Helen Broderick

Location: County Kerry, Ireland

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Helen Broderick was born and lives in county Kerry, Ireland, where her children’s and cosy crime novels are set. She comes from a long tradition of storytellers in her family. Her home was a rambling house where stories were told, music and dances were held. She is a member of creative writing groups Just Write and Writers Ink for several years. She has been published in four short story and poem collections and won prizes for her writing. She was short-listed for a Penguin novel competition. She returned to education as an adult and completed a degree in Marketing and M.A. in Screenwriting. She loves to write captivating stories that readers can escape into.

Current project

Helen has submitted the first in a possible series of children’s novels, aimed at 9 to 12 year olds, to agents and publishers. The story follows Rory, a Celtic chieftain’s foster child, as he competes for the coveted position in Fionn McCool’s elite army’s training camp. Along the way he learns about the mystery of his parentage. All the while dealing with the chieftain’s jealous son and the machinations of gods and goddesses of the Tuatha dé Danann.

She has also written cosy crime novel and is looking for a publisher. It’s pitched as Midsomer Murders meets Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling books.

Writing sample

Opening chapter to a children’s novel.

The Shape of Home

She had been trying to find the place again. A way home. Tearing through a patch of briars that snagged at her cloak, almost pleading with her to stop as if they knew something she didn’t or didn’t want to acknowledge. She pushed on under the trees. Another time she might have stopped to admire the glory and ripeness of October in all its changing browns and yellows and red-berried hawthorns but the drive to get there propelled her on.

‘Fan, a cailín.’ The man said. ‘Nílim chomh óg le tusa.

Wait, did he say? Wait, girl? She tried to remember her irish from her school days in Duagh National School. The rest was lost to her in his heavy accent and fast speech. But she supposed it was normal to him.

‘Cá bhfuil on ráth?’ She said slowly. She hoped that was right.

She waited until he drew level with her. He fixed the old animal skin cloak around his broad shoulders, bear or wolf maybe. It made him seem half animal. Though his smile when he looked at her told her he wouldn’t harm her. That was the first thing that told her she could ask him for help when she appeared at his fort, cold and wet and lost.

He’d taken her in, given her food, let her warm herself beside his open fire. His children hid from her at first, like shy deer, until they slowly got used to her, inching closer, touching her strange brightly coloured clothes. The food took some getting used to. What she wouldn’t have given for some red sauce to add flavour or a hot chocolate sachet for the warm milk he had offered her. Chocolate! She would kill for chocolate but he had no chocolate. There was no chocolate in all country not to mind his house.

The whole thing made her realise she was so far from home, yet so near her old home. So near she could feel it. She could imagine there would be some markings in the earth. The rectangular of it. The porch. The walls. The doorways. The shapes of rooms she’d lived in. The old familiar comforts. Somewhere to rest her weary self. But that was another time and place.

When she’d heard the man talking one day to another man saying something about Odhran’s ráth it somehow clicked in her brain. What a fool she had been. Of course she couldn’t have travelled far. It was the trees that confused her. All the damn trees, growing everywhere, with no sign of the patchwork of fields she knew so well.

She counted back on her fingers. Yes, it was almost six months since the start of May or May Eve to be precise, when she visited the fort. Her grandfather always used to point at the old ring fort from their field across the valley, saying the Good People used to come down to it at certain times of the year. He’d tell tales of how people got entranced by their music or encored their anger by cutting a branch.

When her grandfather had died she’d gone there to find if the stories he’d told were real, that there was magic in the world like she’d believed as a small girl. But there had only been a ditch with pieces of stunted hedging and barbwire. She’d even pulled herself up to stand on the side, hoping to see lights, little people dancing or even hear music. But there was nothing.

She had stood there waiting. A dog barked far off. The moon stared blankly down. They were only stories. Magic wasn’t real. Her grandfather was gone. She was alone in a wet field with cars driving past in the night. They must be wondering what the fool was doing in the field at that hour? Or were they heading home from the pub not noticing? Like she should be. She kicked at a crooked branch caught on the laces of her runners.

All she remembered when she woke was the blue sky above her and the world changed almost beyond recognition when she stood up again. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t find her way home. Now she hurried to the same spot hoping with all her heart that she could get back.

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