Tag Archives: The Eye of the North

The Eye of the North Book Launch

The author, modelling her book, at the launch of The Eye of the North. Photo credit: Jan Stokes

The author, modelling her book The Eye of the North, at its recent launch! Photo credit: Jan Stokes

Last Thursday evening, in Eason’s of O’Connell Street in Dublin’s city centre, I had the great joy of welcoming my book into the world in style. With the support of my publisher Stripes Books, and the fantastic organisational skills of Eason’s management and staff, I got to drink wine, make a (terrible) speech and read the first chapter of The Eye of the North to a motley crew of friends, family and well-wishers.

It was a truly wonderful experience, and I will be grateful to everyone involved for as long as I have full use of my mind (which, hopefully, will be quite some time).

However, because I made rather a mess of the speech I had prepared – including forgetting to thank some very important people – I’ve placed the text of it here, to give those who couldn’t attend a sense of the night and to assuage my own guilt at the bits I forgot. So. Without further ado:

The first thing I think of when I look around this room full of dear and beloved people, my friends and family, is this: have yiz nothing better to do in Dublin on a Thursday evening? Thank you all for being here. Every one of you is here because you’ve been in some way helpful or encouraging or supportive – perhaps you sent a Tweet, perhaps you did more than that – and you’ve all had a role to play in bringing this book to life. Thank you all.

I particularly want to thank, of course, the staff and management of Eason’s for hosting the event for us here and making us so welcome, and my publisher, Stripes Books, who have been a dream to be involved with. Beth Ferguson and Lauren Ace are absolute gems, who’ve managed to get me out of my comfort zone as kindly as possible, and they’ve helped arrange this fantastic event which is more than my tiny culchie mind could ever have dreamt of – so thank you, Beth and Lauren. Thanks to Katie Jennings, too – Katie is my editor, so she deserves your sympathy and admiration as well as my gratitude. The whole team at Stripes are just wonderful, and they’ve made me look very good, so they have my eternal devotion. I also need to thank two people in absentia – my agent, Polly Nolan, is the first of these. Polly’s hard work, her belief in me and in this book, and her commitment to me before we’d even signed up to work together, meant that I had the encouragement I needed to keep going when it seemed like a book deal was an impossible dream. The other is author Kieran Fanning, who has believed in this book since before it was even a thing – and that support has meant more than I can express.

I won’t detain you long, but I do want to say a few small things while I have a fairly captive audience. The first is this: I don’t come from power, or wealth, or influence. My grandfathers both worked in factories, among other things; my grandmothers were in service, taking in washing to make ends meet, doing whatever they could to support their large families with very little. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to follow any artistic or educational dreams they might have had, as such things weren’t for people like them. I am fiercely proud of all of them, and of all my family, and of where I come from. The fact that I stand here today not only as an author launching her debut novel but also as a person with a PhD is an overwhelmingly emotional thing. I wish my grandparents were alive to see me do this thing, this thing they could hardly have imagined, and I hope they would have been proud of me as I am of them.

The second is: I began my reading life at home with my parents, who did everything they could to feed my mind and my curiosity, to give me access to books, and to encourage me. Sometimes I think I scared them a bit with my appetite for words and knowledge, and I think at times they didn’t understand where it came from – but I think they always knew they were raising two children, my brother and me, who had artistic leanings and a sensitivity to creativity. They helped us fly. I want to thank them for all they have done, for being entirely unsurprised at the fact that my brother is a playwright and short-story writer, not to mention the editor of a literary magazine and the holder of an MA degree, and I am what you see before you, and for loving our odd little ways. I don’t think it can be overstated that doing as my parents did and giving a child access to books, encouraging their literacy – both in terms of reading books and in reading the world around them – and allowing them to know their dreams are realisable are the best gifts a parent, teacher or carer can give. As an author and a parent, I am so proud to be a small part in that huge and wondrous process, that amazing thing where I get to share what I have been given and light the flame anew. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.

My two wildest dreams are in this room. I’m holding one, and my husband is holding the other. I am so glad to have both my babies here with me this evening, and I am so glad to be sharing all of this with all of you. Thank you.

So. If you were there – thank you so much. If you weren’t, but you’re reading these words – thank you, too. Nobody writes a book alone, despite how it feels at the time. We all need our net of support to keep us going. I’m so lucky to have one like you.

The Eye of the North Comes Home

Earlier today, I was sent a photo via email. It was from my mother-in-law, who happened to be passing a bookshop window at just the right moment, and snapped this shot.

The Eye of the North in Hodges Figgis window

When I received it, my heart leapt. This bookshop is Hodges Figgis, Ireland’s oldest (I believe), and certainly a place in which I have whiled away many happy hours over the past twenty years. It is always my first port of call when I’m in ‘town’ (as anyone who has ever lived in any part of Dublin invariably refers to the city centre) and while Dublin is, thankfully, full of bookshops, and I am not a stranger to any of them, there’s something special about Hodges Figgis. We have history. We go back.

So to see my book – my book, with its fabulous, Sara Mulvanny cover – sitting in Hodges Figgis window… well. That was an experience.

Last August, when my book was published in North America, I felt proud too. This, however, feels different. This feels personal, like the book is coming home. This feels like a circle has been closed, like the ‘me’ of twenty years ago – for whom a day like this was a distant, barely-dreamed dream – could walk into Hodges Figgis and see a beautiful foil-edged handful of a book, a book like mine, and pick it up. My book is going to be on the shelves of the bookshops of the city I called home for so many years, where I did all my growing up, where I lived and loved and lost and laughed, and that makes my heart ache with something like nostalgia and pride and pure, bright happiness all mixed in together.

I don’t know how to feel. It’s strange, this publishing a book lark. You’d think it would feel a lot less complicated than it does.

I spoke to a friend a few weeks ago, when my confidence was at a low ebb. He told me: ‘Tolkien, when he published The Lord of the Rings, said ‘What have I done? I’ve given them my heart to shoot at.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put quite so well as that. Publishing a book – particularly a first book, the book you’ve had in you for years and into which you’ve poured every bit of yourself – is exactly like placing a target over your most vulnerable self and inviting people to take aim. But somehow knowing Tolkien felt the same way makes it seem much better, even though it doesn’t lessen the sense of panic and anxiety that are always there, like a counterpoint, below the happiness and relief. Perhaps the panic and anxiety are heightened when your book comes home, when it lands on turf you know, when shops you’ve walked through in search of a perfect dream become repositories for your own story. You begin to imagine other seekers, people just like you, for whom your book might be their perfect dream – and that brings a weight, as well as a lightness.

I didn’t know any of this when I began to write. Would I have continued, if I had? Yes. Absolutely. Despite everything, this journey has been perfect, and has all happened just as it was supposed to.

So. Once more, to you – the faithful reader who has been here through it all – thank you. The road has been smoother because of your company. It’s not an easy thing, this realising of dreams, but everything is easier with friends by your side. Thank you for being part of my dream, and for cheering The Eye of the North home.

EOTN_UK_FrontCover

THE EYE OF THE NORTH front cover, UK edition (Stripes Publishing, 2018), artist Sara Mulvanny, designer Sophie Bransby

One More Week!

One More Week

Photo ‘credit’: Me (with apologies to my kid for wanton misuse of a toy chalkboard)

Hello, my lovelies!

It almost seems redundant to say ‘it’s been a while’; lately, around here, aeons pass between posts, and there’s not a lot of chance that’ll change any time soon. It’s a busy old life, this full-time-mammying-while-trying-to-full-time-write thing; I don’t manage it very well at any time, but particularly not at the moment.

And why particularly not at the moment? Well, that’s because it’s ONE MORE WEEK until my book (The Eye of the North, in case you’re new here) is published in the UK and Ireland by those wonderful folk at Stripes Publishing. One more week! It’s been busy. I’ve been contributing to other blogs about my writing journey, taking part in question-and-answer sessions, writing pieces for the Irish Times (no less), and lots of other fun stuff.

On top of that, I’ve been organising some school and library events – eek! Stay tuned for those. I’ll post more details when I have them, but here’s one to be getting on with.

And then there are the competitions! Phew. There are five copies of The Eye of the North to be won through radio DJ and general all-round media personality Rick O’Shea’s book club – you can find out more about that competition here. And if you’d like to win a signed copy of the book from my very own publisher, you can take part over here – give it a shot!

Almost lastly, there’ll be some more online writery-stuff going live over the next few days, including a piece I’ve written for #FeministFebruary that I’m quite proud of – so, in short, if you’re not heartily sick of me yet, you soon will be.

Phew. I think that’s it.

No – wait! One more thing.

My next post will likely be all about the launch for The Eye of the North, which is taking place next week in Eason’s in Dublin. I can’t wait to share photos and (hopefully) some lovely details about the night with you all. And, until then, you can have a peep here and here for ordering information, just to make sure you get your copy of the book promptly. I’ll be checking…

Now. Did anyone see where I left that Time-Turner?

 

 

Cover Reveal for THE EYE OF THE NORTH (UK edition)!

This morning, my wi-fi stopped working just before 8 am. That was unfortunate, because a very wonderful book blogger named Jo Clarke was preparing to unveil the UK cover for my book, THE EYE OF THE NORTH, right at that time.

It was one of those moments where you just have to shake your head and laugh at the absurdity of the universe.

In any case, shortly after 8 my internet came back and I was able to do what I’m urging you to do now, which is visit this lovely post on Jo’s blog and read what she had to say about my book, and her very kind words about the beautiful cover image. I’m extremely grateful to Jo, and to my publishers (Stripes Publishing), for giving me the joyful experience of a good old-fashioned cover reveal – it was so much fun, and I’m so thankful to all those who took the time to share, comment on and show their appreciation for the beautiful art which has been created for the UK publication of THE EYE OF THE NORTH.

And, because I can’t resist, I’m going to share the stupendous cover image myself. It was designed by Sophie Bransby at Stripes and drawn by Sara Mulvanny, and here it is:

EOTN_UK_FrontCover

THE EYE OF THE NORTH front cover, UK edition (Stripes Publishing, 2018), artist Sara Mulvanny, designer Sophie Bransby

So. Now you know what to look for when shopping for excellent books on or after February 8th, 2018. What do you think of the cover art? Let me know!

Housekeeping!

I’m just dropping in briefly to draw your attention to two small things which may be of interest:

Firstly, if you’re interested in ordering a signed copy of The Eye of the North, you can do so by contacting The Campus Bookshop, based in Dublin. They are reachable by phone on 00 353 1 2691384, or by email at campus.bookshop@gmail.com. There is very limited stock available, but if you want to try your luck, have at it.

Ted and bag

Ted here has already been and picked up his copy. He says The Eye of the North is ‘all kinds of awesome’, just fyi. Photo credit: SJ O’Hart

And secondly: I am running a giveaway to win a signed copy of The Eye of the North over on my Twitter page. It’s only available to US and Canadian residents, but if you happen to fall into that category, and you’d like a chance to win, all the information you’ll need is here:

If you’re not on Twitter, fear not: I shall be running another book giveaway via Goodreads in a week or two. You can slide on over to my Goodreads page here – you might as well add The Eye of the North to your shelf, while you’re at it.

I think that’s all for now! Thanks for stopping by, and toodle pip ’til next time.

If by any chance you’ve read The Eye of the North, would you be so kind as to leave me a review? Even a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble and so on can make a huge difference to a book’s visibility. Thank you!

 

The Eye of the North is Published!

The Eye of the North is published

Celebrating the publication of The Eye of the North in fitting style! Photo credit: SJ O’Hart

Today, August 22nd 2017, marks the date on which my first book was published in North America. Wahey!

I started this blog on August 20th, 2012, little expecting (though hoping, with all my heart) to one day be writing a post like this one; it’s poetic, and pleasing, and a source of such joy, to know that the dates so nearly coincide. Nearly exactly five years have passed since I started this odd journey, and this result is the one which, at times, I hardly let myself believe would ever happen.

I. Am. A. Published. Author!

Of course, the journey doesn’t end here. There are more stories to tell, more books to write, more dreams to chase. I hope to never be quite done.

If you’d like to check out the book I’ve spent all these years trying to usher out into the world, you can get yourself a copy on Indiebound or Amazon, or take a peep at its Goodreads page. I would love you to be part of my story – and if you could take the time to leave a review, or recommend the book to someone else (if, of course, you find that you don’t hate it), that would be wonderful. I’d love to know what you think of my lovable, loyal Thing, my eccentric, careful, anxious Emmeline, and all the ragamuffins they meet along the way.

As Thing would say, “Let the adventurin’ begin!” – and, naturally, thank you for coming this far with me. It’s been quite the ride. I’m glad to have had you along.

Preparing for Publication Day

As I write, it’s ten days out from the publication of my debut novel, The Eye of the North.

Ten.

Days.

This is a time I’ve been imagining since I was a little girl who loved to read and dream and think. It’s a time I’ve been hoping to experience ever since, aged twenty, I began to write my first book, about a girl called Maria and a boy called Barry who stumble through a crack in an old tree and end up in a bespelled Fairyland under the rule of a sleeping queen. (It wasn’t very good.) It’s a time I’ve seriously wondered about since 2012, when I started this blog, and made the decision to focus on writing a book, and began to look at ways to actually get published for real.

And now, it’s finally here.

I thought it would be one long buzz of excitement, but truthfully – well. Truthfully, it’s a bit scary.

Author Copy from MN

My first author copy of The Eye of the North, sent by Melanie Nolan, my wonderful editor at Knopf Books for Young Readers. (Photo: SJ O’Hart; cover artist credit: Jeff Nentrup)

The moment things first began to get real was when I received a finished copy of my book in the post, in an envelope bearing the logo of Penguin Random House, sent from New York City.

Sent to me.

Little old me? Eeek.

It arrived. It sat in my kitchen for a few minutes. And then I opened it and held it, and began to quiver a bit. This is really happening, I thought. This book, this idea you hugged to yourself for fifteen years and then worked so hard to bring out of your brain, is actually sitting here in your hands, wrapped up between boards.

It’s hard to describe how I felt at that moment. You’d think it would be uncomplicated joy – and, certainly, joy is part of it – but the joy is mixed up with fear (will people hate it?) and doubt (why did I ever think anyone would read a book by me, anyway?) and an overwhelming sense of weight, perhaps responsibility, that now this book will be in the world, readable by anyone, and maybe – most terrifyingly of all – someone, somewhere, will love it the same way I love the books which formed me.

 

TEoTN and Alan Garner

The Eye of the North meets some of its older cousins. (Photo: SJ O’Hart)

I think, if someone were to (metaphorically) cut me open, I would bleed words. Books are such a part of me that I practically rustle when I walk. The books I love are carried within me all the time; I think about them on a daily basis, bringing to mind favourite scenes, quotes, characters and even artwork to comfort and sustain me. I never thought about it from the other side until I considered the idea of becoming an author myself – I saw books, and their creators, as things and beings separate from the run of the mill ordinariness of everyday life, forgetting that they were simply people, too, who loved to dream and find words and put them down on paper, just like me. Now that I have written a book, and some very fine people indeed have seen fit to publish it, I wonder: what might it be like to enter the heart and mind of a reader, to be taken with them wherever they go, to be remembered ten, twenty, or more years from now, the cover art from my book thought of with fondness, a turn of phrase first encountered in my writing recalled with warm satisfaction?

And I think: what a privilege.

And what a frightening thing.

Books really do shape minds. They really do affect a person’s way of thinking, feeling, and seeing the world. Books foster empathy and compassion; they heighten a person’s sense of connection with the world around them and the people in it. Books make you part of someone else. They make you imagine how it would be to live as someone else, someone whose life is vastly different to your own. They draw you in and make you feel and make you hope. Is it any wonder they’re so loved? And now my story, and my characters, have become part of that giant, neverending waterfall of words and images – a tiny part, of course, a mere droplet in the flood – but perhaps someone will find a reflection of themselves in my odd little Emmeline or my gutsy, loving Thing, or my brave, loyal Igimaq and my book will become a little building block in the makeup of their mind. How amazing is that?

So, it’s not necessarily seeing my words in print which has so astounded me, though it is astounding. It’s the sense that I might touch someone (and just one person would be enough) with something I’ve written, and make them laugh, or think, or look afresh at something they thought was familiar. What a wonder that is.

It’s a tough old world out there, these days. Things are grim, and dark, and frightening. But books help. I hope you’ll take comfort in a book – it needn’t necessarily be mine, though of course I’d love if it were – and remember that no matter how terrible things might seem, someone somewhere took the time to think up a story, write it down, and share it in the hope of making things better.

Stories make things better. Stories make us who we are, both on a cultural and a personal level. Never give up on stories, and you’ll be doing the best you can to leave the world better than you found it. Tell them, write them, share them, love them, pass them on. Let them live. Live them.

Author Copies of TEoTN

Me, in my kitchen, opening a box of author copies of The Eye of the North. (Photo: SJ O’Hart)

Thank you to everyone who has been here with me since August 2012. Almost exactly five years to the day after I started this blog, I am going to be a published author – and I hope that fact gives someone hope, encouragement, and strength to find their own dream and make it real. It can be done.

So, go do it.