Fun Fan Group for Readers of Romance

11367258_s Just a quick note to let you know that I have started a Facebook group for those who want to chat about my books, my writing and other totally frivolous subjects, like fashion, books, movies, shoes, jokes, celebrities, gossip and anything that will provide a break from the miseries of the world. I’ll even post recipes and fitness tips and ask readers for feedback on my current work in progress. Who knows, we might even write a book together? If you want to join in the fun, go HERE I promise you won’t be bored! See you there!

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Brendan Behan and I

Borstal

The publication of Full Irish  my co-written Irish-American detective story has raised a few questions in my my mind, the main one being: how Irish am I really? Of course, my name suggests an Irish colleen with roots in County Cork, but that’s borrowed plumage from my marriage to an Irishman from said county. In fact, my Co-writer, Pete Morin is more Irish than I am, as his mother’s family name is Donnelly, originally from County Sligo. I have to confess to having been born in Sweden and there is no shame in that. Except when you market a book set partly in Ireland. But, although my first twenty years were spent in the country of my birth, the rest of my adult life were, apart from some years in foreign countries, spent in Ireland.

I feel more at home here than in Sweden and, indeed, I am told I speak English with an Irish accent. Not only that, my connection with this country goes back to my early childhood, when my father came here on holiday as a young man and fell in love with this beautiful country and its people. It’s partly his ‘fault’ that I met and married my Irish husband of many years. My dad used to invite Irish friends to stay in our summer house in the islands and I have been familiar with Irish voices from the tender age of five or so.

As my late father travelled around Ireland and mainly County Kerry, he befriended many an Irishman in the many pubs he visited (purely for local colour). One of these gentlemen was Brendan Behan. They met in a pub in Dunquin on the Dingle peninsula and started to talk, swap stories and (probably) risqué jokes as well. I do believe there was also some singing. (Brendan was a wonderful singer). As they parted, my father gave Brendan his card (as yo do) and said something along the lines of: “if you’re ever in Stockholm, give me a call”, not thinking for a moment this would actually happen. But it did.

A few weeks after his return home, there was a phone call from the local police station in Stockholm to the house in the islands. Did my father know an Irishman named Brendan Behan? And if so, could he come and pick him up? Now, I know that at this time. Brendan was not drinking, so he was probably just being Irish and argumentative. He was also in the company of his wife Beatrice, a pretty, soft-spoken woman. They were both immediately invited to stay with us.

This was in 1958 and, although I was just a little girl at the time, I have vivid memories of those weeks when Brendan Behan came to stay. I suppose it was because he was such a big, warm, noisy man with a great sense of humour and a loud, contagious laugh. I remember how he got up at 4 am every morning to work on the final proofs his book, The Borstal Boy, the first edition of which is still sitting in the bookcase in the summer house. He got the cover image during his stay, and proudly showed it to us. When he had finished the morning’s work, he cooked us all a Full Irish breakfast and that was my first introduction to this typically Irish feast. I have enjoyed many of those since then, but the ones cooked by Brendan Behan were the best.

There are many tales of Brendan Behan, and most of them are of him being drunk and disorderly. That is not my image of Brendan. I simply remember him as a larger-than-life man, who was so kind to us children. A man who stood on the pier on a dark, moonlit night in August and sang an Irish ballad, his beautiful voice ringing across the black waters of the bay. A man who went to a Jussi Björling charity  concert in the church on the island (Jussi had a summer house close to ours) and listened, tears rolling down his cheeks. I also remember him singing the ‘Ridi Pagliaccio‘ aria on his knees in front of my grandmother, making her both laugh and cry. Despite the fact that I, like my younger siblings, didn’t speak much English, Brendan managed to communicate with us using a smattering of Swedish he had picked up, and the few English words and phrases we knew.

My dad later told us the story of their subsequent visit to a fancy restaurant in Stockholm. The Maitre d’ took one look at Brendan and hesitated about whether he should be let in to such a select establishment, saying “that man likes to drink”. When my dad translated this to Brendan, he replied: “tell him that’s the understatement of the century”.

Brendan and my dad are both gone. I like to imagine them together in Heaven, sitting on a cloud, having a pint and singing Irish songs.

Why Readers Need to Do More than Read

cover poster april2014

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As I work hard to finish Selling Dreams, my fourteenth novel, which will be published in December, my thoughts go to my readers, especially those who have been so supportive and encouraging. It’s mainly because of them that I have upped my writing speed and work harder than ever to produce a book every five to six months. It’s their enthusiasm in many e-mails and Facebook messages that spurred me to produce yet another title, this time with a different setting. It’s not because of them that I write. But they are the reason I try harder.

I write because I love writing, the thought process and the magic of creating new characters, setting the story in places I have been and loved. This new one, which I plan to follow up with two more books, turning it into a new series, is set in the south of France, where I have spent so many holidays and shorter breaks. It’s magic at any time of the year and I want  to take my readers there on an imaginary journey. As I write, I’m there myself and the story is beginning to shape up in surprising ways. Strange that you start off with one story in your head, but always end up with quite a different one as the characters take on their own lives and do things you hadn’t planned at all. That’s the magic of writing.

When you’ve finished the book and get out of the writing trance, you begin to look at the next step: publishing and marketing. Of course I write mainly for the love of it but what is a story without readers? Hard working writers do actually want some kind of rewards for their hard work. And hard work it is. I spend an average of four hours a day just writing. Marketing and publicity take another hour or so on top of that. Revising, rewriting, editing, formatting, cover design comes next once you’ve finished a book. AND… the (insert bad word) blurb! That’s nearly harder than writing the whole book. You try to put the gist of a 300+ page book into a few sentences that will sell it to new readers. An impossible task  that makes you want to scream. Then you’re off again on a new book, which has to be ready five months later because readers want the next one very soon.

But enough about the hardworking writer. I’m now turning to readers. Yes, my readers have been amazingly supportive and kind. Yes, they have posted wonderful reviews and often talk to me on Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and all those other venues on the Internet. I love that. It’s one of the best things about self-publishing, apart from being my own boss and making all the decisions myself. But here is my message:

TO MY READERS

If you want your favourite author to keep writing, you have to help them sell their books.

How can you help them? By spreading the word. By creating that powerful ‘word of mouth’ that authors need for books to sell. It is that magic ‘thing’ that keeps books selling and keep writers writing. No writer writes ONLY for themselves, even if the love of writing helps create great books. I hope I never lose that love, but writing will turn into a very lonely occupation with no readers.

How can you, the reader keep me writing? By telling your friends, neighbours, cousins, aunts and uncles about my books. By chatting about them on Facebook, your local café, in the supermarket, the hairdresser’s, the dentists, well perhaps not there, but you get my drift. Without your help, the writer might not feel motivated to try so hard anymore. And if that happens, you’ll have fewer and fewer books to read.

I’m a reader too. I try to shout about my favourite authors, because I want them to keep writing.

Thank you for reading this. Now get out there and shout while I finish this book. If you want another one, you know what to do…

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