My debut novel, Green Dawn at St Enda’s, was born after visiting the Dublin tourist attraction, Kilmainham Gaol.
Standing in the execution yard I learnt of the 1916 Easter Rising, a rebellion that attempted to end British rule in Ireland. The Rising ultimately failed; the leaders were shot at dawn for treason. The story of the Rising and, in particular, Patrick Pearse (one of those executed), haunted me.
Pearse was, like me, a teacher, running St Enda’s school for boys. Like me, Pearse was also a writer. Fascinated by a man with whom I shared two principle occupations I wondered how a writer and headmaster ends up facing a firing squad. As an author, the only way I could answer this question was to write, or rather, rewrite in fiction, Pearse’s story. So I began researching factual accounts of the Easter Rising, transforming them into a fictional narrative.
Embarking on this project was daunting; people warned me against rewriting, in fiction, a legendary aspect of Irish history.
I ignored them because I’m stubborn, was obsessed by the story I wanted to tell and had the encouragement of close friends and family, crucial factors that aspiring writers should, I feel, cultivate.
With three years invested in the novel, I began looking for publication opportunities that would see the novel released in 2016, the Rising’s centenary, all to no avail. So, believing in the novel, I did further work on it with Middlesbrough based Writers’ Block. Laura Degnan there helped me cut the beginning, which was too slow.
After these edits the novel was longlisted in the Irish Writers’ Centre’s debut novel competition and shortlisted in Cinnamon Press’s debut novel prize. Finally there was hope.
Cinnamon, whose mentoring scheme is fantastic for new writers, saw enough in the novel to work with me and a year of editing resulted in a tightly crafted text that Cinnamon offered to publish, along with, to my overwhelming delight, the two novels that will follow Green Dawn in what has become my Celtic Colours trilogy, the story of a tumultuous century in Ireland. To have a three book deal with a well-respected independent publisher is, like my trilogy, ‘epic’. Now I just have to survive the hectic excitement of book promo events while finishing part two of the trilogy, Herself Alone in Orange Rain (scheduled for release: autumn 2017) and writing part three!