I always considered myself a voyeur of words, not a writer, joining them to make flowing sentences, let alone develop into a story. Having a science background, I thought my left-handed brain wouldn’t connect with the right to make anything remotely creatively interesting. But I always loved reading and the worlds it brought me to. So from my first Ladybird book, I got lost in the world of magic. However, I liked the idea of sitting in a Paris café drinking coffee like a Hemingway (without a cigarette).
After the birth of my second child, Ciara, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and became a stay-at-home mum and gladly devoted my time to motherhood. I kept busy doing online courses. Two of my three children were dyslexic. I learnt about dyslexia and even doing an online course to teach it.
In 2014 my fourteen-year-old daughter Ciara told me to do something with my life other than drinking coffee in town with my friends, in Kilkenny, not Paris. So I enrolled in an NUIG Creative writing course in Kilkenny. I was surprised to see how easily the stories flowed once I put pen to paper. A short story I wrote on the course made the long list of a writing competition in the UK, and over time the story evolved into my debut novel Dublin’s Girl.
The idea for the novel came from my great aunts’ experience during the War of Independence. I love research and had to do a lot of it for Dublin’s Girl. Unfortunately, I knew little about the War of Independence and the subsequent civil war. The civil war created divisions in many Irish families, and mine was no different. My grandfather had been politically involved in the War of Independence, but after the civil war turned his back on politics refusing to speak about it. So I had to do a lot of historical research on the War of Independence.
The novel is about a young girl from Cavan in 1917 fighting for her Independence as a woman, but she ends up fighting for Irish Independence.
Unfortunately, my daughter Ciara passed away suddenly in 2016 while at a Kodaline concert in Dublin. She had an underlying heart condition, and the hospital had apologised for the loss of a test that would have diagnosed it.
I put writing aside, but my grief counsellor encouraged me to go back to it but found it hard to focus through the labyrinth of grief which is not as straightforward as the Keublar Ross stages of grief. There are many other challenges to grief, like madness and the loss of concentration. With the encouragement of my husband in mid-2018, I dusted off my novel and got a Readers Report from Writing. i.e.
The Facebook group (Aspiring Authors Ireland & UK) posted the UK Kate Nash Literacy Agency was coming to Dublin and wanted submissions from Irish writers. I met Kate and waited nervously to hear back from her. For over a month, I checked my email inbox hourly, and in December 2018, I nervously opened an email from Kate. She wanted to represent me. Three publishers were interested. I met the three of them via Zoom, and it was a strange position to be in that they were selling their services to me. I choose Head Of Zeus from the UK. They had a good network in Ireland and UK. In May 2019, I signed a three-book deal with the Head of Zeus. Dublin’s Girl was published in January 2021.
Last week, the Head of Zeus approved my second novel’s outline and published in July 2022. The book is set during world war two in Ireland, what DeValera called “The Emergency.”
It’s about a young girl from rural Ireland who went to London to find peace from her turbulent childhood. But she has to return to Ireland to care for her brother, who got wounded in the Spanish Civil War, and she encounters a German airman who crashed landed here. I got the idea when I read an Irish Times article about Germans detained in The Curragh in world war two. Lockdown is not a great time to write a historical novel, but I was able to get lots of library books online about Germans who landed in Ireland during the war. They either crash-landed or were sailors washed up by the sea from sunken submarines or ships. Luckily lockdown is over, and I have made arrangements to go to The Curragh Museum to see where the Germans were interned during the war. I still have to copper fasten the location as I have to geographically make it authentic. There was little transport in Ireland during the war due to petrol rationing. So I can’t have my protagonist quickly moving around the country escaping the authorises.
Writing has helped me deal with the challenges grief threw at me and still throws at me. Every day I carry the loss of, my daughter. But, it has gotten lighter over time. There is truth in the old adage, ‘Time is a healer,’ and most days are fine, but it’s like a game of hide and seek where grief will jump unexpectedly from the shadows and knock me sideways. It could be triggered by being a song, a robin or even a white feather in the wind.
I have two boys that I need to think about them, they lost their only sister. My husband took early retirement after Ciara passed away, and I know I am fortunate that we have each other.
The hospital recently retracted its apology. That pulled me back to the early stages. I still feel protective over my daughter, and it’s like my daughter is just a piece of paper to them.
Grief can be very lonely, you never forget your loss of a child, but people expect you to move on, and rightly so. People have problems and need to talk about theirs. And I totally understand that, and now I feel their pain which means I am healing.
Dublin’s Girl is dedicated to Ciara with the first verse of a song Kodaline wrote for her, called Angel. And I will continue the dedication in the next book with the next verse.
(c) Eimear Lawlor
About Dublin’s Girl:
Falling in love with the enemy is the ultimate act of betrayal…
1917. A farm girl from Cavan, Veronica McDermott is desperate to find more to life than peeling potatoes. Persuading her family to let her stay with her aunt and uncle in Dublin so she can attend secretarial college, she has no idea what she is getting into. Recruited by Fr Michael O’Flanagan to type for Eamon De Valera, Veronica is soon caught up in the danger and intrigue of those fighing for Ireland’s independence from Britain.
The attentions of a handsome British soldier, Major Harry Fairfax, do not go unnoticed by Veronica’s superiors. But when Veronica is tasked with earning his affections to gather intelligence for Sinn Féin, it isn’t long before her loyalty to her countrymen and her feelings for Harry are in conflict. To choose one is to betray the other…
Inspired by real life events and marking the centenary of the end of the War of Independence, Dublin’s Girl is a thrilling historical debut from an exciting new Irish voice.
Order your copy online here.