Because I’m a bit of an eejit, this post originally went out with an error in the name of the Festival. Apologies to all! I’ve corrected it now, but my sentiments, gratitude, and exhortations to attend some events if you can, remain!
I was privileged and delighted this past weekend to be asked to appear at the International Literature Festival, Dublin! It was a fantastic experience. I haven’t taken part in a festival, as a guest, for several years now, and it was the best possible reintroduction to the fun and excitement that comes with sitting on a festival stage.
I spoke on a panel (where two or more authors are interviewed together, each of them tackling the same questions and often getting into interesting conversations with one another) with author Janelle McCurdy (whose brilliant debut, Mia and the Lightcasters, came out last year), and our moderator was the awesome Shane Hegarty, author of the Darkmouth series, the Boot series, and the Shop of Impossible Ice-Creams series (all top-notch). We talked about how we get ideas, how Janelle and I wrote our books, what the challenges (and triumphs) were in the writing process, which books we loved as kids and how they helped to make us into writers, what advice we had for budding authors, and – in a question from our brilliant audience – what jobs we’d like to do if we couldn’t be authors. We then had the joy of meeting the children who’d come to hear us and spend some time signing books (always a highlight of the job!)
I also had the joy of hanging out with other authors, and meeting people who I’ve been chatting to online for years, but who I’d never had the chance to meet in person. I was delighted to meet Lindsay Galvin, Hannah Gold, and Efua Traoré, for the first time, and to reconnect with my writer friends Eve McDonnell and Olivia Hope. Children’s writers really are the best of the bunch! (We’ve had the joy of interviewing Efua, Eve, and Olivia on Storyshaped Podcast – click their first names for links to their episodes.)
Huge thanks to the crew at ILFDublin, especially the Children’s and Young Adult Programmer, Janet Smyth, for asking me to take part this year; my most heartfelt gratitude to Janelle and Shane for making the event so much fun, and my biggest THANK YOU of all to the kids and their families who came to listen, who asked such brilliant questions, and who handed me their well-read copy of The Time Tider telling me ‘I really liked your book’ as I signed it for them. Those moments truly are the reason I do what I do.
And if you’re in Dublin or environs, and you’re not up to anything much, check out www.ilfdublin.com and see what’s going on in the Festival tent! The Festival runs until this Sunday, 28th May, and there’s plenty more fun to be had.
So, writing – in general – is a dream. Being published? Definitely a dream. Staying published? Getting so far into dream territory that I fear I’ll never find my way back to terra firma.
And this year, I get to experience something that, to be honest, seemed so unlikely to happen to me that I’d never even tried to dream it. Who was I, to think things like this might happen? And then… without my even planning it, or aiming for it, or thinking about it, this thing happened anyway.
In 2023, probably for the first and only time in my writing career, I will have two novels published. Two full-length stories, brimming with words and images and adventures and peril and laughter and friendship and all the things that make a reader’s eyes grow wide. The first has already hit shelves – THE TIME TIDER, which was released from Little Tiger Books in February and has been receiving some excellent press attention as well as lots of great reviews. Here’s an article I wrote which appeared in the Irish Daily Mail:
And here’s The Time Tider as the Sunday Times (Ireland edition) Children’s Book of the Week:
But one of the most challenging aspects of being an author, sometimes, is keeping things under your hat. I had a very busy 2021, writing-wise – I worked on two books, several picturebook texts, and a couple of series for younger readers. Most of that work was rejected, or hasn’t found a home yet, but the two novels were a different story. One of them was The Time Tider.
And the second? That one was called The Silver Road.
The Silver Road, in its draft form, won me an Arts Council Literature Bursary in 2021, for which I was incredibly grateful; the money saved me from a period of financial uncertainty, and the fact of being awarded meant that I received a boost in confidence. The Arts Council – An Comhairle Ealaoín! – believed in me, and in my work, and thought that it had merit. I can’t express how powerful that was.
When the book went on submission in late 2021, there was a flurry of interest in it. I had never had a book go to ‘auction’ before (which is how it’s described, in publishing, when more than one editor at more than one publisher is interested in bidding on your manuscript) and as soon as it became evident that Ruth Bennett at Piccadilly Press was the editor likely to ‘win’, I was delighted. Ruth and her team understood precisely what I wanted to achieve with this book, and they were so excited to acquire it. That excitement and sense of magic has prevailed, almost two years later (during which time I could say PRECISELY NOTHING about how delighted I was – hence the ‘keeping things under your hat’ thing), to bring us to the point we’re at now. The book has been announced, the amazing cover (by the brilliant Croatian artist Manuel Sumberac) has been revealed, and all that remains is for Ruth and I to polish the text and get it ready for publication on September 28th this year. Mark it in your calendars!
Here’s the blurb, to whet your appetites:
Myth and magic combine in this unforgettable adventure drawing on Irish folklore, from award-winning author Sinéad O’Hart.
The seandraiocht – the Old Magic – isn’t remembered like it once was. Its power is fading…
When Rose is entrusted with a powerful stone by a Frost Giant, she is swept into an adventure full of danger. The stone can be used for great good or great evil, depending on its keeper. It leads Rose to discover the magic that runs through all of Ireland. A magic that is threaded together beneath the land: the Silver Road. But the Silver Road is under threat.
Now Rose must keep the stone from falling into the wrong hands and embark on a quest to find its rightful owner and keep the magic alive . . .
A stunning new fantasy adventure for children, drawing on Celtic folklore. Perfect for fans of Catherine Doyle and Ross Montgomery.
The Silver Road is a book that came right from my heart, and one that’s rooted firmly in the folklore and magic of Ireland. It’s a story that has been a long time brewing, and one I’m deeply proud of. Manuel’s cover is exactly what I hoped for, and I am so excited for the story to be out in the world. So, if you like, you can click HERE and check out the preorder links (some are likely not to be working yet, as we’ve quite a way to go before publication), but I’m sure I’ll be yammering on about this all year, so never fear. You won’t have a chance to forget about it. You’re welcome!
Needless to say, I’m extremely happy about all this. And if ever there was a way to prove how important it is to dream big dreams, no matter who you are, I think this situation is that proof. Dream big dreams – even the ones that seem too big for you.
I really hope you’ll all enjoy The Silver Road! (But, in the meantime, I have lots of other books you can try. Happy reading!)
Last weekend, my fourth book (FOURTH! Can you believe it, because I can’t) was launched in the beautiful surrounds of Halfway Up the Stairs bookshop in Greystones, Co Wicklow. It’s one of my absolute favourite spaces – bookshops are the best, anyway, and children’s bookshops are the tip-top, and Halfway Up the Stairs is Ireland’s only dedicated children’s and YA bookshop (as far as I know…) So, there really wasn’t any better place to throw The Time Tider at the world.
It was a truly wonderful day, and I’m grateful to so many people – my publishers, Little Tiger Books, for sponsoring lemonade and cookies (which were YUM) and for sending over the fantastic George Hanratty, a colleague I’d never had the privilege to meet in person before; my agent, Polly Nolan, who (as I said in my speech) is the person whose fault it is that any of my books are in print in the first place (thanks, Polly!); my family and friends and everyone who was able to come and join us on the day.
My absolute favourite face was this one:
Here I am with the radiant Susan Cahill, my Storyshaped Podcast co-host (and friend of over twenty years). Susan and I have been in regular contact over those years, and we’ve been working closely together since last summer, but we hadn’t actually physically seen one another since about 2006… so it was an emotional moment for me to see her gorgeous face again. I’m so grateful to her for coming all the way over from London and all the way out to Greystones, just for me.
There were speeches (first George from Little Tiger, saying lots of impossibly lovely things about me), and then I got a chance to thank some dear folk, including some that couldn’t be there – like my brother, and my parents-in-law.
Then, my friend and fellow author Eve McDonnell put me through my paces with a quick-fire Q&A, where I got to talk about how I became an author, what advice I’d give to my 8 or 9 or 10 year old self (short version? Believe in yourself – daydream as much as you can – wonder about the world – Always Be Curious – and never leave home without a pencil and paper) and what’s coming next from me. (I couldn’t possibly say…)
Books were signed (none were singed, which was a relief); I got to greet and chat with lots of brilliant young readers, including the absolutely fantastic Méabh from Bookmonster (whose channel you should DEFINITELY check out – she and her brother are the best video book reviewers in town!) and the amazing BotsBookShelf, whose book review blog is packed full of brilliant reviews and interviews. Kids of today – they’re incredible!
It was a fantastic day, made perfect by the wonderful people I got to surround myself with, and topped off with a sprinkling of story-magic which made everything that little bit better. Thank you so much to Trish and her team at Halfway Up the Stairs, to everyone at Little Tiger Books, to everyone who was there on the day or who sent me good wishes from afar (you were all remembered), and most especially of all, to the young readers I met and had the joy of chatting to. It truly is all about you. It’s a privilege to create stories for young readers – the most astute, the most tuned-in, the most demanding of, and deserving of, the very best writing that we can give them – and it’s a privilege I don’t take lightly.
So – without any further ado or embarrassing gloopy emotional crescendos, it only remains to say: THE TIME TIDER IS OUT IN THE WORLD! GET YOUR COPIES NOW!
Thursday, February 2nd, sees the official release of my fourth book, The Time Tider. I’m delighted to see it out in the world, being as it is the first idea I ever tried to query with agents (and the one which first caught my now-agent’s attention, even though it took me a few more tries to actually snag her), and it’s a book which has been part of my imagination for over twenty years, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
The cover was designed by Sophie Bransby at Little Tiger Books, and the art was done by the wonderful Abigail L Dela Cruz, and the words are mostly me (with a lot of very in-depth editorial help from Ella Whiddett and Melissa Gitari, for which I’m extremely grateful).
If your favourite bookshop isn’t on this list: never fear! The book is available to order through any bookshop, and I’d be delighted if you’d ask for it wherever you get your books – and that includes, of course, your local library. Libraries are AMAZING and authors love it when readers ask for their books to be added to library stock, so if you’d like to read my books FOR FREE, look no further than your local library.
And to celebrate the book’s arrival into the world, me and Little Tiger and several wonderful book bloggers have teamed up to put together a Blog Tour! Here are the deets:
We’ve put together some great blog posts giving insight into the book, how I wrote it, where it came from, and lots more – and you can access all these posts, from February 6th to 17th. There’ll also be a Q&A with me where the questions were so thoughtful and interesting – you don’t want to miss that.
Keep an eye on the blog over the next few days for more celebratory posts – The Time Tider is nearly here, and I’m a happy author!
It’s that time of year again, when things are drawing to a close and we’re thinking about all the things we’ve done (or not done), and all the goals we hit (and those we missed). I’ve been thinking about my year of reading, and how on earth to sum it up in a few short paragraphs.
So – as will surprise precisely nobody – I read a lot. Probably not as much as some people, but certainly more than average. I’m a fast reader; I get sent a lot of proofs (advance reading copies) from colleagues in the publishing world, and I like to be able to read them and get back to the person who sent them to me as quickly as I can, but sometimes being a fast reader can have its drawbacks – particularly at times like this, when you want to draw up your top ten books of the year, and you find you’ve got fourteen, and then you’ve taken the photo before you realise you missed a pile over here too, and oh! what about this one? And how could I have forgotten this one, etc.
So, basically, what I’m trying to say is: here’s a photo of my top ten fourteen books of the year, but they aren’t the only brilliant books I read in 2022. I’ll try to remember to mention them all.
A thrilling eco-themed story about Cam and his friends, who live on Cetacea, an island where whales are worshipped like gods – but is the whale whisperer, Byron Voss, telling the full truth? A brilliant, unforgettable book.
Bren has lost his sister, and the only place he can find comfort and refuge is in Furthermoor, an otherworld where his sister is still alive – and where everything runs on clockwork. But when a threat arrives both in Furthermoor and Bren’s ‘real’ world, how can he survive?
Laugh out loud and zany, with a deep emotional heart, this brilliant new book from the ever-excellent Jenny McLachlan is a perfect 8+ read. Ghost pirates, a hapless (but courageous) heroine, and a race against the clock make this unputdownable.
With Traoré’s signature mix of modern-day life and folkloric myth, this Nigerian-set story is unique and gripping. It features genuinely spooky spirits, family dynamics, and a heart-pounding mystery to be solved.
Zo is lost in the forest at night – and what was a familiar space now becomes a place of darkness and danger. She meets a boy, lost in mysterious circumstances, and together they must try to make sense of the terrifying truths they’re discovering.
A warm-hearted fairytale about a family of tailors with the power to stitch magic into the garments they make – but when a long-forbidden spell is uncovered, can Hen get to the bottom of the mystery, as well as save his family business?
And, to be honest, so many more. This year (as is increasingly the case) was a brilliant year for books, stories, and reading (though not so much for bank accounts and shelf space). I’m always of the firm opinion that books are the best presents to get everyone during the festive season, if gift-giving is part of your traditional celebration (I mean, there’s a reason why books are so easy to wrap, right?), so I strongly urge you to go down to your local bookshop armed with this list of recommendations, and if you have anyone in your life who enjoys a brilliantly-written story, you can’t go wrong.
Happy Holidays – and, from me, a hearty Merry Christmas. I hope you’re taking some time off to relax over the next few weeks, and do make sure to find a quiet corner in which to curl up with a book.
Today, I am so excited to share the cover for my new book, The Time Tider, which is coming from Little Tiger Press (and me, obvs) in February, 2023. The absolutely incredible Vashti Hardy, an author whose work (and whose general existence) I absolutely love, was kind enough to do the official reveal this morning over on Twitter…
…and here it is!
I’ve got to thank so many people, principally the entire Little Tiger team responsible for bringing this gorgeous cover to life. Designer Sophie Bransby has brought her creative magic to all my UK/Ireland covers, and this one is (I think) her best yet. Illustrator Abigail Dela Cruz (I still can’t quite believe someone so talented has done the artwork for something I wrote) has brought Mara Denbor, my protagonist, so perfectly to life that I’m blown away every time I see her. Everything about this cover is exactly what I hoped it would be, and I’m helpless with gratitude over here.
The Time Tider has been in my head for a long time. Astute and long-time readers of this very blog might remember, or know, that its actual title is ‘Clockwatching…’, and I gave it that name back in 2012 because, at that time, I was working on a story which I was calling Tider, about a girl named Maraika Denbor and her father, who lived a very unusual life for very unusual reasons, and that there were characters in the story known as Clockwatchers – about whom I’ll say no more, for now. But I hope that anecdote shows how long I’ve been dreaming of this story, planning it and trying to write it. The Time Tider was one of the first ideas I ever had, over twenty years ago; it was the idea that sparked my brain into proper ‘I can be an author’ gear, and the idea that really filled me with the desire, and the need, to write. I’ve been trying to write it ever since, and I’m so glad to say I’ve finally succeeded.
And to whet your appetite, here’s the blurb:
Mara and her dad have lived in their van for as long as she can remember. Whatever her father does to scrape a living has kept them constantly moving and Mara has never questioned it. That is until she uncovers a collection of notes addressed to ‘The Tider’, an individual responsible for harvesting lost time from people whose lives were cut short.
But before Mara can question her father, he is taken by a dangerous group who want to use his power for evil. With the very fabric of time and space at stake, it’s down to Mara and her new friend Jan to find him before it’s too late…
The Time Tider hits shelves on February 2nd, 2023, and if you like the cut of its jib, please do consider pre-ordering it through your favourite bookshop, or through some of these handy links:
At the end of July, I co-founded a podcast. It’s called Storyshaped, and it’s so much fun.
My co-host is the brilliant Susan Cahill, whose debut children’s novel is being published next year. Susan’s book is called The World Between the Rain and as soon as it’s available, I urge you to go and grab a copy. (I’ve had an early peek. It’s brilliant). Every week, we get together to have a natter about books, and stories, and how important they are, and we welcome a new special guest each Thursday to talk about these things with us. Susan and I both firmly believe that the stories we read (or experience) as children have a powerful effect in shaping our lives, and these stories can shape not only our future careers, life-choices, and dreams, but also the work (creative or non-creative) that we go on to do.
I wrote an article about how we decided to put the podcast together, which you’re very welcome to read. Basically, I explain how Susan and I – who’ve been friends for many years now, but who’d never somehow managed to talk about books before – reconnected over our shared love of the same children’s books, which we’d read and loved in childhood. We realised our philosophies about the power of stories were very similar, and from there it was a simple leap of logic to kick off our podcast. It’s been an extremely steep learning curve, but it’s been so rewarding.
If you haven’t checked us out yet, I really recommend you do. The podcast is aimed at everyone, primarily adults who enjoy children’s books, but if you’re a person who’s interested in hearing from writers and other creatives about their work, their process, and the stories that they credit with inspiring and shaping and encouraging them during the course of their life, then Storyshaped is for you. So far, Susan and I have done some ‘deep-dive’ episodes into some of the books we found particularly captivating as children, and our guests have discussed things as varied as throwing the hammer (as a sport, not just flinging tools about), the Challenger disaster, libraries built into the walls of a castle, parents who had tabs in their local bookshop, and so much more. We have loads of wonderful guests lined up, with some fantastic episodes already recorded (we’ll be going hunting for a Sweet Tree! And potholing! And so much more!) and there have been so many people eager to come to speak to us that Susan and I feel we’re only getting started. Get on board, and join in!
So please come and listen in! Search ‘Storyshaped’ on your podcast streaming service of choice, and don’t forget to Like, Subscribe, Share the episodes, and (importantly) Rate and Review the podcast, to help the algorithms to find new listeners who might be interested in what we’re doing. We hope you’ll enjoy STORYSHAPED!
Today, my dear people, this very day, August 12th 2022, marks TEN WHOLE YEARS since I started this crazy journey towards becoming a published author.
Ten years since I left my last paying job, where I had the comfort of being an employee, and leapt headfirst into an unknown world, a world of self-employment, uncertainty about income, uncertainty about everything – and I haven’t regretted a single moment.
That’s not to say that it hasn’t been hard, at times. Of course it has – I’d be lying to you if I said it’s been plain sailing, all this time. I owe so much to so many, primarily my husband and immediate family, for their support and care. I started my writing journey with nothing more than some savings, a head full of ideas, and my fingers firmly crossed, and since then I’ve gained a kid, an agent who has stuck with me through good times and bad, a Literature Bursary from the Irish Arts Council, and more book deals than I can actually talk about yet (sorry…)
And I’ve been published. Several times, now. Which is a sentence that never gets stale.
Being published, and then staying published (an infinitely harder thing to do, by the way) is the single biggest privilege of my life. I have worked hard for it, and I continue to work hard for it, but as well as that I’ve been immensely lucky, and I’ve had a lot of people in my corner. I want to thank my agent, Polly Nolan, and all the editors I’ve had the privilege of working with so far – Ruth Bennett, Katie Jennings, Ella Whiddett, Melissa Gitari, Melanie Nolan, Caroline Green and Sarah Thomas – and every member of every publishing team who has handled any of my stories. Everyone – cover artists and designers, proofreaders and copy editors, rights people, PR bods, sales and marketing teams and so many more – have such vital roles to play in getting books into readers’ hands, and authors owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.
When I started my writing journey, I knew it would be tough. I knew I would face rejection; I knew the mountains I’d climb would be steep. All that has proven true. I didn’t anticipate some of the mental challenges that came along with publication – much like parenthood, I don’t think anything can prepare you for it besides going through it yourself. Being published, for me, has been a process of attempting to unlearn lessons I spent my life, up to that point, learning by heart: lessons like ‘you’re not good enough’. Lessons like ‘nobody cares what you think’. Lessons like ‘who do you think you are, to try to tell the stories in your heart?’
Those lessons were hard ones, and unlearning them – a lifelong process, which I haven’t mastered yet – is harder still.
My writing career hasn’t propelled me to the heights of fame, nor has it brought me riches or stability of income. But none of that matters. I know that I can walk into a bookshop and, most of the time, I’ll find my stories on a shelf. I know that children all over the country, and further afield, have read my books and that they mean something to them. I know that I have more stories to come.
But the greatest feeling of all is knowing that some of you have been here all this time, through the last decade, following my journey and cheering me on, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. Happy Tenthiversary to Us. And thank you all for every comment, every cheer, every read of my blog posts, every time you’ve purchased or read or recommended my books or my writing – it all means so much.
And don’t forget to stay tuned… because believe me, there’s more to come.
Last week (even though, as so much has happened since, it feels like last year) my old friend and fellow author, Susan Cahill, sent me a text asking about Alan Garner.
Anyone who knows me, or who has been around these parts for any length of time, will know that Alan Garner is my personal hero. He’s the author whose work has had the most profound effect on my life, and on my career(s) – as he, in a roundabout way, helped me to become a medievalist before he prodded me towards writing books – and so I was thrilled to know that Susan had discovered his work, too, and was interested in talking about it. She’d started reading Garner’s work in the opposite direction to me, beginning with the more challenging books like Red Shift; I began by reading his incredible novel Elidor, published in 1965, and only ‘graduated’ to Red Shift in my twenties, when I felt intellectually capable of appreciating it. This is not to say that Elidor doesn’t require attention and care; it does, and as a ‘children’s’ book it’s unsurpassed in its command of sparse language to evoke massive themes, but Red Shift (and so many other books by Alan Garner) are on another level in terms of the meaning their author can convey in the smallest space. They’re like singularities, in book form.
All of this talk about Alan Garner is coming to a point, I promise! Not only has Garner finally turned up on the longlist for the Booker Prize this year with his most recent book, a masterpiece entitled Treacle Walker which I urge you to read, but our shared appreciation for his work led Susan and I to decide to do something we’d both been considering for a while: start a podcast.
It’s a podcast about the stories that shape us, and the stories that we go on to shape – whether those are stories we write, draw, film, or create in some other way, or stories we point others to, or the stories we make from our own lives. We are all living stories, and every one of us is shaped by stories, though I feel many people don’t realise the extent to which this is true. Storyshaped aims to ask the questions: which stories have shaped you? How have they shaped you? And how have they helped to shape the stories you have gone on to tell? Stories are the chain that connects us, past to present to future, and in them we hand down our history, our humanity, our deepest connections. Our podcast will welcome a different guest every week, and Susan and I will aim to discuss these big, and interesting, questions with them – and with one another. I hope you’ll tune in!
I hope, more than anything, that Storyshaped will get you thinking about the stories that have shaped you – and that it’ll help you to revisit those stories, and discover lots of new stories to bring you on journeys of untold possibility…
And, of course, please do get in touch if you have any suggestions or feedback on the podcast! Our Twitter handle is http://www.twitter.com/StoryshapedPod, and our contact email can be found in the shownotes of each episode.
Last weekend, I took part in the brilliant UCDFest, a festival held on the campus of UCD, or University College Dublin. UCD is not only my alma mater but also a place I worked for several years. It’s a haven of happy memories for me, and because of the state of the world since 2020, I haven’t been there in such a long time – so it was a real joy to get to go back, and to visit The Campus Bookshop (one of the places I used to work), and, of course, to talk about books and creativity with some very cool young (and not-so-young) readers.
I delivered a talk called How To Be A Storyfinder (which is one of my faves), where I try to encourage young folk to join me in being a Storyfinder – essentially, a person who notices all the stories that are everywhere, lurking in plain sight, hiding around corners and up trees and wrapped around lamp-posts, just waiting to be discovered. Stories are always looking for imaginations to land in, places where their seeds can take root and grow – so, who’s to say that imagination can’t be yours?
I got to meet some very lovely people, I was given a Harry Potter examination (which I failed, getting one question right out of four fiendishly difficult ones), and I answered some excellent questions: how long does it take to write a book? (As long as it takes!) What’s it like, getting published? (Tough, and challenging, but very worth it) Which of your books is your favourite? (I can’t answer this one!)
Thanks to all the UCD crew for organising such a super – and incredibly big – festival, and a HUGE thanks to the staff of The Campus Bookshop, especially my wonderful former manager Colm and his colleague Clare (who has been one of my favourite people for a few years now, despite us never having met in person until last weekend) for setting up such a gorgeous space, facilitating the talk, and letting me scribble on some books, and the HUGEST thanks of all to everyone who came to hear me, those who wandered in and just happened to stay, those who listened to me reading from SKYBORN, and those who bought some books at the end. You’re all stars! And I’m a very grateful author-type.
SKYBORN is one year published as of last Friday, speaking of which, so if you fancied picking it up, giving it a whirl, and maybe leaving a review in one of the usual online spots, that would be fab?