Category Archives: About Us

My Watchmaker’s Time by Joe Clarke

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Joe Clarke’s first novel, Mirrors Don’t Tell Lies, was almost 6 years in the making having undergone a series of rewrites in the process. His latest publication, My Watchmaker’s Time, followed along in a similar vein although taking a year or so less to complete. This week I had a quick chat with Joe about his new novel from Selfpublishbooks.ie.

“Once finished I had no real ambition to publish either works but subsequently gave in to family promptings,” Joe said, “I felt, at the time, that something as beautiful as the written word, especially in book form, was a fitting legacy and I am very proud of what I have achieved thus far.”

Following on and prior to his early retirement Joe also dabbled with poetry, writing scores of poems along the way.
“I love the simplicity of telling complexed stories in just a few rhyming verses,” Joe admits, “Occasionally I target the humour of topically funny stories via my email inbox or headline banners and make them real. I believe that poetry is as complicated or as simple as the writer cares to make it. I have written poems about life, death, love and hate with more than a sprinkling of adventure thrown in. When I eventually reach the milestone of having written 250 poems I will then seriously consider publishing them in their entirety. Prose versus Poetry is such a tight call for me simply because both play such a huge part in my life. I’d say the one starting with the letter ‘P’ wins hands down.”

 

What was it in this second novel that kept him engaged? “I really enjoyed writing My Watchmaker’s Time as it gave me the opportunity to think outside the box, steering away from the conventional,” he maintains, “The novel is made up of a series of short stories spanning centuries. It revolves around the life of Bryan Barnett, a pretty regular type of guy, who must seek his redemption through a series of tasks set up by a Higher Power. My favourite chapter tells the tale of Abe and Lucy, a pair of young ambitious hopefuls, during the great ‘Californian Gold Rush’ of 1849. Their original naivety in searching for gold saw them swiftly change direction when they accidentally struck rich. Setting up a series of hardware stores throughout the States brought more wealth than they at first had imagined. It’s a gripping story of rags to riches that more than just pulls at the heart strings. Really one to enjoy!”

 

How does My Watchmaker’s Time compare to Mirrors Don’t Tell Lies? Joe pauses on this. “To stand back and compare both books is very difficult to do, given their diversity. Aesthetically, both compare equally well although I will always have a special fondness for my first book, which is understandable, I suppose. I would like to once again thank Selfpublishbooks.ie for making my words come to life in the form of an exquisite book. Special thanks go to Shelley O’Reilly for the fantastic work done in producing such a stunning cover. Huge thanks also to my wife Terry for her support throughout. Without all of your help it would be but just a dream.”

 

So what’s next for Joe? “I am currently working on my third novel, The Case of the Missing Letter, a detective story with many twists and turns. It’s shaping very good at the moment but is still someway from completion. When inspiration isn’t there, you know, it just isn’t there and right now I am in that place, time for golf? I have no doubt that a few weeks away from the computer and on the golf course will do the trick, yet again. Funny old game this writing!”
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The Boys of Ballycroy by Kieran Ginty

Kieran Ginty Cover 'The Boys of Ballycroy'Final

A full-time public servant, Kieran Ginty qualified from the University of Limerick with a BA degree in Public Administration. Originally from Ballycroy in Co. Mayo, he is now settled in Limerick.  This week, I had a quick chat with Kieran about his newly printed novel, his first, The Boys of Ballycroy.

First off, I asked Kieran how it all started. “People who have read the book estimated that it must have taken me at least three years to write,” he said, “but I actually did it in less than 6 months – and that was working weekends, evenings and mornings only.  The book revolves around a group of seven friends, and follows how they and their families cope with the arrival of three conflicts – World War I, The Irish War of Independence, and The Irish Civil War.  It is set in my native parish, against the backdrop of poverty, oppression and emigration.”

What prompted your interested in writing this book? “There was a book written in the 1850s by a Scottish visitor that featured Ballcroy, and I have often wondered why no one wrote about the place in the interim.  I pay homage to this book in my publication.  Being a remote townland, the landscape remains largely untouched by modernization and it is the mountains, lakes, bogs, rivers, sand dunes and sea that provided the main inspiration.  Coupled with my deep interest in history, I hope all readers agree that they combine for a good read.”

“My grandparents used to tell me many stories about their days growing up there, and some of these have been integrated into the novel.”

I saw on the Facebook page photos and videos that feature in the book and asked Kieran if it the landscape that inspired the story or the story fitted to the landscape: “Definitely the landscape was the main inspiration.  There are so many old ruins also that prompt you to wonder what went on there in the past.  In some of those photos and videos, there is little sign of tarred roads, electricity wires or satellite dishes – you could actually convince yourself that they were recorded a century ago.  I have often said that it would be inexpensive for a movie set in the 1910s and 1920s to be filmed in Ballycroy, as very little would need to be done cosmetically.  And that is no slight on those who live there today – it is actually a compliment in that they have preserved their parish magnificently whilst still keeping in tandem with the modern world.”

I wonder if Kieran has always enjoyed writing. When did it begin? “From my schooldays I always enjoyed writing, especially creative writing.  However, I always hated reading out loud or speaking in public – even to this day I have ‘issues’ with these aspects of communication.   I used to really enjoy composing English essays in Secondary School – but then, to my horror – the teachers used to make me read my compositions out loud in front of my classmates.  I still have nightmares about that!  As a result, I ended up purposely writing bad essays, so that I would not have to recite them!  That is one of the reasons I held a low-key launch of my book – I avoided having to publicly read a passage.”

Surely such an avid reader has to have favourites. “I have always enjoyed the classics from the Brontes and Thomas Hardy as they vividly describe the surrounding landscape and local landmarks,” said Kieran, “From the initial feedback I have received from readers, the people of Mayo are enjoying reading about Croagh Patrick, The Nephin Mountains, Achill Island, The Inishkea Islands, The Mullet Peninsula – all of which feature in my novel.”

‘Wuthering Heights’ still remains unsurpassed as my favourite book of all time – even after the arrival of ‘The Boys of Ballycroy’!

What caught his interest in self-publishing? “To dip my toe in the water I contacted a number of publishing houses and to be honest, most of them had an ‘auto-reply’ type response saying they would take ‘at least three months to respond’ or ‘we are currently over-subscribed for Irish fiction.’  This ‘don’t call us – we’ll call you’ attitude was not for a good old typically ultra-efficient Public Servant like me (!) so it was such a relief to discover the self-publishing option.”

How did he find the self-publishing process? “Amazingly efficient.  The team in Cork were excellent.  They clearly set out what they do and also (just as important) what they do not do.  As a result, I had a large say in deadlines and in volumes printed, and all of the staff were so adaptable.   They were always ready with helpful tips or advice and were very supportive at all times.  It is a great comfort to know I can always contact them with a query.”

I asked Kieran if this is the end of something, or just the beginning. What’s next? “It is a great source of enjoyment to me to see the reaction to my story,” he replied, “I’ve seen so many smiles in the past few months, so I’m soaking all of that in for the moment.  I am very proud to see my book on display in bookshops that I have frequented for so many years. My only regret is that my grandparents are not around to see it – but I am truly fortunate that my parents are. Nothing definite has yet been decided, but I would like my next book to be about modern day Limerick, the city that has been very good to me.  And of course if I get enough encouragement from people whose opinion I value, I will do a follow-up to what I have just published – perhaps ‘The Girls of Ballycroy’!”

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Print Irish

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In this difficult economy, governments are putting ever more emphasis on supporting local business as a means to overall recovery. But that is not the only reason the Print Irish campaign is running.

The Print Irish Objectives

  •  Secure local industry and jobs in the print and packaging sector.
  •  Inform the general public that a product has been printed in Ireland.
  • Combat the issue of print being produced non-domestically.
  • Generate awareness that Irish print is focused on service and quality.
  • Create a value system so customers in Ireland are supportive of the Irish print industry going forward.
  • Promote jobs within the industry and encourage new consumers of print, to support Irish industry.

This campaign is a brand new initiative that aims towards putting a public face on the Irish printing industry. Printing in more recent years has become to be viewed as a somewhat generic service. Little thought is given to the thousands of jobs the printing industry supports and the high quality, good value service provided by a technology driven, high skilled indigenous workforce.

Just as the Intel Inside campaign transformed Intel from yet another semi-conductor manufacturer to a criteria of selection for computer hardware, the Print Irish campaign aims to encourage the Irish marketplace to support their own fellow workers and identify print that has originated on home soil.

What does Print Irish do for the Irish publishing sector?

It unites the Irish printing industry under one common flag. It also contributes to an industry war chest, enabling the Irish print and packaging sector to market itself more effectively and pool its collective resources for the greater good. It carries the Print Irish identity on your goods in order to demonstrate your commitment to Irish goods, services and manufacturing. It clearly differentiates between domestic suppliers of print and non-domestic suppliers of print. More to the point, it enables the 19,000 employees in 700 printing companies throughout Ireland to demonstrate their commitment to those companies who buy Irish print.

How does Selfpublishbooks.ie fit in?

As an independent publisher based in Cork, Ireland, Selfpublishbooks.ie offers a simple and cost effective means for authors to make the leap from file to printed book. With high standards of production and keen attention to detail, Selfpublishbooks.ie guarantees a high-quality product that is reliable, practical and local.

Print quality, print Irish.

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Abandoned Darlings

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Ruth Quinlan, one of the members of NUIG’s Masters in Writing group which produced the collection Abandoned Darlings, caught up with Selfpublishbooks.ie this week and discussed how the book came about, starting with how her interest in writing first began.

“When I was younger,” said Ruth, “I was a real bookworm, staying up all night devouring books until the grey hours of morning. I had always been interested in writing as well, dabbling with a few evening courses but never really making much headway because I was too focused on work. When I moved back from Malaysia in 2009, I really wanted to rediscover that part of myself so I started looking at MA courses and saving every spare cent I could lay my hands on. I didn’t want to do it part-time like I know other people do; I wanted it to be a full year of immersing myself back into the world of books and writing. So, I chucked in the job and became a full-time student again. Yes, several people thought I had lost my senses walking away from a good job in the middle of a recession but I knew that I needed to do it for myself.”

Why NUIG? “The NUIG course really appealed to me because it is such a wide-ranging course – people don’t have to choose a particular area of specialization until the final MA portfolio is being handed in. Instead, they can do anything from poetry to oral history, screenwriting to travel literature.”

Ruth felt this particularly contributed to her enjoyment of the program: “I discovered areas like theater reviewing that I absolutely loved – and would never have considered if they hadn’t been on the available module list. Those free theater tickets for the semester came in very handy – I was there every week for about three months! I adored being a student again and still get a little pang of envy whenever I pass by the college here in Galway.”

So how did Abandoned Darlings come about? “It has become a kind of informal tradition now for each of the MA in Writing courses to release a collection of their writing after the course has finished,” Ruth told me, “We looked at previous year’s examples and we wanted to do the same – especially since this was the tenth anniversary of the MA in Writing course. Professor Adrian Frazier has done an incredible job of gathering together gifted teachers and enthusiastic students and the MA has really blossomed under his skillful stewardship. He had suggested the idea of an anthology to us towards the beginning of our course (back in September 2011) and we ran with it from there. However, the process really started in May 2012 when we started having meetings about it and trying to figure out who was going to be guest editor, how many submissions to have etc. December 2012 when we launched Abandoned Darlings was the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people who had never done anything like this before.”

What books/which authors particularly inspired you and your MA group? “I remember when I read The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, my fingers literally burned to write like she did,” Ruth said, “I could see what she saw, feel what her characters felt; taste, touch, smell the entire world she created. Since then, I have read everything she wrote but also had the privilege of reading many other wonderful authors. An Irish author that I really admire is Nuala Ni Chonchuir. I find the sensuality and earthy wisdom of her prose and poetry inspiring. Whenever the muse has decided that she’d much rather hang out with a more deserving writer, I pick up one of Nuala’s books – the muse eventually stops sulking after that and deigns to come back  – for a little while at least.”

What did Ruth contribute to the anthology? “I wrote a short story called ‘Moon-kite’ which is my attempt to explore the breakdown of a middle-aged woman’s marriage. It is about her realization that she has lost pieces of herself in the struggle to hold a dying marriage together – and the solace she seeks during her rediscovery of her self. I also wrote a short piece called ‘Crossing the Dunes’, which is about the loss of a loved one. It was heavily influenced by the loss of my own father but is not completely autobiographical.”

Ruth was happy to talk about her publishing history: “I have had my writing published in journals and forums like ThresholdsSINScissors & SpackleEmerge Literary Journal and I’m included in this year’s Irish Independent Hennessy New Irish Writing series. My poetry was published as part of Wayword Tuesdays, which was a poetry collection printed by Selfpublishbooks.ie a little earlier this year. I was just a contributor on that project though as opposed to this one for Abandoned Darlings where I took responsibility for driving it to conclusion.”

What caught their interest in self-publishing? “Self-publishing really opens your eyes to the hard grind that goes into creating, marketing, and selling a book. I will never pick up another book without a heartfelt appreciation of how many decisions were required to bring it into existence. It’s funny actually because when you self-publish, you become completely obsessed with strange things like cover finishes, and paper color and weight. I found myself on several occasions standing in the middle of a bookshop running my hand over a page of particularly smooth, heavyweight paper – or lusting over a nice cover graphic. I definitely got a few odd looks!”

I asked Ruth how she and the group found the self-publishing process – efficient or daunting? Ruth was optimistic about the whole process. “However, once we got int the nitty-gritty like finding a guest editor, assigning an ISBN number, writing bios, fundraising to cover the printing process & advertising costs, etc. we became a little more daunted. However, we were fortunate in the fact that we could turn to some of the people from previous MA years who had gone through the process already. Their advice was invaluable. While this was a steep learning curve for me personally, I am very glad I did it because now, if I ever get to the stage where I want to publish a book of my own, I would have a pretty good idea of how to go about it. The old adage is true – you really do only learn by doing, getting your hands dirty and by making your own mistakes. Then, at the end of the day, when you see your book for the first time in print, the hard work is truly worth it and there is a great feeling of satisfaction in being able to say, ‘I did this, I created this.’ ”

Will the group be writing together in the future or going their separate ways? “Now that the MA year has finished, many of the class have moved back home to the States or Canada so I am not sure if we can all continue to work together as closely as we have until now. However, I think we will all keep in contact and continue to workshop each others writing and I am very sure that some of the group will continue to work together as a writing collective.”

Now the collection is done, I asked Ruth if she’s finished with writing: “Never! I will never have enough of writing. However, now that I am back in full-time employment, the challenge will be to make sure that I retain a balance between work and the writing. I cannot let my writing slip away like I did before so I am determined to keep at it. It would be such a loss otherwise. Competition deadlines are a great way of forcing yourself to write so I’ll be keeping an eye out for those. Even if I don’t get anywhere with them, they are a great incentive to keep producing. Practice makes perfect as they say.”

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Wayword Tuesdays with the Tuesday Knights

Wayword Tuesdays COVER

Over the last three years, novice and experienced poets have been meeting in creative writing classes in Galway under the guidance of poet Kevin Higgins either on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Fridays. Over the years, though classes have had different people come and go, there have been a few who regularly would be there on the Tuesday night, and got to know each other pretty well.

I caught up with Stephen Byrne, one of the contributors to Wayword Tuesdays, who told me that it was one of the aforementioned few regulars who came up with the concept of creating an anthology for the group, and so the Tuesday Knights were founded and consisted of 7 poets.

The Tuesday Knights printed their anthology with Selfpublishbooks.ie earlier this year. I asked Stephen how it all began. “We started it last June,” he says, “We would meet in the House Hotel (which became a regular occurrence) to decide on how we would do it, since none of us had ever had books published before. A lot of work and decisions have to go in to this project such as, to try get published or self–publish? Do we need/want an ISBN number? How many poems each? What would the design be like? Who will design it? What about the cover, art or graphic? We needed to meet regularly and come to agreement on everything, time consuming but fun.”

I asked Stephen what he enjoyed the most about the compliation. “We all contributed 7 poems each. Plus we had a professional photographer take portraits and added these into the book along with a short bio of each writer, was a lovely touch.”

Seven writers, one book had to be a challenge. I asked Stephen what the main obstacles were in putting together Wayword Tuesdays: “As with 7 different poets, the main challenge was to have variety. And luckily enough, since we are 7 completely different writers with different styles and voices, the book is awash with different types of poetry, catering for all tastes.”

This is the Tuesday Knights’ first publication. Why self-publish? Stephen is happy to tell me: “Having full control, of design, cost, timescale. Plus, we had the ability to come together, grow together as a group, each with an influence in its creation and the excitement of having and viewing the final draft before we give the go ahead to print, is daunting yet crazily exhilarating, the power of self-publishing.”

The process of self-publishing itself is sometimes daunting at first glance, but Stephen told me it was quite the opposite for him and the group. “Actually found it quite easy. Working with Frank and his team was gratifying, easy, enjoyable and extremely efficient. The hard and tiring part was getting everything together, working with 7 people, meeting together, agreeing, disagreeing, but the publishing part was a doddle, quick with outstanding results.”

What about the finished product? “It was way better than we imagined, stunning,” Stephen said, “We had outsourced the artwork for our cover with a local artist, so we did not know what way the cover would look until we had the books in our hands. We also chose a creamery paper rather than the white. When the books arrived, I was blown away by how professional they looked. The cover was outstanding and because of the paper we chose, the font looked amazing.”

I asked Stephen if there was an author/group of authors the group took as their inspiration. “Too many to name,” replied, “I myself would be highly influenced by Lorca and Neruda and more recently Nathalie Handal.”

What’s next for the Tuesday Knights?

“I think we will now do a bit of literature festival traveling to promote the book, sell a few copies and have fun with it. Whether we bring out another anthology down the line remains to be seen, but who knows, we now know what were doing and have had a taste of the simplicity of self-publishing.”

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Irish Poetry with Sean O’Muimhneachan

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Sean O’Muimheachan, a primary teacher in Macroom, printed with Selfpublishbooks.ie a casebound book of his poetry. I had a quick chat with Sean and asked him where it all began.

“I was born and reared in a rural Gaeltacht area, Gaeltacht Mhúscraí,” said Sean, “and received my primary and secondary education in that area; I’ve
spent all my working life there. Very boring you might say! Not at all.
This is an area of natural beauty, steeped in history and culture and with
plenty of sporting and cultural activity throughout the year. We are within
easy reach of bus and train services and within an hour’s journey of two
international airports. But those things never bothered me growing up in
this area as there was always plenty to do.”

Sean was happy to relate how he first became interested in writing: “This locality has long been famous for its writers, poets and singers and
it was only natural that I would become acquainted with their work as I
grew up. Songs and poems were composed about many local happenings,
these being mostly humorous songs, but many more serious poets were
also at work, producing works that were to earn for them national fame.

“Seán Ó Ríordáin and Séamas Ó Céileachair are two who immediately
come to mind. Then there were the writers like An tÁth, Peadar Ó
Laoghaire and Dónall Bán Ó Céileachair, who preserved the richness of
the local dialect in their writings. Perhaps it was only natural that I would
begin to dabble in such pursuits as I grew to understand the importance of
such things in our society.”

How does work fit into all this? “Being a Primary Teacher, I often composed poems to fit in with topics in
the curriculum when suitable poems were not available or for use in stage
shows or drama competitions. Dámhscoil Mhúscraí provided the impetus
to practise my poetry skills and I have for many years participated in
this annual poetry session.

“I’ve been a regular attendant at Oireachtas na
Gaeilge and Fleadhanna Ceoil also, both of which hold competitions for
newly composed songs. This provided the incentive to write and compete,
which I have done for many years with limited success. Having heard
suggestions from many that I should publish some of my works, I decided
the time was right when I retired from teaching and so Gleanntán an
Aoibhnis began to take shape.”

I was curious to know what a reader can expect from Sean’s book. “The reader will find that the songs are predominantly humorous songs
and I must admit to enjoying writing such songs,” he admits with a smile, “When a good line comes
together it gives me a giggle of satisfaction and I hope it also brings a
smile to the face of the reader.

“Having said this, I am well aware that a
serious song or poem is usually of a far better quality than a frivolous
one. I have also written a few of those, both in Irish and in English. It’s
easy to draw a laugh but the song that draws a tear strikes closer to the
heart.”

So once he put all the words together, it was only a matter of finding where to put them between a book cover. Sean has already given a wonderful testimonial, but I was curious as to how he found self-publishing: “This was my first experience of publishing and, having approached Bard
na nGleann in Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, I was put in touch with Lettertec
in Carrigtwohill. I was facing the unknown.

“However, I was given every
assistance and advice and Elaine Barry, who was in charge of design, was
most efficient, helpful and patient. Anything that needed to be changed or
corrected was attended to without fuss and her advice on layout, font, etc.,
was invaluable. The finished product more than I could have wished for,
a most professional package, and deadlines were met promptly.”

What’s in store for Mr O’Muimhneachan now? “At the moment I don’t have any other plans for publishing,” he says, “but who
knows what the future may hold!”

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Young At Heart

Phil with Minister Kathleen Lynch and Frank Kelly of Lettertec

Young at Heart – a Celebration of Ten Years is a compilation by Phil Goodman which chronicles the activities of a group of volunteers in the Douglas area who meet on a weekly basis and call themselves ‘Young at Heart’. The book was launched at St Columbas Hall, Douglas, Cork on November 26th by Kathleen Lynch, Minister with special responsibility for the elderly, pictured above with Frank Kelly of Selfpublishbooks.ie and Phil Goodman.

This group was formed by Phil ten years ago who saw the need to focus attention on the ageing members of the community in Douglas and has since evolved from the regular weekly social night in St. Columba’s Hall, to the formation of the Douglas Care Ring that has been set up to care for the needs of the elderly people living in the Douglas area.

The book charts the Young at Heart groups activities over the past ten years from visiting Áras an Uachtarán and Dáil Éireann to  Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament in London. It details the various weekly activities that the group enjoy such as Bowls, Bingo and visiting Douglas Community School to learn basic computer skills.  There is no end to what this group can do!

In her own words, Phil explains why the group was formed, “We all need meaningful interaction with other people.  There was a need for this age group to meet and socialise together to keep them young and active.  This was the genesis of the name Young at Heart.”

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