Today, I am delighted to be in the company of fellow Irish historical fiction author, Anne McLoughlin, who has dropped by to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
You are very welcome, Anne, please introduce yourself:
Born in Dublin, I now divide my time between there and my home in rural Wexford.
With my working life in television production with RTE behind me, I’ve now embarked on a new career in my retirement. Writing a novel was always an ambition, but until recent years I didn’t have a strong enough inspiration to spur me on, but that’s all changed now, since I had a brainwave.
Highly commended in the Colm Tóibín International Short Story Competition in the Wexford Literary Festival, this gave me the encouragement to really get stuck into working on my ‘Lives’ trilogy.
A 3-book deal with Poolbeg followed.
Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?
I didn’t choose a particular genre, I just sort of fell into Historical Fiction as my novels span a one hundred and forty year timeframe – from 1838 to 1978.
Researching my family tree led me to County Clare and the USA and during the process I uncovered fascinating stories. The inspiration for my books came from that experience and gave me a host of ideas for a fictional family tree series.
Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I’ve always been an avid reader since I was about five years of age. A bit of a nerdy child, never without a book on the go. I’m a member of a couple of Book Clubs and I’ve read novels that I myself might never have chosen, but I’ve discovered some gems amongst others choices.
Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?
One of the good things that happened for me during the pandemic was getting the 3-book deal with Poolbeg Press. Kept me busy during lockdown which was great. I’m always one who has to have a project.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
Despite having been brought up in the city I’ve always felt very connected to the Irish countryside and nature. Setting my stories in rural locations feels for me as if the writing is coming from my soul, so it flows easily. I’d find it very difficult to write a city based book.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
I can’t write to order. For example writing on a theme, unless it is something that I feel strongly about or have experienced, I find that very difficult.
What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?
Don’t try and imitate anyone else. Find your own voice, it will come eventually. And keep writing every day, no matter how short.
If a movie was made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?
For the part of Johanna I would cast Lola Petticrew as the young Johanna and Charlene McKenna as the older Johanna. Both are in the current TV series of Bloodlands. Great actresses and bear an amazing facial similarity to each other.
Johanna’s brother Hugh, the successful businessman and her troubled nephew Declan? I’m not sure. I think I’d have to audition a few lads for those parts.
You have been chosen as a member of the crew on the first one-way flight to Mars – you are allowed to bring 5 books with you. What would they be?
They’d have to be books that I’ve not read before. Life is too short to read a book twice – too many still out there waiting for me to dive into. However, if I had to take my favourite authors, amongst them would be David Park and Kent Haruf, both beautiful sensitive writers who get right to the heart of the human spirit. Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge would have to come so I can see what the bold Olive is up to next and Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Olifant. Perhaps something by Kristen Hannah – always plenty of reading in her books.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
My debut novel LIVES APART is a tale of emigration from Ireland to America after the famine. A family saga of betrayal, tragedy and survival.
It tells the story of young Johanna McNamara, who, in 1877 leaves her quiet life on the family farm in County Clare and emigrates to America to join her successful businessman brother Hugh.
Full of hope, she is determined to make a success of her life. However, tragedy strikes before she finds her feet in this new world, and she must put the care of others before her own needs.
Back in Ireland, farming life for the family continues through the seasons, with her brother Art struggling to deal with his troubled son Declan. Sending him to the USA is an option that might help turn him into a man. But little does Johanna know what lies ahead with the arrival of a nephew, whose act of betrayal will blow her life apart.
Set in Ireland, Boston, San Francisco and Nova Scotia ‘Lives Apart’ explores sibling relationships and how a disastrous action can reverberate through the lives of the extended family. It also looks at the experience of emigration, both for those who had the courage to venture across the Atlantic and those they left behind.
LIVES APART by Anne M. McLoughlin is the first in the ‘Lives’ trilogy, published by Poolbeg Press and is available as an eBook or Paperback from Amazon and Book Depository.