It’s hard enough writing a novel, no matter writing a 461 pager about a continuing sensitive and painful subject matter. After I left Ireland and from my extensive travels I’d be asked time and time again, “What are these troubles in Northern Ireland all about?”
I believe people’s opinions were formed from what they read, saw or listened to in the media and most of the time, if not all, their opinions were biased and misunderstood. For these very reasons, they are precisely why I wrote the first book in the Stones Corner series. I wanted to educate. I wanted people to truly understand why the troubles started and why they continued for so long. However, I had to remain objective. It was vital that I was unbiased and told the story from every aspect. I believe I have achieved that through my descriptions and tales of living in Derry in 1972 and beyond.
Caitlin McLaughlin is just like any other teenage girl: during the week she works as a secretary at the Rocola shirt factory in Stones Corner where she has become secretary to her boss’s dishy nephew James. At the weekend she likes music and trips into the city with her best friend… but this is Derry 1972. A simple trip to the shops can lead to life-changing injuries or death and staying at home in the Creggan Estate can be just as dangerous when the British troops and the RUC come raiding, house to house.
Robert Sallis is a private with the Royal Fusiliers, recently posted to the city. He’s repelled by the way some of his fellow soldiers behave; wary too of civilian feelings running high against the occupying army. Accidentally separated from his patrol in the Creggan, he is discovered by Caitlin hiding in her family’s garden. He expects the worst but, having seen enough violence too close to home, she does not give him away. Instead she prefers to daydream about her charming boss who has made his feelings for her plain.
A Catholic girl from the Bogside and the Protestant heir to a big local employer… In her youthful innocence, Caitlin believes their love can overcome the triple obstacles of politics, faith and class. Meanwhile Robert, newly recruited to British undercover forces, is closing in on an IRA cell planning a strike in the heart of the city. In the backdrop are two opposing psychopaths set on the same destructive and violent path. One that can only conclude in nothing but a cataclysmic and ruinous encounter.
The Stones Corner series is made up of four books, Turmoil, Darkness, Light and Hope. A journey through the shambolic origins of the troubles in the North of Ireland, to the years of light and hope as the people slowly lifted their heads and finally achieved peace. Peace after 30 years of turmoil and darkness. We still hold this hope. Hope that those few from all backgrounds and who sadly still possess that indoctrinated sectarianism will – with time – allow this hatred to dissipate so we can all live in continual peace.
I have to admit that getting the book published was a task I under-estimated. I was determined to get my debut novel Stones Corner, Turmoil out in the world. I believed in it. I’d never written anything like it in my life but I knew I just had to see it in its full form. There is no-one out there who will ever tell you that those emails/letters of rejection from publishers or agents don’t hurt. If they say they don’t, they’re lying. What’s worse is when you see a letter coming through the door in a fancy white envelope and you’re filled with excitement only to find as a naïve author, you’re being offered the chance to get your book printed but at a price – vanity publishing! I’ll never forget that moment when I mis-read the first of many and then minutes later only realised they were looking for money upfront. So be wary. I felt I’d failed.
What’s worse is those agents and publishers who eventually respond (few do and if they do, it’s months later), some blatantly admitted, “Never have, never will have anything to do with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, good luck!”
I had to get published – somehow – and so I took a huge risk. I cashed in my pension, ordered 2,000 copies of Turmoil and even developed my own ordering platform so I didn’t have to use Amazon or similar. As big as Amazon is, time and time again it doesn’t appear to be an ally of independent bookshops. As readers or writers, we must ALL support these wonderful passionate businesses who were barely struggling to survive even before COVID and lock-down.
I’ve contacted as many local newspapers and radio stations as I can and I’ve been very fortunate in their support especially my local ones. I’m paying for on-line and traditional media specialists who have proven to be extremely useful. I’ve attended various Irish Writers Centre sales and marketing workshops etc. I’m also getting terrific reviews from Turmoil readers whom I’ve never met (not related or friends!) and who’ve already pre-ordered Darkness!
Although I’m doing everything and more that I can possibly do – I’m still not content. Why?
Many an early morning I’ve looked for the answer and of course being in a locked-down COVID world doesn’t help! I can’t get out and share my books. I want to see people, talk to them, listen to them, answer their questions and I’m stuck. We’re all stuck!
However, watch this space! Turmoil is a great read – believe me, look at the reviews on my website and facebook! And, if I have anything to do with it, one day I’ll be up there on that red carpet with an award in my hand. We all have to dream don’t we? Otherwise life would be far too empty!
(c) Jane Buckley
About Stones Corner – Turmoil
A Catholic girl from the Bogside and the Protestant heir to a big local employer… In her youthful innocence, Caitlin believes their love can overcome the triple obstacles of politics, class and faith. Meanwhile Robert, newly recruited to British undercover forces, is closing in on a terrorist strike in the heart of the city centre.
Stones Corner Turmoil is part one of a series of books portraying life in Derry/Londonderry in the 1970’s. As a “factional book”, it covers a great deal of issues encountered at that time by both sides of the sectarian divide including conflict, cruelty, divided loyalties, strong family ties, gallows humour and star-crossed lovers.
Order your copy online here.