Kieran, you are back with a new book, this time a ghost story, tell us all about it.
The book is set between Mayo and Dublin in 1996. It follows the outcome of a chance meeting between two males, which is seemingly innocuous but actually shapes their fates. Their loved ones are also affected and the world of the supernatural comes into play and mixes well with the natural wild beauty of Mayo. Obsession and possession are central themes, and the story shows how one incident can literally haunt a person forever.
Why did you decide to write a different genre than your previous book?
I have a diverse array of interests in life and I like to think that my writing reflects this.
Was this new genre more difficult to write?
Not really. My first book, The Boys of Ballycroy, was more of a labour of love and I had a lot more research to carry out in order to ensure that the novel corresponded accurately with the traumatic events that shaped the period 1909-1924. Whereas Mayo Ghost is set in a period I actually lived through; so it was great to be able to feature things that I couldn’t in the first book i.e. mobile phones, computers, televisions, sports cars – all of which would have changed the Black and Tan War had they been invented back then!
Why did you decide to put your daughter on the cover? Is she delighted with it?
One of the ghosts in the story is a seven year old girl and I was trying to incorporate that into the cover design. My daughter is younger than that but people keep saying she looks older, so I chanced a couple of photographs and Claire the designer came up with a cover that I could not resist. Most of the family did not recognize her, which is good, but she is delighted and got a great kick out of telling her teacher. Hopefully in years to come she will be able to impress her friends by saying she once was a cover girl! In any case, the fact I’ve been able to publish two books is largely down to the sacrifices made by my wife and daughters and this is one way of showing that it is not just an individual effort.
What happened at the book launch?
I was delighted that an old friend Noreen Heston, now a successful politician and the Mayor of Castlebar, was available to carry out the official duties and she made a touching speech. It was superbly hosted by David and Catherine in The Castle Book Shop, Castlebar who were of immense support to me with the first book. I was surrounded by loads of family and friends who made the occasion very enjoyable. Some of them travelled very long distances, so I will be forever grateful. Of course it was good to see some new faces too, people who had heard about it and wanted to find out more.
I must add that the community of Ballycroy held a reception for me on the following night, which was in effect a second launch, and I was very honoured by the tangible goodwill I experienced in my home parish.
Have you got much feedback from the book?
Yes, about twenty people have got back to me so far – some of them strangers – to say that they found it “a page-turner” and “impossible to leave down” so I am delighted with that kind of response. Even on the day I collected the book from Lettertec I was thrilled that one of the staff told me that she had read it and found it “exciting." That type of feedback is very rewarding and makes all of the effort worthwhile.
What have you learned from the selfpublishing experience that will help you with this book?
Technicalities such as formatting, font size and layout were easier for me this time having been through the process before. The staff at Lettertec were as helpful as ever in giving advice. Getting the book ‘out there’ and promoting it is still the most difficult element. It seems that many writers are out of their comfort zone once they leave the laptop or typewriter behind and face the world with their story, but again Lettertec provide valuable guidance in how to try and maximize publicity for your book.
Has the attitude to selfpublishing changed since your last book?
As it has only been a year I haven’t noticed any major shift, but I am so grateful that self-publishing is available. I would gladly speak to anyone who wants to find out more about it from the author perspective, and try and help them to see what a good way it is of realizing an ambition.
Where can people buy a copy of your book?
As it is only recently released I have yet to get it into as many shops as I would like, but the main stockist is The Castle Book Shop (094-9024422) who also have it available online at www.mayobooks.ie . I can also be contacted directly via the Mayo Ghost facebook page or on 087-6859499.
The question that your readers will all want to know, are you working on book 3?
I am planning it – even though I have told everyone that I will give them a break in 2015! Book No.3 will be a comedy, and I am excited about it. I would like to base it in an actual Irish town but think I may have to go with a fictional town. I have the main characters formed but don’t know the ending, which is all part of the experience, it would be less enjoyable if I had it too planned. After books featuring wars, death and ghosts, it’s time to go with something light-hearted!
Finally, any advice to would be selfpublished authors?
I would advise them to speak firstly with someone like myself who has been through the experience, and can flag what to look out for. I would try my best to describe the joyous feeling of holding your finished book in your hands for the first time; and then encourage them to reach that goal themselves.
Have you learned anything since your last book?
I have learned quite a lot. That it is important to have a top-quality product to offer. That it is difficult for many people to have ten, fifteen or twenty euro to spare to spend on a book. That many people share books (i.e. I’ve been told that ‘The Boys of Ballycroy’ has been read by “half of Boston” – even though only a single copy appears to have reached there!). But above all, I have learned that one of the most ‘moving’ experiences for a writer is knowing that your book has ‘moved’ the reader – that is a special experience to absorb and is fulfilling feedback to receive.