whatever inspiration I got went down on paper. As I write I always feel that  I’m plucking the plot out of the atmosphere and there is no end to the ideas. The characters Kerry and Simon Macken, the Swiftails and the Giant Eagles came alive in The Ark of Dun Ruah and a story of heroes emerged. While defending their friends in the face of great danger they grew in courage, love and hope. Now I’m writing the third novel in the series and my fondness for those characters lives on.

So why did it take me so long to get The Ark of Dun Ruah published? When I look back at my early writing I think that it was full of ideas but lacking in clarity. It took me years of editing and rewriting to refine the story, develop the characters and learn the craft of writing. I gave copies of it to many friends and family to read and received lots of encouragement. A school teacher friend of mine broke the book up into chapters and gave it out to her class to read on their school tour. Over the years those children came back to ask when it was going to be published. My husband is a great critic of my work. When the action slows down and the story wanders, he’s sure to point this out to me. He’s a big help with the editing process. I often read my son’s books. I think it’s important for a children’s writer to read what is current, listen to children and use believable dialogue.

Over the years I returned to the Ark of Dun Ruah between busy times to reread it and develop it more. I felt I could never give up on this book and had to persist. Almost two years ago I decided that it was close to being finished. I sent out a few emails to publishers and received encouraging words but no definite response. Then I emailed Currach Press. To my surprise they called me and told me they were interested. A few months later one of the directors rang to say they were going to publish it. His children had read The Ark of Dun Ruah and loved it. He asked me if I was going to write a sequel. For the first time in twelve years I realised my book was finally finished and that I was free to write a new novel. Almost as soon as I had put the phone down I started to write Protectors of the Flame which we’re planning to publish later this year. I’m delighted with the success of The Ark of Dun Ruah – it reached No.1 in the children’s fiction bestseller list. My life has been blessed and I look forward to writing many more books, visiting schools and bookshops, reading to the children, encouraging them to write, listening to their stories and celebrating the infinite treasures of the world of the imagination.

About The Ark of Dun Ruah

‘Where are you going in such a hurry?’ Kerry asked Pod, the blue Owl. He flitted nervously around her shoulders. ‘the eagles are after me,’ he panted. ‘they’re coming around the corner. this time they’ll get me. I’m done for…’

The quiet life of Kilbeggin is shattered when a horde of Giant Eagles descend on it. They are bent on an evil mission. Brother and sister Simon and Kerry Macken are hurled into an adventure almost beyond their control. No one believes their friend Pod, the blue Owl, when he claims that the eagles are trying to abduct him. Simon witnesses a vicious eagle attack on a mysterious stranger in a grey cloak. And it’s clear that this man has some kind of supernatural power over the eagles.

On board the legendary ship, the Ark of Dun Ruah, Pod comes face to face with the deadly force of evil, this threat comes form a remote monastic island. Does the man in the grey cloak really have power over the eagles? How can he hold back a tyrannical eagle King and his army of brainwashed hit men?

Giant Eagles are far from being extinct, they have the power to carry grown men to their deaths. What chance does a grumpy old owl and his friends have against them?

The Ark of Dun Ruah is available in all good bookshops and online.

Maria Burke lives in Cork with her husband and eleven year old son. She is a writer, radio presenter and artist. She worked as a primary school teacher for some years and her love of story telling started there. This is Maria’s first novel and the first in the Ark of Dun Ruah series. The next book is Protectors of the Flame.

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