I grew up in County Westmeath, Ireland. I have a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Sciences and I work part-time in the field of solid organ transplantation. I now live on a farm in County Longford with my husband and our three children.
I initially thought (absent-mindedly) about the possibility of writing women’s fiction – I love a good old-fashioned love story, but there has to be more to the story than a gallop to the end. I want to enjoy the journey along the way and I want a book where every sentence is worth reading. If I feel the urge to start skimming through the pages then I know that the end is nigh.
I got married in 2000 and continued to work fulltime in Dublin for another two years; my husband and I ‘enjoyed’ a weekend marriage – no thought nor time for writing during this period. In 2002 I finally went job-sharing and moved to live full-time with my farmer husband in County Longford. Sadly, both my parents-in-law had passed away the same year that we married and so Timmy’s family home, which was a 1970’s bungalow, became our ‘new’ home. The next year saw me undertaking a lot of DIY and having our first child, but no pen was put to paper; I was far too busy doing other things!
Four years and three children later, and the idea of trying to write something even vaguely interesting was beginning to take shape in my mind again. By that point, I was beginning to realise, and more importantly to fervently hope, that in time, there would be more to my life in the home than ‘worrying’ about the housework and what was ‘for the dinner’. I also knew that I wasn’t the type of woman who would enjoy ‘frittering’ my time away in the long term by meeting ‘the girls’ for coffee and lunch. And besides, my country sisters were far busier that I was – they were not accustomed to a life of idle either!
I eventually started writing about five years ago with little success, I found the demands of three young children incompatible with the task…I could never get a good run at it! When our youngest child started school in September 2010, I was then able to apply myself. I discovered that the more I wrote, the more I enjoyed it – escapism is a wonderful practise! It became less a case of “I should really sit down and try to write something” and much more a case of prying myself away from the laptop to make the aforementioned dinner before the kids came home from school. Towards the end, I was constantly roping in my ever-supportive husband to pick up the kids and to cook the dinner!
The story of ‘Alice-Rose’ evolved naturally over time and changed its course quite dramatically from the one I had in mind initially! This was mainly due to the realisation that I needed to add more meat to the bones of the story; otherwise it would have ended up being “a boring old gallop to the end.” And for that I needed to change the storyline quite a bit!
Personally, I think it is very important to write about what you know, and secondly, that it is something that is close to your heart and that you can be passionate about. I think that you must love your characters even if they themselves are hateful individuals – again, you have to feel passionately about them and you have to believe in them.
I suppose I’ve discovered that writing is a bit like gardening, of which I am an avid fan; you can’t stick a plant, or a plot, where you want it to go and expect it to grow if the ‘setting’ is wrong – it will never work! A plot has to feel right and give you options, in other words be in the right setting, in order to work. I feel that the plot should feel fairly right in one’s head before one should proceed, otherwise persisting with a storyline that is not gelling in your mind will just lead to frustration and probably leave you wanting to give up on the whole ‘writing idea’ altogether.
On the whole, I found the subject matter of ‘Alice-Rose’ very easy to work with for a number of reasons – I am passionate about old houses, I value family highly and I was lucky enough to have a number of close friendships to draw upon for inspiration when it came to writing about the dynamics, and the rewards, of a long-lasting one.
Unfortunately, getting published didn’t prove to be so easy. I sent the first fifty pages of the manuscript to several agents, all were very positive except for Marian Gunn-O’Connor who said that my writing style needed work- she was right! I got back down to the job of improving my manuscript and then I left it on the shelf, too weary to think about approaching another agent. Most had said that they weren’t taking on new authors and others said that it wouldn’t fit on their particular lists.
In the meantime, word was spreading among family and friends that I had written a book. Those who read it claimed to love it. Then one day I received two newspaper cuttings in the post from my sister-in-law’s mother about the very successfully self-published author Amanda Hocking and the possibilities of self-publishing. It inspired me. And here I am now, three thousand euro poorer but free from the manuscript gathering dust on the shelf. I self-published through Xlibris (an unlikely name in some regards…not as reassuring or as familiar as Amazon) using the premier package and found the experience to be a very positive one.
For anyone out there who has ever thought about writing a book, the best piece of advice that I ever read was just sit down and do it! If you don’t make the time, it will never happen.
Lastly, many thanks to all who have bought, or intend to buy, ‘Alice-Rose’. I hope you enjoy the story and that it provides a little restorative distraction. Kindest Regards, Caitriona.
About Alice Rose
The year is 2011 and the place is Ireland. Libby Finn is still shadowed by grief after the death of her husband Max. The era of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ has come to an end and the young widow has managed to survive the economic downturn better than most. However, despite seeming to possess every obvious advantage, Libby is resigned to a somewhat-less-than-rosy future, and one destined, in her opinion, to be without a great romantic love.
While many, including her best friend Jules Mahon, may think that they know what’s best for the gorgeous and talented Libby, the girl herself has other plans, and they don’t include a love story! These plans are for a place, a childhood dream, a country estate called Alice-Rose. Nevertheless, love has a way of finding those destined to have it, especially in a place where two evenly-matched hearts find the opportunity to know each other well. Libby’s dream estate becomes more than she has bargained for when it introduces her to a passionate love interest who himself has been ‘burnt by the fire of love,’ and a match played out with earthly concerns follows a difficult path to romantic paradise.
“Romance becomes a wondrous thing in Caitríona Leslie’s hands. All the finer nuances of tendresse and emotion are brilliantly captured by her characters. Her novel is told from two viewpoints – that of one potential suitor named Dan Bryant and that of the main character, Libby Finn. This approach affords unique insights to the reader and allows the circle of uncertainties that often dog romance novels to be effectively completed. This is Leslie’s first novel, a breakthrough work in multiple senses of the word. The language stays studiously in the genre but assures all who love romantic fiction that the pioneering spirits of Austen and the Brontë sisters are being remembered by a current talent.”