In the wake of the dismal rhetoric surrounding the Kate Clanchy affair, which dragged on for months, I noticed that mainstream media in the UK were wilfully misunderstanding sensitivity readings, or, as I prefer to call them, expert reads. The reality is so different from their endless whinging and moaning about freedom of speech and censorship and “removing offensive material from the text”, that I had to say something.
With Lucia’s War, the choice was obvious from the beginning – all the research in the world could not supplant inside knowledge of the culture and milieu Lucia grew up in. Many thanks to Vanessa at writing.ie for allowing me to ventilate my thoughts.
Just a few days ago, the Chick Lit for Life podcast released an episode where they talk about White Feathers! For those unfamiliar with the format, it is the creation of the genius LC Lewis, who manages to voice six fictitious Irish zoomers chatting about books written by female and non-binary authors. (I have no idea how the hell she plans out these tangential conversations, while managing to get in some impressive research!)
They started out with Marian Keyes’s back catalogue, then moved on to Jane Austen, at which point I discovered the podcast’s existence and was so in pain from laughing at their Mansfield Park episode that tears were rolling down my cheeks. And then when they moved on to Pride and Prejudice and mentioned “Mr Collins cruising for bitches”, I had to retweet that with high praise.
A few series back (I forget which year because, well, pandemic) The Girls covered Lucia’s War, and now they have turned their attention to White Feathers. There is a special place in my heart for the protagonists of my debut and hearing them being discussed made me feel quite emotional. Listen out for:
Where Catherine and Grace might have been coming from and the need for survival that drove their motives. I had done a fair bit of research but the depth to which The Girls discussed it was impressive. (I modelled Catherine on Phyllis from Dermot Bolger’s The Valparaiso Voyage – that character scared the crap out of me!)
One of the girls being ambivalent as to whether, as per her Kindle notes, “Mr Shandlin is a complete ride” or “red flag much?” His dispatching of fledgling Brexiteer Rhona Lewis’s argument against to learn any “foreign” literature is highly praised though – “That was fire. Seriously, Katie, I thought you’d be bet into this bloke!”
“We haven’t even got to the war bit yet! But when we get to the war bit, we need to discuss Sybil on her motorbike, OK?” Sybil on the sidecar of Roma’s motorbike shouldn’t be sexy but is.” Also that Sybil and Roma are a wonderful success story and Sybil is the actual best friend that every girl needs to have. Or would be if she wasn’t so rich.
McCrum: “if you’re well enough to give me lip, you’re well enough to go and kill some Germans” 😀
Portrayal of distressing PTSD and breakdown being a bit close to home, “he went all Natalie Portman from Black Swan”. I was interested when they said that people disappearing with no evidence of being there “would fuck up your reality”. It gives a new meaning to his angry declaration to Eva, I’m alive, I’m real. Who is really being addressed?
I didn’t publish anything new in 2021, so it’s easy to feel that it wasn’t a productive year. Part of that is because I was leaning into my day job quite a lot (it is related to customs and the UK, so…) and also getting involved in political initiatives. But this year was not a completely bare cupboard when it comes to achievements so I’ll list them below:
My short story was shortlisted for the Mairtin Crawford Award, much to my delight, but I was gutted it didn’t make the final 3! Would have loved to have seen it published. But I am hoping that if it has that much power, it will find its way. It’s not a story that pulls punches, and it might make literary people squirm 🙂
Well it is that time of year again, and if you are stuck finding a present for a friend or relative who loves entrancing stories, intelligent historical fiction and a bit of war – and by an Irish writer – why not buy them a copy of White Feathers or Lucia’s War, both available in paperback? (Or both, if you’re feeling it)
How about this quote to inspire you:
This book has a bit of everything. The most powerful thing it does possess; soul. Good, old-fashioned, soul. Beautifully crafted, immaculately researched and lovingly produced. Place this novel on your best piece of furniture, as it deserves to be displayed prominently, and admired regularly.
Margaret Madden, writing.ie
There is a limited number of paperbacks of Lucia’s Warremaining on sale at independent bookshops in Ireland. As well as the wonderful outlets mentioned in the link (many of whom have reduced postage if buying within the ROI) I can also recommend Cobh Gifts shop where there are several copies still available. White Feathers is available at the outlets specified on the book page, including the publisher site. Both books are also available on Amazon.
I will be discontinuing the trade paperback of Lucia’s War in January and switching to a smaller paperback, so it’s last chance to get it before Edition 2 arrives!
(Note – Sorry for the disappearance. Rewrote the article slightly. Please note that every comment I make about the company in question is derived from testimony that is publicly available on record from employment tribunals, coroner’s courts, newspapers and the Press Council.)
The above text is from the Irish Times apology to the Communications Clinic, a PR firm run by influential PR maven Terry Prone and her son Anton Savage, dated Saturday Dec 2, 2011. Reading it was one of those watershed moments in my life. From then on, I was deeply, irrevocably radicalised against a particular Irish polity and society.
The apology was in response to an article written anonymously by Kate Fitzgerald, who died in August 2011 and whose article was posthumously published in September in the paper. At the end of her life, Kate was a PR consultant at the Communications Clinic but she was so much more than that. A passionate debater, admired and loved by many, a political advocate and a stalwart of Democrats Abroad (her mother is American), she was in the eyes of contemporaries destined for success in spite of spells of severe mental ill-health which she dealt with as best she could.
This day, the first Sunday of Advent in 2021, marks a decade since Kate Fitzgerald’s identity became known and the Irish Times redacted several paragraphs of her article, specifically those pertaining to allegations about her then employer’s behaviour towards her at work and its obligations under employment law when it came to mental illness, recovery and accommodating same. (It’s worth noting that the interviewers for her next position, a position she died before she could start, were deeply impressed by her presentation and professionalism and were about to hire her on the spot.)
And knowing what they did, the Irish Times apologised to these people. And said the above text at the head of my piece.
At the time, I wrote this piece and others, but when my first novel came out, I was advised to stop. I deleted a few entries as a result. But while life has moved on and people have moved out of, and into my life, I have never forgotten Kate’s story. How she, an outsider, a foreigner of sorts, could never be good enough for Them. How even with her intelligence, her radiance, her acumen – They still defeated her. Because They were insiders and she was not and so all that radiance and intelligence and charisma didn’t count. And now we are deprived of someone who could have made life better for us, and stuck with individuals who have already – I think I can safely argue from the above – made our country’s discourse a fair bit worse.
Rest well, Kate Fitzgerald. I promise to never stop being awkward.
Pleased to announce that I have a second edition of Lucia’s War out on 5th December on Apple and Kobo, other outlets pending! I also plan a paperback edition, a small-size one, which will come out early next year.
The main difference is that I have added a paragraph to the Acknowledgements section to name some of the wonderful people who have cheered on Lucia’s War in the interval between first publication 🙂
Also I have a pre-order deal up for all the non-Amazon sites to celebrate “going wide” for the first time. Get it for 99p in the UK, 99c in EU, and $1.99 in the US up until 5 December, when it goes live.
I took part in a Words Ireland diversity and inclusion online meeting earlier in the week – well, more properly, the excellent speakers did, while I wrote long ranty questions in the chat margins 🙂 It was chaired by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan and participants included the Trans Writers Union and Small Trans Library, Poetry Ireland, Skein Press, Melanie from Darshan Bold and Sasha de Buyl from Cuirt Literary Festival.
I was really impressed with the meeting. It included real, measurable and practical ways of opening up the arts world for people who find the gates shut against them – and to be honest this benefits everyone, not just the marginalised folk who are shut out. This is because there is a cultural richness in this art – I don’t want to use the colonial extractive language such as “untapped” – perhaps “overlooked” is a better term?
Engaging with this meeting, I felt for the first time in a long time like a participant in the arts community and a serious practitioner whose opinions were not mocked or pooh-poohed. I really enjoyed listening to the contributors and how they endeavoured, from both inside and on the edges of the business, to create safety, community and just practices while also working on their art. It was a candid and morale-boosting discussion and if you’re in a space to have a listen to something longer, I’d really recommend listening back – and then joining in the good fight! Closed captioning has now been added too.
To mark Black History Month in the UK, I am putting Lucia’s War free on Amazon Kindle for 5 days. Click on the picture above to download!
People might ask me why I would put it out there and incur no royalties. The reason is that at present I do not have a financial relationship with my writing life. I do not make my money from my books, though thankfully I do make enough. Lucia’s War is self-published, so it is harder for me to have that marketing push, simply because it’s time-consuming and involves having a lot of time, and the clout of a powerful and focused publishing company – which I am not 🙂
Also, it’s been a hard and demanding season at the moment and if I have the chance to spread a bit of joy, escape and hope (and some emotional roller coastering!) I really feel the urge to do so. Not to mention that this is a labour of pure love, densely researched, intensely and professionally edited, fully sensitivity-read and the cover designed professionally also. It is probably of a higher standard than some traditionally published historical fiction. The only thing I lack is the ability to get the word out. To have people reading, enjoying and reviewing my work will help immensely. So everyone wins.
Delighted to receive the Bulgarian paperback edition of White Feathers (entitled “Beli Pera”) in the post today. So exciting to see the book in a different language and a *very* different cover but it looks fantastic. Surprised that I don’t entirely dis-resemble the cover pic! This is my joy and I’m delighted to share it. Thanks to O’Brien Press, Literature Ireland and Aviana Publishing for making this possible. And a *special* thanks to Dobromira Kirova, the translator for this book!
Susan Lanigan, Launch of White Feathers, 27/8/2014
Today is the day after the night before. And I am still processing, as one does after a major life event.
Last night, in Dubray Bookshop in Grafton St, O’Brien Press gave White Feathers the send-off of a lifetime. To a packed ensemble (I’d been generous with the invitations and there was a great turnout!) Michael O’Brien, founder, gave a rousing speech where he pledged his support for the novel and expressed his belief in me as a writer. It’s a great feeling to have the support and interest from one’s publisher and the speech filled me with good cheer.
Then Arlene Hunt, crime novelist and Novel Fair judge, was the guest speaker. She hit the ball out the park – i.e. was magnificent. She talked about reading the initial partial when adjudicating the Novel Fair, then going to bed, then picking it…