It is easy to get caught up with writing what is marketable and what is a popular genre especially when a writer is trying to get published. There is so much conflicting advice out there, to me it was a minefield. But I did discover that if I was ever to be published traditionally, I would have to write my novel in my true authentic voice. But to do this I knew I could not be constrained. I could not write about something that I did not feel passionate about. I could not write in a genre just because it was popular.
Without a contract but with a wonderful agent who encouraged me to write the book that I really wanted to write, I took the plunge and began writing the narrative that meant so much to me – not a book to suit a market or a genre. It was simply a story that was written that fed my soul.
I adored historical fiction, but what really intrigued me was fiction that was set in the past and the present. I spent many hours researching how to write a novel in this form. Interweaving the past with the present; I believed that catching a glimpse of the past through the lens of the present added a real richness to any works of fiction that I had read. So, with this knowledge and a leap of faith I began my book.
I have a huge interest in the fifties. As a child, I was enchanted by the old movies and great stars of that era. Stars like Gene Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day, Katherine Hepburn, Bing Crosby and James Dean. But I wanted to write about the fifties from an Irish point of view. Ireland was far from the glamour of Hollywood. It was of course run by church and state. People followed the rules and those who strayed from those rules often payed the price. I was also intrigued by how religion dictated so much when it came to marriage. Protestants and Catholics may have lived in harmony in Ireland, but there was an invisible line separating both.
‘I was brought up in a house where the stories of Irish emigration in the 1950s became my daily bread. I was not surprised that some of their ghosts had found me from across the water and were making their way onto my pages.’
I had also heard of the forgotten Irish, those men and women who had helped to put Britain back together after the war, but some ended up in no man’s land, not belonging in Britain and forgotten by their own. These people really stole my heart. Their home in Ireland was now only a memory, a cottage with the roof fallen in and weeds tangling through the windows, but to them it was still where they called home while they slept under a London sky. Their lives had not turned out as they had anticipated. The road home had vanished.
A few years ago, I visited the Dingle Peninsula and I was enthralled by how mystical it is. It cast a spell over me with its dark brooding beautiful landscape. When the mist shifted you could see The Blaskets. It was in the fifties that the people of the Blasket Islands left their Island home to live on the mainland. Their heritage and culture now a memory in the hearts of those who left, many gone from this earth.
In my dreamlike cauldron, I stirred all these images up and the narrative of my book began. Without the constraints of writing about what was marketable, or what I was in contract to do, I wrote the book I had dreamed of writing. In those dark winter nights, it almost wrote itself, the voices of the past came back knocking on my door to tell their story. My book was finished and whatever happened, I knew I had found my true authentic voice.
My lovely agent Tracy Brennan from The Trace Literary Agency sent my book out and came back with a three-part book deal in historical fiction with Poolbeg Press.
If I had not followed my true voice this book would not have been written. I am so glad that I did, it has made all the difference.
So, for anyone wondering what to write, my advice is to write what is in your soul and that is when you will find your true authentic voice.
(c) Sheila Forsey
About Kilbride House:
They still called Ireland home, although home was now only a house embedded with briars, dog roses, thistles and the ghosts of the past.
Kilbride House is set in 1954 and the present day.
In 1954 Victoria Goulding a staunch Protestant from Kilbride House on the majestic Dingle Peninsula falls in love with Tadgh Riley originally from the Blasket Islands and a Roman Catholic. They plan to elope, but religion, class, poverty and emigration must first play their cards changing their fate and the fate of those living in Kilbride House forever.
This novel was inspired by the forgotten Irish who left these shores and never returned. They did not exist centuries ago, it is still in living memory and some remain in a no man’s land. Never feeling part of this new Ireland and never fitting into a land that is as foreign to them now as when they first stepped off that boat. The Great Blasket Island noted for its rich heritage, wild beauty, culture and literature legacy became completely abandoned in the 1950s.
Victoria Goulding is a wild spirit born into a privileged family who for generations have lived in the majestic Kilbride House. Her life is irrevocably changed when she meets Canice Meagher and the life she is born to begins to slowly ebb away.
Canice Meagher is home from London where he has worked as a labourer. A gifted singer born to the hardship of Island life he is trying to forge a living back on the Peninsula. But meeting Victoria Goulding in a bog field in Kilbride changes everything forever.
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