Storytelling – who we are...
Ireland is called the land of Saints and Scholars – well, I’m not an expert on the Saints part, but certainly, we’ve had our fair share of bards, poets and wordsmiths. For us, the storytelling tradition is very strong. The best parties are marked by the stories told at them as much as the stories told afterwards.
We have been storytellers since long before St. Patrick himself arrived here. We have tales that date back many hundreds of years, Cuchulainn – the hero, the Children of Lir – children turned into swans and of course, our own great love story – Tir na nOg. While much of our tradition was handed down orally due to the Irish political situation – the stories were strong enough to stand the test of time. Some might say we clung to them as we clung to our land and to our flag. With the relegation of our native Irish language to a poor second place; it could be that our myths and legends are what make us who we are.
Here’s a representation of Tir na nOg on a Valentines Day Stamp some years ago.
Each year, our storytellers dominate the best of’s across the boards. There isn’t a long list complete if you haven’t included a name like Mc Inerney, Barry, Enright or Baume – and these exciting new voices are only following in the footsteps of a long institution that seems to manufacture fabulous wordsmiths like other countries produce bananas or motor cars.
For me, the big influences were a tad lighter in tradition. I grew up adoring Maeve Binchey, Deirdre Purcell and then later, laughed my way socks off with Marian Keyes and Patricia Scanlon. Of course, I never actually thought I’d be able to write anything like them, although I did dabble constantly in other genres. The women’s fiction category while it held a fascination also held a certain mystique. Give me a good old murder any day – I knew where I was with a dead body, a clock ticking, the ubiquitous hard drinking detective and his sassy sidekick!
But still, Women’s Fiction beckoned…
The problem, as I saw it then was actually writing the women! I mean, men are easy enough to write, aren’t they? We (women) assume that they don’t have quite the range of emotional intelligence that we have – ergo – much easier to capture on a page! Right?
Well I thought so.
Then one day, a funny thing happened to me! It was suggested that I write something for women – something in the vein of… (best to leave the name out I think – you may laugh out loud – because I don’t think I managed to get close.) But, once I actually sat down and thought about it, I let go of all my preconceptions of what I should write and I just wrote.
And I loved it! Like those old men, that are rarer than hens’ teeth these days, who can launch into a story and captivate you for an hour bringing you on a journey that may or may not end up at a destination, I was hooked.
I began to write about people I knew – not really knew, but people who I could bump into in the local supermarket. The characters in my books are mostly Irish women that I would go for coffee with or be quite happy to have them sit in my kitchen while we extoll the virtues of any topic you care to think of. My stories follow their stories – because here, where still, in small towns, everybody knows everybody else – stories, whether good or bad keep us riveted. Of course, we love a happy ever after, but all the same, we enjoy a good wallow in all the drama along the way until we get to the very end. The women in my stories are just like you and me, only their lives are a bit more complicated and whether they laugh or cry, I hope the reader goes there with them and roots for them to the very end. They have become real people and I think, it might just be not so much because they’re Irish as it is because I am.