People often ask me why I first began to write. It’s a hard question. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember – poems were a later development. When I was at baby school, I used to get a lot of praise from my teacher for the stories I wrote. I loved writing these, and I loved the praise – that’s human nature, I suppose! I read a lot, and naturally wanted to write the sort of stories I read. My mother and my older sisters had a great influence on me in this. They read the books first, I followed in their footsteps. It was wonderful to grow up in a house where everybody read a lot, and it seemed natural to do the same. My father sang to me, and sparked off a poetical response, my mother recited poetry to me, which I suppose did even more to make me a poet. My older sister took me to the library as soon as I was old enough to join. I am grateful to them all.
But although I’ve been writing since my childhood, it’s only recently that I’ve had a full-length novel accepted and published. I’ve had nearly fifty short stories published, which has been very encouraging, especially as several of them have won prizes or been short listed in major competitions. My story Primroses, for instance, won the Cuirt Award in 2005. But my ambition has always been to have a novel out there, and after quite a few rejections, I’d begun to think I’d never reach my goal. It was when I heard about Night Publishing, a new publishing company, through a friend on FaceBook, that things started to happen for me. Bruce Esler, who had read my book Belfast Girls on www.Authonomy.com – the Harper Collins site – and admired it, wanted to see the manuscript and so I sent it along and Tim Roux, his partner, agreed that it was something Night Publishing should take. Needless to say, I was over the moon!
Belfast Girls is the story of three girls growing up in the new, emerging Belfast, after the ceasefires, and of their lives and loves. It is also the story of the men who matter to them. It is a thriller, a romance, a comedy – like most people’s lives. But it has, I hope, a lot more depth than that suggests.
The three girls come from different religious backgrounds, and, starting off as childhood friends, they manage to hold on to that friendship. There’s kidnapping, drugs, high fashion, prison, the spiritual awakening of one of the girls – glitter and danger side-by-side. This is a book that both men and women can enjoy and that they will feel holds something for them.
Growing up, as I did, during the troubles, I was very aware that all over the world there was a very simplistic view of what was happening in Northern Ireland, i.e. people seemed to believe that all Catholics thought one thing, and all Protestants thought something else, and that all Catholics hated all Protestants and vice versa. I knew that wasn’t true. It was so much more complex than that. Many on both sides of the divide were horrified at what was happening and only wanted peace and reconciliation. I wanted to write something to show, without lecturing, that a lot of ordinary people in Northern Ireland had no problem with each other – it was just a small percentage who were fighting; and another relatively small percentage who supported them. By the time the book was finished, the troubles were over, so recently I rewrote it to reflect the same thing in the current climate. Of course, like any writer, I also just wanted to write a book, whatever it was about. I had various characters in mind from the start, and I wanted to develop their lives.
It’s been a great surprise and a delight to me to see my novel doing so well. When I first read the review by the Ulster Tatler which chose Belfast Girls as its Book of the Month in March, I couldn’t believe it. When I saw Belfast Girls listed at No. 54 in Women’s Literary Fiction on UK Kindle early in March, its first appearance in a top 100, I thought I must have misread it, and even more so when the book went on to reach No 8. And when it reached No. 26 in Romance on USA Kindle, that was amazing. The final shock came when I heard I had won the Night Publishing Book of the Year Award. And yet, having said this, I’m daily hoping and almost expecting to see my book go up the charts even further and I’m so excited watching as it keeps on climbing!
You can buy Belfast Girls as a paperback at
and on Kindle for £1.39 at