Paula Martin talks about her new novel and a beautiful part of Ireland

I'm delighted to welcome Paula Martin to my blog. Her latest novel in the Mist Na Mara series is due to be released this week.  Paula tells us about why she loves writing her 'Irish' novels.

Where did the inspiration for Irish Shadows come from?
I knew I wanted to write a fifth Irish story and, as my other four ‘Mist Na Mara’ books are all stand-alone stories, with different heroes and heroines, I needed a new hero and heroine. Fortunately, one of the minor characters in Book 4, Irish Deceptions was nudging me to write her story. Then I realised it was five years since I wrote the first of my Irish books, so what better than to have an anniversary celebration at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre, and bring in an a rather gorgeous American event manager to organise it? I also wanted the story to include an aspect of Irish history, and it didn’t take me long to realise that the Irish Civil War in the 1920s would give my characters an unsolved mystery to deal with, in addition to their relationship issues, and the other shadows from their pasts.

I know you like to have a person in mind when picturing your main characters. Who did you choose for Rose and Liam?
Rose is a figment of my imagination. I can picture her in my mind, but I didn’t base her on anyone in particular. I have to confess, though, that I soon realised Liam bore a rather striking resemblance to the Canadian Prime Minister!

Do you enjoy the research you do for your novels? You must have done a great deal of research about the civil war. Do you find it difficult to pick which parts you want to include?
As a historian by profession (and a long career as a history teacher), I enjoy researching anything! However, as with all background research, I invariably end up with far more information than I actually need for the story. There’s a fine line between too much and not enough info, and I (eventually!) pare it down to what I think is absolutely necessary. Probably 95% of my research doesn’t appear in the story, but that 95% is necessary in order to ensure that the 5% I actually use is correct.

Many of the characters in Shadows are old friends. Are you particularly fond of any of them?
As you say, they are old friends now, and I feel as if I know them better than some of my real-life friends! I always become very fond of my heroes and heroines while I am writing their stories, and several of them live on, in minor roles, in the later novels. Other characters in the stories also became very real, and very dear, to me. One of my favourites is Alice Vernon, an aged actress, who featured in Irish Intrigue. To begin with, I imagined her as Maureen O’Hara, but somehow she morphed into Maggie Smith! Sister Gabriel, in Irish Secrets, is another favourite – stern and uncooperative to begin with, but mellowing into a gentle and loving soul who goes out of her way to help the heroine of the story. And, of course, I must mention Finny – Adam Finlay – a cheeky, streetwise thirteen-year-old. When he was first mentioned in Irish Deceptions, I had no idea he was going to capture my heart! But he did, and so I had to bring him into Irish Shadows with a bigger part to play. Even my editor, after she read the manuscript, said, ‘I LOVE Finny!’ And so do I.

As ever in all the Mist Na Mara series, you take us to some beautiful places. You must know this area really well? Which is your favourite place?
I fell in love with the wild, unspoiled area of Connemara when I first saw it eleven years ago. I’ve been to the west of Ireland about eight times since then, and I always smile when I see my first view of the Twelve Bens as I drive along the N59 road from Galway to Clifden. The mountains aren’t especially high (none of them over 2,500 feet) but they are stark and dramatic, and I love them. I’ve featured several other favourite places into the books, notably the Sky Road, near Clifden, which has wonderful views of Clifden Bay and the Atlantic, and, of course, the small town of Clifden itself. Other favourites include Galway Bay, the Cliffs of Moher, and also the small town of Dalkey and nearby Killiney Bay on the east coast of Ireland.

Is Skelleen based on a real place?
Partly! I actually amalgamated two places I have visited to ‘create’ the village of Skelleen, and my imagination added more details. I ‘located’ it in a real place, and have given a few clues in a couple of the books. Probably only people with a knowledge of the area can pick up on those clues and work out where ‘Skelleen’ actually is!

I love the cover for Shadows. Are you pleased with it? Who designed it?
It was designed by Elle J. Rossi, who designed all my Mist Na Mara covers, and I love it. I think it’s my favourite of all the Irish covers. The characters are perfect, and I feel that the background, with the grey clouds over the bay, represents the shadows of the past which Rose and Liam have to deal with in order to find a future together.

Many of your readers have been eagerly waiting for Irish Shadows, the fifth book in the series. I understand you thought this may be the last. What is your current WIP?
Good question! I really thought Irish Shadows would be the final book of the series, and I started to write another novel set partly in the English Lake District and partly in Yorkshire. Eight chapters in, and I wasn’t happy with it. This has actually happened before, first with Irish Intrigue and then with Irish Deceptions. I tried to set them somewhere else, but Ireland pulled me back – and it continues to do so! So I have just relocated my current WIP to Ireland, which has also necessitated changing the hero’s research from 15th century England to an aspect of Irish history. After some thought, I decided on An Gorta Mórthe Great Hunger, sometimes known as the Irish Potato Famine.

If you weren’t writing the Mist Na Mara series, what sort of novel would you like to write?
Before the Mist Na Mara series, I wrote five books set in different locations – London’s theatre world, the English Lake District, Paris, Iceland, and Egypt, so maybe someday I’ll suddenly decide on a new location. However, as I’ve been writing romance stories since I was in my teens, I doubt I will change genre now. Over the years, I have changed slightly from stories centred on the relationship between the hero and heroine to stories with one or more subplots interwoven with the romance, and I do like the challenge of introducing (and then trying to work out) more intrigue or mystery.

I find thinking of titles quite difficult. How do you come up with your titles?
Sometimes I know the title as soon as I get the idea for a story. Other times I ask my beta readers for ideas, and eventually the title jumps out at me!

What is your typical writing day?
For day, read evening, because that’s when I do my writing. I can edit, critique, write blogs, answer interview questions, etc during the day, but my ‘creative muse’ is a night owl, like me. Maybe that’s a throwback to when I was working full-time, and evenings were ‘my’ time – or maybe that’s an excuse, because I took early retirement about twenty years ago! I usually start by reading and doing some editing of the chapter I’m currently writing, which helps to get me into the right mood to continue.

Irish Shadows
After a heart-breaking experience, Rose Finlay has vowed never to give another man a chance to hurt her – until Liam McKenna arrives at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre to organise an anniversary celebration event. Liam has his own reasons for not wanting to embark on a new relationship, and both fight the mutual magnetic attraction.
Shocks await them when Liam meets the boy his sister gave up for adoption twenty years earlier, and Rose’s ‘ex’ makes contact with her thirteen-year-old son. Rose also discovers a betrayal which has divided her family since the Irish Civil War in the 1920s.
Will Liam and Rose be able to resolve all the shadows from the past in order to find a future together?
Irish Shadows is available for pre-order at 99c/99p, prior to release on June 27th. Link for purchase is, or visit my Amazon page

Please welcome my new guest Poppy Blake

Poppy's novels are based in the Windmill Cafe. Not only are her stories lovely and heartwarming to read, the book covers are a real pleasure to look at!

Hi Poppy.
Welcome to my blog.

Hi Carol, it’s great to be here. Thank you for having me as a guest.

I love the idea of the Windmill series.  Are you working on the ‘Spring Edition’?
Thank you! I’ve just finished editing the Christmas edition – The Windmill Café – Christmas Trees which is out on the 20th September and features a fun Christmas tree decorating competition. There’s everything from trees with painted woodland animals, to tiny wooden windmills, to hand-made leather purses and bags. I love dressing our Christmas tree – I tend to overdo it, to be honest, but there’s nothing better than a thick necklace of tinsel to brighten up a room, is there? I’m not planning a spring edition at the moment, but you never know….

Where did the inspiration for the series come from?
My two favourite genres are romantic comedy and cozy mysteries, so when I sat down to create the community surrounding the Windmill Café I knew it had to have both these elements – an uplifting, fun-filled story with a twist of surprise thrown in for good measure. I’d had a fabulous holiday in Norfolk, visited a couple of windmills and the idea sprang from that – although I didn’t find one with peppermint coloured sails!

Do you have anything in mind for your next novel?
I’m busy planning my next series. It’s a great excuse to take a weekend break in a gorgeous part of the country in the name of research. For a change, I already have a title - for the first book at least. I usually leave that job to the last minute as I find it so difficult.

So many new writers are interested in how an author found a publisher.  What is your story?
I was really lucky! I’m not sure what to call it – fate, fortune, the alignment of the stars? When I finished The Windmill Café – Summer Breeze I decided to take a chance and send it to my first-choice publisher – the fabulous people at HarperImpulse. Would you believe that when my manuscript landed on my editor, Charlotte Ledger’s desk, she had just attended a relative’s wedding at a Windmill in Norfolk! What a coincidence!

What is your typical writing day?
I tend to write in the mornings, often long-hand in a notebook – any excuse to indulge in lots of pretty stationery. Then in the afternoons, I type up what I’ve written and edit as I go along. I don’t have a strict daily word count goal, but a good day would be around 1000 words.

Do you have a dedicated place where you like to write?
Much to my family’s irritation, I like to write at the kitchen table because it’s nearest to the kettle. I love to have a plentiful supply of tea and biscuits to fuel my imagination!

What would be your advice to new writers who wish to be published?
I think every writer is different, and what works for one person might not work for someone else. The best advice I was given when I started writing was ‘read a lot, write a lot, and persevere’. There’s lots of rejection associated with the life of a writer, new or established, you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and try again. There’ve been many very famous authors who had lots of rejections before they went on to make their name in the literary world.

Many thanks Poppy for coming along today. Good luck with your novels.
Thanks Carol, it’s been great chatting with you.
Love Poppy x

Welcome Kemberlee Shortland, author and publisher.

I'm more than delighted to welcome Kemberlee Shortland as a guest on my blog. Kemberlee is a committed and well known author of several novels.

However she is also very well known as a publisher, running her publishing company Tirgearr Publishing. Through Tirgearr she has used her knowledge and expertise giving many authors, including myself, the much needed boost and support to get their first foot on the rung of the publishing ladder.

Hi, welcome Kem.  Please tell us a little about yourself. You’re obviously a California girl at heart, so how did you come to live in Ireland?
I’m originally from the Central Coast of Northern California, but I’ve been living in Ireland since April 1997. I’d wanted to see Ireland since I was a little girl. I finally decided the time was ‘now’ to make the trip. I had the savings and set out to make an extended visit. Originally, I had planned to stay a year, but I could only get permission for six months. While here, I met a man I’d eventually marry. After a short visit back home to sort out my affairs, I moved back full time. This year, the hubs and I will celebrate 19 years of marriage, and my 21st anniversary of coming to Ireland.

Have you always worked in the publishing business? Why and how did you start Tirgearr Publishing?

Like most writers, I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, but I started working when I was 13. One of my first ‘industry’ jobs was working in bookstores when I was in my early 20s. It gave me great insight into the retail side of the industry, from sales and marketing, to ordering, warehousing, and book-picking. I loved it all.
I also worked for one of the first digital publishers, Dreams Unlimited, as a first reader and in editing. As well, I was also a founding member of a wonderful reviewers group called Reviewers’ International Organization/RIO, c 1996-2006. I served two terms as president, worked on the newsletter, helped educate new reviewers, and worked on the acclaimed annual RIO Award of Excellence. And today I continue working with authors who set their books in Ireland, advising on historical accuracy and doing line edits.
Tirgearr was first established in 2000. For the first 15 years after coming to Ireland, I worked as an Irish travel specialist. Tirgearr Publishing was set up as part of my job, which included writing bespoke travel guides for visitors to Ireland, and publishing dozens of travel articles.
Tirgearr Publishing was re-imagined in 2011 when we decided to expand the company into a proper commercial genre fiction house, which opened February 2012.

Tirgearr is obviously an Irish name, does it have an English translation?

Tirgearr is what’s known as ‘maky-uppy Irish.’ It’s not a real Irish word but one made up from two real Irish words: Tir = land, gearr = short. Our name is Shortland and Tirgearr is a made-up Irish word for that. Tir is pronounced as teer and gearr as gar. I always get a laugh when I say it rhymes with ‘beer bar’.

As things become increasingly tough in the publishing world, and some indie publishing houses fall by the wayside, how do you maintain Tirgearr’s success?
First and foremost, we have an amazing team…authors, editors, proofreaders, formatters…even the accountants. This is a team and as such, everything is a team effort.
Also, we’re available. By this I mean, we maintain an open communications policy and operate transparently. We work with our team to learn the ropes of promotion and marketing education, as well as assistance in helping pay for some paid promotion services.
And we stage-publish. We’re a digital-first house, which enables us to offer more contracts to deserving writers. Other formats are then made available to successful books.
Openness, honesty, availability, support…all ideal things to run a positive team. Our team is happy and we all enjoy working with each other and supporting each other. All good things for success.

How can authors help themselves and their publisher in the current climate?
Taking the time to learn the business serves everyone well. It’s not as easy as just writing a book. A lot goes into what comes after, such as promotion and marketing. Also realizing that not only does it take time, but that things are constantly changing. We all must be adaptable. It’s frustrating, but we’re all in it together, so there’s some support from that. Peer support is invaluable.

What is your typical day when at work?
Email. Starts with email and ends with email. In the middle…email. It’s my main source of communication with our team. We’re all over the world so email is the fastest and most affordable form of communication in this information age.
That’s not to say there aren’t a myriad of other tasks. There are: from accounting and royalties, to web design and managing sales, to working with vendors and specialist services to promote our books, and much more.
Typically, Monday I catch up from the weekend…email, check weekend sales figures, adjust pricing from promotions, etc. We publish a new book most Wednesdays, so Tuesday I’ll be prepping and setting up promotions. On Wednesdays, there’s release promotions to add to regular daily tasks. Thursday is probably the most ‘normal’ day of the week. Friday is the weekly wrap-up for the weekend. Occasionally, I’ll work part of Saturday if I’m off during the week for any reason, but I’m pretty good at prioritizing and getting everything done by close of Friday. Of course, I’m always available to our team in the event of an emergency, but like everyone, we all need some down time and the weekend is mine.
Kemberlee's writing muse

What would be your advice to a new author looking to be published for the first time?
The first thing would be to understand the business, and that these days, barely 1% of the top 1% will ever make a living off it, especially in small press publishing. Every other author has a ‘day job’ or some form of income that supports their writing time. Or they have someone in the house who works full time to pay the bills. Very few make enough these days to quit that day job and write full time. And it will almost never happen with your first book.
Which leads me to my next piece of advice: develop a following. To do that means learning the ropes of promotion and marketing. It takes time and effort and consistency. And knowing the difference between the two. And sometimes that means spending money.
As well, be friendly with your reviewers. A reviewer who liked your first book should be the first person you contact when book two is ready…either on preorder or newly-published. They’ll say yes faster than a new-to-you reviewer.
Probably most importantly, love what you’re doing. If you don’t love writing, it will show in your work. Publishers will see it, as will readers. Write because you *must* tell your story. Sharing it with others should also bring joy to your life. A financial reward is always nice, but developing a following—readers who love your writing too—should always make your insides feel warm and fuzzy.

You are also an author yourself, with quite a few novels published. When do you find the time to write?
Ha! What time?! I reserve weekends for ‘me time’. I also schedule breaks during the year when I spend larger amounts of time writing. Aside from our winter break (Xmas through New Years), I’ll take a week off in the spring for my birthday, then another week between that and Xmas. I don’t always write, but I always make sure to do as much research as possible. Unless the weather is exceptionally nice for Ireland, then all bets are off!

Do you have a favourite novel that you particularly enjoyed writing?
It’s always the current book on my screen! I always try challenging myself with each new book, and if I succeed, I’m quite happy. My last project was writing a story set in a place I’ve never been—One Night in New Delhi, book 27 in Tirgearr’s City Nights series. I’ve never been to New Delhi, let alone India, so it was a huge challenge. Other challenges include writing style. If I feel good about the results when the story is done, I’ve done my job well. If readers also think I did a good job, I get that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Have you a current WIP? What is the storyline and where is it set?
My current WIP is another challenge. I’ve put aside my romance writing to pursue a thriller series—Jack Slaughter Thrillers—which is set in San Francisco, California. I’m billing the series as Dirty Harry meets the Streets of San Francisco.
Book one is called Slaughtered. Three years ago, decorated homicide detective Jack Slaughter came home to find his young daughter had been murdered and his wife missing. As book one opens, Jack has left the force before he was fired, and he’s now working as a private investigator and takes local cases to help fund his own investigation. Department investigations having gone cold. Jack wants answers, even if he has to find them himself.
As much as he hates cheating spouse cases, Jack agrees to take a case to find a man’s missing wife, but only because her disappearance seems similar to that of his own wife. Jack also has a stalker who sends him texts every three months, like clockwork, telling him where to find his wife. Each time, there’s only a dead body and it’s never his wife. While looking for his client’s wife, Jack discovers an even deeper crime in the city and he wonders if his missing wife is somehow involved.
I’m hoping Slaughtered will be available later this year. Readers can follow my website or the socials to get the heads up about publication and associated events:
Readers may wish to also follow Tirgearr Publishing on the socials. We publish every Wednesday, and we have a monthly newsletter:
Join our newsletter from the homepage on our website, or through our Facebook page.

Thank you so much, Carol, for inviting me onto your blog.

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