Capturing a publishing company in the first three chapters was not what I set out to achieve. Writing Our Diligent Souls, I aimed to tell the story of a deeply connected group of individuals that could be stretched to the limits of adversity and yet still thrive. I knew I wanted to make the comparisons of town and city attitude, to take the fallacy of ordinary life and turn it on its head. A place where an unlikely romance might in finality, find its feet.
The diversity of worlds within this island is so immense, no one gets the opportunity to be part of all of that. There was a need in me to show the wonder of places that are undervalued in our culture, the atmosphere and intelligence behind avenues still out there to explore. The humorous antidote of assist and protect that brings to the table Ireland’s feckless yet illuminating nature. The story needed a bold phraseology, a social insight and a half psychotic dip stick to allow the atmosphere crackle.
It’s insightful the way we relate to each other, the way other countries relate in comparison. Attempting to articulate this, as writers we emulsify, mixing one liquid preparation with another, two completely immiscible liquids used to make a teaspoon of medicine palatable, the framework and the folly.
Translating the very Irish tradition of wake and wedding, supplies an impetus of enormous importance in respect of how we are understood as a nation. We are more than rain dodger and coal fire worshipers, truth be told were not all drinkers. I knew that in other countries as in our own, Our Diligent Souls would make a wonderful coming of age book. Though the funerals were not specific to my own experience, but I shared a commonality, an awareness for our younger reader in that respect.
To share a night at the dog track, to listen to the banter of the bookies, the tandem overhead, airing the insight of the greyhound world’s tradition keepers and the opposition of the animal rights contingent that is all too often veiled in ignorance. With the book, we negate the muddy waters of corporate coffee chains, and ramble through the cobbled side streets of Dublin to find that independent eatery where they’re building a sense of community. Even diligent souls need to eat.
On a daytrip to St George’s Market in Belfast, at every turn, we’re hit by a lingering waft of hunger-inducing headiness; the fragrant Indian curries setting our senses ablaze, that and the sizzle of juicy meat and fried onions. The oak smoked cheeses that melted on the toasting machines, right next door to the warm blissful lure of melting chocolate as it’s poured on top of marshmallow covered crepes. The hot steaming vapours flowing downstream like a temptress on a tailwind; the crispy batters and buttery goodness of mouth-watering herbs. The other-worldly array of dishes in reds and strong mustards; holding captive the imagination, seducing the public to move closer for a non-committal glance.
Getting to the nitty gritty of all the key players was mind boggling, juggling every comment, lying in bed at night repeating the edits and additions that played havoc with my sleep. Finally admitting that if I didn’t get up and scribble this stuff down all would be lost by the morning. It was no simple task, keeping a storyline fresh and the rhythm on track, leading me to the realisation that if I had had a life, I’d have lost it.
I missed the memo on the 90,000-novel word count, hands up. With subplots and individual storylines, I ran up a total of 143, 962 words, but let’s call that value of money, eh? I’ll admit to one foible, predictability has long since been an enemy of mine, and one chapter rarely follows another. You won’t fall asleep at the wheel as there is devotion in the detail, in saying that, it’s not a book you’ll finish overnight. Who doesn’t love a bit of subterfuge, grown men and women not always knowing the effect they have on one another, sometimes knowing too well.
Oden is the only semi non-fictional creation in the book, he’s a gifted games development student with a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, and ADHD, where chronic impulses abound without any sight of defiance in this case. The conditions that define Oden are modelled from the antics of my rare and exceptional son, though their characters are quite different.
I have managed to steer clear of replicating anyone I ever knew, while giving a quiet nod to the colourful array of people that I’ve been lucky enough to encounter in my lifetime? With a variety of backgrounds and a plethora of characters, we get to engage in the difference kinds of family life that exist here. For every paragraph I only wish I could have wrote a chapter.
The myth that this was a complete work of fiction faded briefly three years in, while I was sitting on the bog in my bathroom, cross my heart. It came like an eclipse, my life up to that point zip locked to the entire story by an over-riding sensation, regardless of how hard I laboured to avoid it. Every relevant element of my forty-eight years is a shadow dancing on the bloody pages, even down to the spelling of the names. What a wonder it has been to write a book.
A small dedication if I may to a friend who passed in the process, I talk to you my sweet bustle of roses, you that started as a living, growing potted plant, I have missed your edge amongst the posies, for you did push to understand, intuitively so. With you someday, I’ll unwind my tackle and listen girlishly to the distant song of the birds.
(c) Emer G.M. Lawless
About Our Diligent Souls:
Our Diligent Souls explores Ireland’s traditions of town and city life; using a mix of culture and occasion to hallmark attitudes.
Mark navigates his way through a course full of adversities and diversions to find himself.
Sternly disciplined and rigorously simple; he stands undaunted to the point where he turns on himself for the betrayal of his former employer, a man that he lovingly emulates.
Emily is mindful and secretive, a singer-songwriter of immense talent who has been forced to live with the grief of abandonment. Surviving without any family from an early age, she views the world as Mark does from the outside looking in.
Separated by the reality of their career choices the two friends attempt to re-invent their connection. Where some characters leave an indelible imprint; others form the basis for the sheerest and most earnest of desires.
Mark is struggling to hold down his new position as logistics manager for an international shipping company in Dublin. Dealing with the conflict and manipulations that are engineered by his superior Ralph Mournaghan, Mark is forced to constantly weigh his career advancement against the comradery of his previous employment.
Fortunately, Mark has great friends; Siobhan and Elliot are creative modern-day eccentrics who love to feed and entertain. Through the couple, Mark is introduced to Emily, a girl with immeasurable talent who is held back only by her loyalty to the past.
Mark’s two childhood friends, Brian and Alfie have emigrated to Australia though Brain is forced to return, first, for his father’s funeral and then later to stand in at his sister’s wedding.
Mark’s work situation takes spectacular twists and turns. Clashed of conflict with Ralph Mournaghan cackle nervously in the background while Mark squeezes progress from his team; enough to make management sit up and take note.
Oden is Elliot’s younger brother, and a student games developer who carries the weighty conditions of ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome with enormous grace, his antenna is set to ageism, a spoonful of medicine for anyone feeling older than their years.
Mark’s friends revel in occasion, celebrating their adventures with illuminating verve though they know their own shared of hardships. Stoic and mindful of circumstance, they uncover the comparison of traditions that impact one and other’s lives. They mature in defeat.
Travelling to uniquely locations, they create ubiquitous Irish insight; the visuals and sounds at the greyhound stadium, the comparisons of city and country wakes, the gigs, the pub, the wedding, the outing to a Belfast City market. It’s a blessed perspective.
There was a time in Ireland where we felt like we could do no harm, in the middle of a civil war, we were top of the charts. The energy is the same in a time of peace with characters that are held back by attitude but only ever temporarily, before being propelled forward again in hope.
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