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I began writing stories in my head before I went to school at age four, but as I still couldn’t write them down by myself I then bribed older girls to write them down for me. The big problem in those far off days was paper. In 1945, in Armagh and probably much further afield, it was in short supply and all visible trace of my writing disappeared when I was forbidden to ‘use up my jotter’ for stories. Jotters had to be paid for and were considered too expensive.
But the urge to write never fully went away. I plagued a journalist Uncle in my teens to get my stories published. I wrote a novel then which I later destroyed. Some short stories erupted in my late twenties when I was Head of Geography at a Belfast school and had 500 exam papers waiting to be marked. The pressure was such that I simply had to write them down to get them to go away.
It was when I met my husband in 1969 and we shared a passion for writing that things changed. After our marriage in 1971 we worked together writing material for use in the classroom. Together we wrote Language and Community which was published in Japan among other countries, as well as other books in a Series for Edward Arnold. It was in 1974, when this Language in Use project had been well launched that he insisted I start writing fiction. I began by using material from my undergraduate thesis conducted in a remote area of Co. Clare in 1960. Published in 1998, Stranger in the Place followed A Few Late Roses in November 1997. In 1998, shortly after we moved to live in Belfast, A Few Late Roses was long-listed for the Irish Times Fiction prize.
It had taken me a mere 23 years while living in England to get published. In this time I wrote and re-wrote three novels several times.. The third novel was Summer of the Hawthorn for which I did a great deal of research into 5th Century Ireland. After our return to ‘ my native soil’ in September 1998, things moved very quickly. The first three novels had been published in quick succession and I had already begun what turned out to be the Hamiltons sequence, the story of a family over a period the period 1861 to 1966. A prequel to this series The Blacksmith’s Wife, set against the famine in Ulster is due out in May 2016.
Give talks and readings in schools, Make personal appearances, Give talks and readings to adults, Novelist