Monthly Archives: November 2012

Radio Blaa Blaa by Brian Kennedy

Brian Kennedy’s first book, Confessions of an Exeter City Nut, was self-published before being taken up by a small publisher in England. His 2011 book, Just Follow the Floodlights was published by Liffey Press and went to No.1 on Amazon’s English Football League Bestseller List on 4 different occasions. I caught up with Brian to talk about his new memoir, Radio Blaa Blaa.

Brian was a man born with a pen in his hand: “I’ve always been writing one thing or another from an early age. I used to do a football magazine called ‘Blow It Up Ref!’ for my Waterford Junior League Division 4 Club, Kilbarry Rangers. It always gave the lads a laugh, which helped after the beatings we used to get!”

So how long has Radio Blaa Blaa been in the works? How did it begin? “I wrote it in about six months,” Brian says, “When I put my mind to something, I keep at it until the project is finished. ‘Radio Blaa Blaa’ was no different to any other publication of mine in that respect. I started the project, set a date to finish and worked within those boundaries.

“It was a disc jockey who had inspired me to write the book. Colin Kennedy is a family friend and happened to have been part of the whole pirate radio scenario in the early eighties. I was a bit iffy about whether it could be done, let alone successful, but to date it’s my fastest selling book ever!”

I asked Brian what he enjoyed writing the most in his memoir and why: “Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. It’s the file that takes the rough edges off of yesteryear. It’s something everyone goes back to time and time again. Sometimes all we have is the past when the future looks bleak. It was for this reason I really enjoyed writing the book, going back to a time that’s brought many, many wonderful memories.”

Brian is no stranger to self-publishing, but I was curious as to why he chose it again. “For Just Follow the Floodlights, I had a publicist, graphic designer and a book distributed all over Ireland by Gill & McMillian, but I actually enjoy the self-publish route just as much. That way you’re judge, jury & executioner on everything.

“To be honest I knew the chances of getting published at first where Bob Hope and No Hope! I just wanted to get my books on the shelf of my local bookstore. I think self-publishing is a lot of fun. You’re dealing with the front cover on your own terms , the content on your own terms, without an editor to say ‘Take this, that, and the other out’. Nobody knows better than the author themselves I feel. Yes sometimes they need a guiding hand but I never liked anyone telling me the way to go. I had a good publisher in Liffey Press who listened to me about the front page, the content and the price. I didn’t budge on a single thing! And it worked as I got my way, which has proven a success.”

So why self-publishing in the first place? “To be honest at first it was a step into the unknown. I’d either had my books published or had used my local printer and that had been a happy union. However, money became an issue which brought me to the lads at Selfpublishbooks.ie. I’ve got an astounding piece of work made, more so for the price which is simply the best in Ireland and trust me I’ve checked. The quality is fantastic.”

Was a writing career always on the cards for you? “I’ve never been to a writing class, barely passed English in my Leaving Cert and hardly ever go to book launches. I don’t run in those circles. It’s just never interested me. I laugh sometimes at the grants handed out to some writers – I remember three Irish writers getting a combined grant of €30,000 euro between them for Irish language books a couple of years ago and selling exactly 64 books between them. There a lot of pompousness involved. There is this need of acceptance. That getting a publishing contract means they have ‘made it’. Did I make it when I got my publishing contract? Yes I did….for 2 euro a copy! That’s the reality.”

I asked Brian what’s next – or has he had enough of writing? “Well if I finish a book before 2014 it will have been 10 books in 10 years. Mind you I’m running out of subject matters! Yes I get tired of writing, and I can’t see myself doing it forever, but when I see the joy it brings to people, who tell me so, then it makes it all worth while.”

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A Certain Time, A Certain Place

Selfpublishbooks.ie are reprinting Katherine O’Riordan’s memoir, A Certain Time, A Certain Place and luckily I got to catch up with the author herself.

Katherine O’Riordan was born in Macroom town where she lived for twenty-one years until she married and moved to Cork. I asked her where the writing began. She said, “Those years I spent growing up left such a lasting impression on me that I was forever writing down memories as they came, in the hope that one day my children and grandchildren would get a glimpse of everyday life.

“This book is a opportunity for them to find what their grand and great grand parents were all about, and how life was lived and fun was had with neighbours and friends in those much simpler times.”

With her collection of short stories, she then decided to make a book of them and so A Certain Time, A Certain Place came into being.

Who should we count among the influences behind this decision? Katherine was happy to tell me. “Catherine Cookson, Edna O’Brien, Phillipa Gregory, Clare Boylan and Ella Wheller Wilcox, without a doubt.”

Having a father and uncles who worked as house-painters, it was no surprise that Katherine also took up painting as a hobby and has made hundreds of art works, which have found homes all over Ireland and further afield.

In A Certain Time, A Certain Place, Katherine has captured a part of Ireland that will evoke memories in anyone who enjoyed swims in Sullane, trips to the Palace Cinema or days at the visiting fairs, and transport anyone who is unfamiliar with those memories right back to Macroom in the ’40s and ’50s. It is easy to see the influence of painting and music on Katherine’s prose and she vividly describes a very specific part of Ireland’s history.

I asked Katherine what is next. “I would love to produce a book of poetry and illustrate it myself, so it looks like busy days ahead!”

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‘Valentia’ by Catherine Conlon — Christmas Bestseller!

Set in contemporary Ireland, this novel follows the lives of the various members of the O’Sullivan family during a pivotal five-month period which marks a number of important transitions in all of their lives. The main backdrop for the action is the remote and magically beautiful island of Valentia in County Kerry, one of the most westerly points of the country.

The author, Catherine Conlon, is a medical doctor and lecturer in Public Health and Epidemiology in UCC Public Health Department. Married with 4 children, living in Blackrock in Cork, this is her second book and first venture into self-publishing. I had a quick word with her about her new book.

What is this all about? Catherine sends me on a moving synopsis: “Valentia is a readable, absorbing story with engaging, well-drawn characters in situations many of us, and women in particular, will be able to relate to. While the author explores, with a light and often entertaining touch, some of the traditional territory and themes of romance, female friendships and family dynamics, the narrative also offers a deeper, more profound reflection on what is truly valuable in modern life. In this era of widespread economic downturn and material hardship for so many people – which has hit Ireland particularly badly after so many years riding high on the Celtic Tiger – Valentia brings the reader back, time and again, to the core values of family, a sense of community and the need to belong.”

I asked Catherine which authors inspired her to write. “Those who inspired me to write on similar themes,” she says, “include Adriana  Trigiani, Victoria Hislop, Rosemunde Pilcher and Joanne Harris. In non-fiction, it would have to be Mind Body Spirit, John O’Donoghue, Neale Donald Walsch, Sister Stan, Mark Patrick Hederman and Robin Sharma.”

What did Catherine enjoy the most to write? “I enjoyed writing the dramatic bits and also the descriptive pieces, particularly in creating the magical quality of the island.” And according to the readers, those are the bits that stand out most.

As we know, this isn’t her first book. I asked Catherine what she’s written before. “I previously published ‘Sonas; Celtic Thoughts on Happiness’ with Hachette.”

So what brought her to self-publishing? “I liked self publishing because I had more control over the product and because it was so much simpler and quicker.
 I shopped around first but the message coming back was that no matter how good the book, publishing fiction first time at the moment was difficult in a publishing industry under siege.”

How did she find it? “The self publishing process was remarkably straightforward and the team at Lettertec were professional, approachable and flexible with every aspect of the book.
I would be delighted to self-publish again although I will wait and see how well the book does first!”

Where is the eye-catching cover from? Catherine is happy to tell us. “It is by a local photographer in Ballinskelligs, Michael Herrmann, and I am delighted with it. It is exactly right for the book.”

Where to go from here? Is she finished with writing? “Not at all,” she says, “I’m starting a sequel so watch this space!”

Valentia will be available in all Eason’s branches this Christmas.

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The International Charity Bazaar Cookbook

The International Charity Bazaar was founded in 2006 by the wife of the then Pakistani Ambassador to Ireland in order to raise money to provide relief to the victims of the devastating earthquake in Pakistan. Since then, the Bazaar has evolved and is now a firm future on the social calendar in Dublin. It had long been the wish of the organising committee to publish a cookbook of international recipes in order to raise funds.

This week I caught up with the woman who led the project, Siobhan Denham. I asked her where the whole idea started.

“As I had been involved in 2 similar projects previously in San Francisco and Lithuania — my husband is an Irish diplomat — I volunteered to lead the project,” Siobhan says. “I became involved in the Bazaar in 2011 following my return to Ireland.  We started contacting all the resident embassies in Dublin during the summer asking them to submit recipes for the book. We were delighted with the response, with almost 50 embassies contributing over 150 recipes.”

The Embassies are assisted in their volunteer efforts by a group of Irish ladies known as the Irish friends. “The Bazaar patron is Norma Smurfit – well-known for her fundraising efforts,” adds Siobhan. “I submitted what I consider very traditional Irish recipes and which I have served with great pride when I have lived abroad.  The recipes are Colcannon, Irish Stew, Guinness Chocolate cake and Irish coffee as well of course as delicious recipe for Brown Soda Bread.”

What caught your interest in the project? Have you always loved cooking? “I love simple food made from really fresh ingredients.  We are so lucky to live on an island and to have access to fresh fish.  I love to cook all kinds of fish with baked in the oven or pan fried and served with fresh vegetables.”

Why self-publishing? Siobhan says it was a straightforward decision: “We were very anxious to have a print copy of the book – the first idea was to produce a CD, but as someone who loves to cook myself, I felt that people want to have something to flick through. Thanks to Google, Lettertec popped up in my search. I was impressed by Frank’s immediate response and enthusiasm for the project and the fact that he had so much experience of producing charity cookbooks, so really after that I didn’t shop around. My first impression was a lasting one!”

All the funds for the cookbook, raised both last year and this, go to Irish charities.  For more information on the Bazaar’s history and mission, see their website www.internationalbazaar.ie

You can also find them on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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Newest testimonial from our customers!

A sincere “thank you” for delivering my baby two days ahead of schedule.
Congratulations on a superb production, which even exceeded my unreasonably high expectations.
Also, please convey my thanks to your staff, who were so effecient.
It was a pleasure dealing with you all.

Slán agus beannacht,

Micheál Ó’h-Aonghusa.

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Maureen Fox: Memories & Articles

 

Maureen Fox was a journalist with the – then – Cork Examiner, now the Irish Examiner. At 15 she was expelled from school, her headmistress predicting that she would come to no good in life. After she joined the Examiner, in 1970, she became within a few years one of the most popular journalists in the South of Ireland, imaginative, creative and with great skills of communication.

She was glamorous, perfectly made up, wearing beautiful silk suits and towering high heels and often drove around in a bright yellow Triumph Spitfire sports car. In her writing she was open, direct, often controversial. She supported feminism and staunchly defended peace in Ireland and in the wider world.  She cared for the needy, the disabled, the elderly and many more. Animals were her dearest friends. She died in December 2010 in France. After her death one of her readers wrote to the Examiner, “There must be very few people who did so much good in their lives and left such a legacy of love and goodness to those in need.”

This book contains chapters about her exciting life and her journalism and offers a selection of her most characteristic and often controversial articles, written between 1971 and 1995. A special chapter deals with her immensely popular columns Paws Awhile, allegedly written by her dog Ponsonby.

The book has been compiled and written by Jan van Putten. He was an award winning journalist in The Hague before becoming a professor of political science in Amsterdam. Jan and Maureen met in Moscow in 1987 and married two years later. Jan moved to Ireland in 1990. Between 1991 and 2006 the couple lived near Lismore, Co. Waterford. As “Himself”, Jan figured in many of Maureen’s columns.

Maureen Fox: Memories & Articles is printed by Lettertec, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork and is published on a self-publishing basis.

 

The book can be purchased on-line through www.amazon.co.uk

or

by sending your order with your cheque to: “Puttenfox”, 9 Rue Haute Notre Dame, 56130 La Roche Bernard, France.

or

by sending an e-mail to puttenfox@orange.fr and setting up an electronic transfer. The price of the book, if ordered through “Puttenfox” is €11.95 including postage and packaging.

“Maureen’s writing, the issues she dealt with and the sincerity of her opinions touched a chord with many thousands of daily readers in a way that was entirely exceptional. In these Memories and Articles Jan van Putten savours a selection of her output and deals with her life in a way that reflects the honesty with which Maureen always approached her subject. There is joy and sorrow, triumph and failure, lightness and, above all, Maureen’s inimitable laughter and deep appreciation of life and everything that goes with it.”
Des O’Sullivan, Journalist.

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A Modern Irish Cook Book

Selfpublishbooks.ie have published Goodall’s latest compilation of Irish cooking by (and for) Irish cooks.

As outlined on Goodall’s website,  this book contains a great variety of recipes — from light bites such as Spiced Beef Blinis to heartier meals like Tagliatelle & Smoked Trout — not to mention delicious desserts like Trifle Cake. The recipes are chosen by the Goodall’s team from a selection submitted by Ireland’s Food Blogging Community, about whom you will find out more in the book.

I spoke to editor, contributor and foodie blogger, Margaret Smith, about the book. I asked her first where the idea came from. “It came out of a conversation I was having with Roisin, the marketing manager for Goodall’s, on how would you describe modern Irish food or cuisine to someone from outside of Ireland?”

What did they come up with? “We had a healthy debate,” Margaret says, “and from that sprung the idea that maybe we should include other people in the conversation.  We decided to put it out to the food bloggers of Ireland to see what their take on it would be.  We also thought it would be a lovely idea to capture these recipes and some lovely photos and put it into a book.  We thought of it as being a snapshot of what people are cooking in their homes all over Ireland.”

Judging by the product, they certainly achieved their ends! Margaret was delighted to contribute two of her own recipes to the book: “My own fail safe way of cooking a roast chicken with lemon, herbs and white wine and a canapé dish of blinis with spiced beef and a horseradish cream.” Delicious!

Margaret is a regular food blogger and cooking class leader herself — just take a look at her website: Umnumnum is an apt name!

She’s been a regular aficionado of the kitchen since she was in her twenties: “I have to say I became a little obsessed with it.  I love to eat and entertain and experiment and have been happy do that for twenty years or more  now.”

I ask Margaret what meal she enjoys cooking the most: “My favourite meal to cook changes quite often as I like to try new things.  At the moment a Thai green chicken curry is top of the list for flavour and it’s so easy and can be put together in 15 mins.  A beef stew is my ultimate comfort food though for days when I feel I have been put through the mill!”

What caught her interest in self-publishing? “We wanted to self-publish the book as a way to control the content and we also wanted to do it in a very tight time frame. The finished product was great and I think everyone was very proud of the book.”

The other positive about this new publication is that all profits from it go to Cork Penny Dinners and Dublin Food Bank. Please donate here or here if you can.

So what’s next for Margaret & Goodall’s? Her answer is tempting. “There are a few more exciting projects in the pipeline for Goodall’s but they are a bit hush hush at the moment so watch this space!!”


 (Click here for a brief preview inside the book!)

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