Sunday, July 29, 2012


Unbelievable isn't how Fifty Shades of Grey and its follow-ups are dominating the summer book buying market. Not only massive sales worldwide but it's the topic of book conversation and has spawned a whole new industry in the adult toy business.

So far I've avoided it but couldn't avoid hearing that Box of Grey is a newly set up company who delivers  bondage kits to your door. And I hear on the grapevine that the business is shuddering to an impressive climax....

Friday, July 27, 2012


The programme for this dropped through the letter box this morning, though I'd already booked for the talks I wanted to hear. The Festival runs from Tuesday 4 September to Sunday 9 September and takes place in and around The Pavilion in Dunlaoghaire. As well as eminent speakers on literary matters, it includes several workshops and one-to-ones on various aspects of writing, as well as an increased section dealing with poetry.

There appear to be fewer internationally acclaimed award-winning writers speaker at the Festival this year. A pity as these names are a huge draw and they are guaranteed to attract the interest of novelists and authors

Writer of award winning historical novels, Phillipa Gregory speaking on Friday evening is my first choice. She holds a PhD for her work on 18th century novels and their readership, and in Ireland she's probably best known for her Tudor series including The Other Boleyn Girl. I've also booked for the two Americans:  Elizabeth Stroud and Richard Bausch who are opening the Festival on Tuesday evening. Elizabeth won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009, as well as a raft of other accolades. Richard has written 10 novels and seven collections of stories, and his work receives enormous critical acclaim. My last but by no means least choice is titled 'when Borgen met Mad Men', chaired by Rachel Flanagan. I adored the Mad Men series and can't wait to hear what the Emmy-award winning creator of that and other highly popular TV series such as Murphy Brown, Living Single has to say on the creative process.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


We keep hearing about the state of the book publishing industry - how awful it is, how in the doldrums, how it will never recover. And then there comes a glimmer of hopeful light. For me it was the news that a book can become a bestseller before it's even published. This phenomenon is due to Amazon's Pre-Order System. Its a huge boost for authors waiting on tenterhooks for their books to hit the shelves.

Broken Harbour by Irish author Tara French - author of superb crime novels - has achieved this distinction. Last week Broken Harbour hit number 99 on Amazon's US chart thanks to the strength of its pre-orders. It may not be due for publication in the States until next week but already it has garnered a rave review from The New York Times

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Sunday Independent's Eoghan Harris is in fine fettle as he mounts one of his favourite hobby horses: the neglect of PLOT promoted by what he calls, 'lit crits'.

He points out that from the time of Aristotle, through to Shakespeare onto Elizabeth Bowen and bang up to date with the the customers of Xtra-vision, plot is one of the most important components of fiction but that it's being neglected for character. He maintains the main function of character is to produce plot.

Literary agents Darley Anderson agree with him. Some time ago the word went out that if anyone had a great story line they should approach the London agency. And no it was not necessary to write the story: having a plot was enough. I never heard what, if anything, happened.....

Sunday, July 15, 2012


When I was a regular contributor Sunday wouldn't be Sunday without listening with ear glued to Sunday Miscellany. Then with the passage of time I moved onto other writing and stopped contributing. However I caught the programme this morning. It's magic remains potent, with some well remembered broadcasters like Cyril Kelly and Mae Leonard still contributing as well as a range of new voices.

I think fondly of Sunday Miscellany, one of RTE 1's longest running, most successful and best loved programmes. After all it was where I cut my broadcasting teeth under the generous wing of Maxwell Sweeney, producer at the time. He brought me to the radio centre and with the greatest of patience explained the difference between writing features pieces for newspapers and magazines, which I was doing at the time, and for the listened word. He taught me well as I went on to write scores of SM pieces, made radio documentaries and wrote a few plays as well as short stories, all for the radio.

Friday, July 13, 2012


I'm hoping to attend the Historical Novels Society's conference in London which takes place at the University of Westminster over weekend of 29/30 September.

The society is primarily USA-based but has a strong UK arm. Courtesy of the indefatigable Dianne Trimble we have an Irish arm - democratically operated too as we meet in both Belfast and Dublin.

HNS's London conference has an incredible line up of authors and industry experts with loads of opportunities for networking and socialising, as well. With the changing face of publishing we writers need to know everything we can about the industry...and more.

Speakers include Sarah Dunnat, internatonal bestselling author of 11 novels, translated into 30 languages: J D Davies, author of ‘The journals of Matthew Quinton’, series of naval historical fiction and Elizabeth Chadwick, author of 20 award-winning novels.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


I love being invited to talk about my writing and I especially love being asked to do so within the hallowed literary portals of a library - any library is good, but recently I was in a special library: Loughboy, on the outskirts of Kilkenny. Brenda Ward of the city library was the organising force behind the visit. She was ably assisted by Catriona from Loughboy and a team of librarians from other libraries in Kilkenny. 

Liz Walsh proud owner of the award-winning Stone House Books, one of the increasingly few independent bookshop owners, was on hand with examples of her personally selected book choices.

We had a packed house - as expected mainly women, but the scattering of men made it democratic - wine, nibbles and a lively audience. As well as my talk and questions, there was a quiz and a short story competition - very short - only 6 words. And what talented 6 words emerged.

The libraries are serviced by Kilkenny County Council and run comprehensive programmes, including Multimedia & Music Collections, Online Courses and Mobile and School Library Service. reader Developments include: Author Visits, Literary Readings, Book Clubs and Class Actvities. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


The current edition of The Author carries a most interesting titbit of Irish literary information - heartening for writers whose publishers are debating the commerciality of publishing their manuscript.

Apparently our Office of Public Works commissioned Dr Desmond McCabe in 2002 to write a history of the OPW. The completion date was 2004 and the budget a whopping  €76,184. Time passed and costs mounted to €400,000. Dr McCabe's request to extend the deadline to 2019 led to the decision to scrap the project. 

But  our canny OPW thought again; it could not allow all to be lost. So in October 2011 a book titled St Stephen's Green 1660-1875 by Dr Desmond McCabe emerged from the ashes of the project.

Copies retail at €35. To date less than 500 have been sold. The net cost to each Irish taxpayer works out at €900. Nice work Dr McCabe, if you can get it!