This book has a bit of everything. The most powerful thing it does possess; soul. Good, old-fashioned, soul. – Margaret Madden, Bleach House Library and Irish Independent reviewer.
Hello and welcome to my website! I write mainly historical fiction, my particular interest being World War One. I have a burning desire to rip through the saccharine, sentimentalised, packaged narratives of this era, and tell powerful stories that will keep any reader enthralled.
I follow Listowel Writers Week. It is a very popular annual literary event in Ireland that attracts international attention and very good prizes. There has been some tension between the voluntary body and the Arts Council which has resulted in a new curator coming on board. That isn’t what I wish to highlight, though.
One of their latest social media postings highlights the opening of the annual short story, novel and playwriting competitions which writers from all over the world enter. Last year, in June, when the results were announced, the winner of the Eamon Keane full-length play award was named as Daniel Wade, who wrote Search and Rescue.
The only problem being that it seems reasonable to surmise, from the information at hand, that he did not write it alone.
“I have looked the possibility of my own extinction in the eye” poet Kevin Higgins wrote recently. That possibility sadly, yesterday, became a fact. Kevin, a firebrand, an ally, someone unafraid to ruffle feathers, passed away after a long illness and confinement in hospital.
Image: British West India Regiment troops in France, 1916. Photograph copyright Imperial War Museum
Today in 1918, Black infantrymen and NCOs in the British West India Regiment mutinied against their white commanding officers. These were men who had enlisted for the First World War – the war effort was a popular cause among all races in the Caribbean, Jamaica in particular.
In Lucia’s War, Lucia’s brother Reginald Percival is a newly-promoted sergeant in the First British West India Regiment and is stationed at Taranto when the mutiny breaks out, just a month after the war’s end. He has seen clouds gathering on the seemingly clear horizon for quite some time (and Lucia, having seen how even white objectors are treated, warns him against any show of rebellion) but the scale of white betrayal upsets him. Using the facility of a “green envelope” – a form of communication that avoids the censor – he writes to Lucia telling her his anguish. Of the brutal suppression of the rebellion, the unequal pay, and the imposition of demeaning tasks such as cleaning white Italian men’s lavatories.
As he says in his letter: “I am low in spirit though, because the white men we fought alongside shot us with machine-gun fire. I thought there was honour in battle. I was wrong.“
More information about the mutiny is available here.
Reviews and purchase information for Lucia’s War available here.
Last night I had a dream where a very long-time-ago boyfriend appeared to occupy my life and home. Not only that, he was inviting his long-time ex-girlfriend, whom he had idolised at length in front of me, to come to the house as well. In the dream, I said to him, “I don’t want her coming here again.” He was mocking and dismissive of my purported jealousy, as he had been in real life. With some heat, I told him, “If she comes here again, you’ll have to leave my house in a month’s time.” And then as if something had dawned on me, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Actually I want you to leave my house now.” And I felt the freedom of being able to just…say that. Saying the words. I want you to leave my house.
Then I woke up.
Yesterday there was a storm on what currently remains on Twitter about an ill-judged article by Róisín Ingle in the Irish Times about the abuse perpetrated against boys in Blackrock College. The tone was unfortunate as it appeared to show satisfaction that such practices had taken place since the boys in that school were mean to the girls in Ingle’s. While the article was probably not as maliciously intended as it sounded, what really hurt and rankled were the other Irish Times journalists circling the wagons and closing ranks, defending the indefensible. As the noise of outrage grew louder, Ingle continued blithely tweeting away about various topics such as human rights in Qatar and Iran and a similar brewing scandal in Castleknock. But not a word about the blizzard of dung she had just placed next to an opportune fan.
Survivors’ families were triggered by the article. I too was triggered, in a different way – by the doubling down and the silence.
Between August 15 and 25, I had an audiobook blog tour organised by Kelly Lacey from Love Books Tours. This idea was inspired by the earlier review of Unfortunate Stars on Audiobookish podcast – huge thanks again to Fahed Rahman for featuring it on the pod – he and Poppy provided such an inspiring and thoughtful critique.
The tour went really well – I had comments such as the following:
I was completely engrossed with this story. As I was listening to the audio I was overcome with emotion as the story unfolded. The story set in 1938 spoke of the loss of a life unlived and Fredrich’s continued journey to explore sides of himself that are shunned in society and leave his life in constant danger. The story set before and during WWI spoke of friendship, unspoken love and the difficulties of living true to yourself. This story particularly made me tear up.
I have just learned of the passing of Michael O’Brien, founder and director of O’Brien Press, who was a cheerleader for White Feathers from the very start, ever since the Novel Fair in 2013. He was also married to my wonderful then-agent, Svetlana Pironko (you should have seen the back-and-forth on that publishing agreement :)) I’m shocked and a bit winded. Michael had an incontrovertible life-force to him and it’s hard to imagine that force extinguished.
I recently wrote a letter of complaint to the Irish Independent about an article they published about rehashed and refuted transphobic hate. They kindly published it in their Sunday edition and I’m grateful to the editor for that. It got quite a bit of traction. I got some pushback including messages sent to my website from people who disagreed, but mostly people were glad to have someone say what I think most people in this country feel.
I want to emphasise this is not just about the Independent, in fact if anything their coverage has been better than most. Nor is it about any individual person. We’re having this issue in the New York Times now, and the boycott of the Irish Times is still going strong. It’s a problem in media and arts circles everywhere.
The letter I wrote does not yet appear to be online in screen-readable fashion so I will reproduce my original text here (it was edited down for space – extra text not included is in italic) I was quite impassioned when I wrote it as you can see 🙂
If you are reading this post and are a fan of great books written by women, Irish and otherwise, could you please hit the subscribe button for the Chick Lit 4 Life podcast, hosted by the wonderful LC Lewis?
LC founded this podcast a few years and without any external support, grants from the Arts Council, mainstream media exposure or even a Patreon, she has mustered the power of The Girls – six late teenage readers – to deliver their decisive and hilarious opinions on everyone from Jane Austen to Marian Keyes and even yours truly somewhere in the middle. This all in spite of a demanding job and pesky mental health issues. It’s done for pure love. It’s joyous but surely exhausting work and I want this wonderful show to get the fair wind it deserves. So please, like, share, subscribe and boost – and if you’re in the media and want to check it out, I’d particularly encourage that!
Five college girls get together to discuss books that are not by men. Series 1: Marian Keyes Series 2: Jane Austen Series 3: Unusual Protagonists Series 4: Authors of Colour Series 5: LGBTQ+ Authors Series 6: People we Love Loads 🙂 Written and recorded by LC Lewis in her bedroom.
Hello folks, my long-time friends Fiction at the Friary along with Cork City Libraries are running an event called Lost Launches at St Peter’s Arts Centre, North Main Street, Cork at 3pm tomorrow 24 April. I’ll be present with several other authors who launched during the pandemic and an actor will read out excerpts from all the novels – including Lucia’s War! There will also be a chance to buy the book, as I’ll have a few paperbacks with me 🙂