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’!”