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 Mór – the 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.
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 https://bit.ly/2rRFwhV, or visit my Amazon page https://www.amazon.com/Paula-Martin/e/B005BRF9AI/