Author Patricia Byrne on researching and writing her latest book

Author Patricia Byrne delves into on of the darker chapters of Irish history for her latest book, ‘The Preacher and the Prelate: The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland’.

It recounts the story of an evangelising colony established by Edward Nangle on the slopes of Slievemore, Achill in the nineteenth century. The colony became infamous during the Great Famine with charges of enticing people to change their faith with promises of food and material benefits known as ‘souperism’.

“I have a special affinity with Achill Island and its stories. Over the years, in visiting Achill, I came to realise that within its shores were packed some extraordinary stories, none more so than that of the Achill Mission Colony.

“The colony is a microcosm of nineteenth-century Ireland, famine, emigration, landlordism. I became engrossed in the story and could not let go of it. It was as if, by researching and writing it, I was walking through my own history,” said Patricia.

Born in County Mayo, Limerick became Patricia’s home in the 1980’s when she relocated to work in Shannon Development, where she worked on regional and economic development in the mid west.

Patricia has a BA from Maynooth University, an MBS from University of Limerick and in 2006 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing at National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, and since her retirement has been writing full time for about ten years.

Patricia has already published a poetry collection, ‘Unstable Time’ in 2009 and her book ‘The Veiled Woman of Achill: Island Outrage and A Playboy Drama’ which was published in 2012 tells another Achill story, about a notorious island crime of 1894 committed at the Valley House in north Achill.

Patricia Byrne

She most enjoys writing narrative nonfiction, “I research my stories but write them using fictional techniques to read like a novel. I also like to write memoir essays where aspects of my own life are intertwined with other material as in my essay ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’”.

Patricia was included in last year’s list of ‘Notables’ for Best American Essays for her piece ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’ which linked her life in Mayo and Limerick, “through the prism of Heinrich Boll’s essay on Limerick in his Irish Journal”.

“I find that when I am immersed in research and writing a story it becomes an obsession. Even when not directly involved in the work, it never seems to leave me.

“I find I feel compelled to visit the places where the story takes place. So there have been many trips to Achill Island, to Dugort and Slievemore, to the Deserted Village and other wonderful places in Achill”.

Preferring to write daily and in the mornings, Patricia’s favourite spot is at a desk on the first floor of her house that catches the morning sunshine, from where she can admire a horse chestnut tree in her garden and a neighbouring cat that crawls along the top of the wall to keep her company.

For more information see

how bestselling author Roisin Meaney copes with chronic Insomnia

Bestselling author Roisin Meaney, has just published her fifteenth novel, ‘The Anniversary’, despite suffering from the debilitating condition chronic Insomnia.

According to the Health Service Executive (HSE) website, Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning, some of the side effects are feeling tired, lack of concentration, irritability and not being able to mentally or physically function effectively for normal daily routines.

Roisin, who has lived in Limerick most of her life, has had insomnia for more than ten years, and has tried every type of exercise and alternative remedy to have a full nights slumber.

“I’ve meditated, I’ve lain on a yantra mat, I’ve done yoga, I’ve listened to whale music, I’ve taken supplements that are known for sleep inducing properties… you name it, I’ve done it, or swallowed it.

“I take half a sleeping tablet that I buy over the counter in Spanish chemists. After trying a gazillion other remedies, alternative and otherwise, this is the only one that works. Every few nights I don’t take it, and I don’t sleep,” said Roisin.

Though she has no idea what might have triggered the insomnia Roisin said, “I have no mental or physical issues that might be causing it. Perhaps the creative process has something to do with it, I used to think it might be, but now I’m not so sure. If I’m not writing I’m generally thinking about the next book, but I’m not convinced it’s the culprit. I mean, I’m currently on book number sixteen, you’d think my system would have adapted by now.”

Despite having Insomnia, Roisin still manages to keep her busy routine of writing daily, and all that being a modern successful author entails, such as book readings, speaking at book festivals, interviews for television, radio, newspapers and keeping her social media up to date as well as replying to fans of her books.

Though she has tried to structure a nap into her daily routine it has not worked.

Roisin Meaney

“No matter how tired I feel I seem incapable of napping. I so envy folk who can grab half an hour of sleep whenever they want. Thankfully, I’m still producing a novel a year. Of course, they might be better novels if I slept well, but that’s for another day,” joked Roisin.

‘The Anniversary’ which is now available in bookshops, centres around a couple, Lily and Charlie, who split up four years earlier and who are coming together to spend a weekend in the house where Lily grew up, and where they spent summer holidays when the children were small.  Accompanying them are their respective new partners, their two adult children and their daughter’s partner.

Last October Roisin purchased a small cottage in Miltown Malbay in Clare, where her cat has also settled in and she goes for regular early morning walks on the beaches.

“Since then I’ve been dividing my time between Clare and Limerick, and I’ve been met with nothing but friendliness and warmth from the locals. I’m a total blow-in, but they’re OK with that.”


Author Gemma Mawdsley


Gemma Mawdsley, now working on her sixteenth novel called Bonded by Blood, is an internationally renowned writer of Gothic horror novels. Since moving to West Clare last February, this Limerick Lady is enjoying getting inspiration for her writing from her quiet, fruitful surroundings.

“I love my adopted county. From the window of my upstairs office, I can see the fields stretching out for miles, and it’s a joy to watch the ever-changing kaleidoscope of colours. The people here are really friendly, and the men seem to have retained some of that old world charm. At times, it feels I have stepped back decades,” said Gemma.

Gemma’s fascination with the gothic began at a young age, when, gathered around an open fire at her Grandmothers, where there was an old graveyard at the back of the house, her imagination was fuelled by ghost stories, some about her Granny’s resident ghost.

At ten years of age, Gemma had her first taste of success when her poem was published in the Limerick Leader. However, it wasn’t until years later, when her mother died, needing a distraction from her grief, she enrolled for a creative writing course at the University of Limerick run by David Rice.

Her journey through writing styles eventually led her to combining her love of history and the paranormal to create a unique genre, which has seen her career as a writer go from strength to strength.

“My first novel, The Paupers’ Graveyard, dealt with the famine. I did countless hours of research as the topic is such an important one and sadly, many of these famine graveyards are neglected and unmarked, when they should be as important to our culture and history as Egypt’s Tombs of the Kings.”

Gemma’s second book, Whispers, is told by two spirit children who inhabit an industrial school, a story which was inspired by the reports of abuse in industrial schools which have dominated headlines in Ireland over the last number of years.

Currently working on three books, (Erebus, the story of a haunted house over three generations; The Wraith, about a mother trying desperately to find her kidnapped child; Bonded by Blood, three sisters who are determined to destroy one another), this prolific author has still found time to enjoy exploring her new surroundings, especially the coastal areas, visiting small cottage businesses and writing about them on her author pages.

“I’m hoping to write from September to June, so I can take the summer months to enjoy my new surrounding and all the beauty Clare has to offer.”

When Gemma isn’t writing she enjoys sewing period costumes for her antique doll collection, but is especially looking forward to long walks in the Clare countryside with her new dog, Toby.

“I’m aware that many people hate the dark, winter nights, but I’m in my element. I like nothing more than the crisp, frosty mornings and as the evenings draw in, the strange scurrying in the hedgerows, as the nocturnal foragers come to life.

“One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given recently is, that if I’m walking late at night and hear, what seems to be the cough of an old man coming from behind the bushes, not to panic. It is the cough of a cow. I don’t know how true that is, but it made me smile.”

Growing up, her favourite book was Anne of Green Gables. Now she tends to read detective novels, so as not to be influenced by other horror writers, her favourite author is Val Mc Dermid and her favourite film is An Enchanted April.

After all these years Gemma still loves telling stories through the medium of writing, and has enjoyed hearing many ghost stories since she moved to Clare.

“But I have frightened myself. Most of the stories I would write come from mythology. When I was writing Death Cry, it’s about the banshee. I’m afraid of loud noises and at one stage I actually came out and sat on the stairs, just to get away from it.”

Though Gemma doesn’t claim to be psychic she is very sensitive, and has had a lot of experiences that she can’t explain, such as her encounter with the ghost of an old housekeeper at an historic manor in Bedfordshire.

“I think as well, when I’m writing the characters are alive for me, I sometimes think I see something from the corner or my eye, but that’s probably that you are caught up in the tension of it all.

“That’s why I think people like the ghost stories, because people get the thrill, and that, it couldn’t really happen, but at the same time you have the thrill of thinking could it?” said Gemma.

Though Gemma has visited many fortune tellers, she wouldn’t go to mediums, or advise anyone to have anything to do with Ouija boards, however she does believe in Quantum theory, which is where the two worlds run parallel, the real world and the spirit world, and sometimes cross over when you can see spirits.

“People would often say, if I go, do you want me to come back? And I say, no, keep going, you’re fine where you are, don’t tell me, let me be surprised,” added Gemma.

The Paupers’ Graveyard, Death Cry and Whispers are available to buy on Amazon.  For more information on her books see

Roisin Meany Photograph by Angles Photography Limerick

Author Roisin Meany


I recently chatted with Roisin Meaney, one of Ireland’s most successful authors, who has just seen her latest novel, The Reunion, top the Irish bestsellers list for six weeks in a row.

This prolific author’s career will soon hit an even greater high, when she becomes even more of an international sensation, with offers of translation deals from Russian and Norwegian publishers in the pipeline.

“I already have adult books in the US, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, so it’ll be great to have two more territories to add to the list,” said Roisin.

Author of thirteen adult and two children’s books, Roisin shows no signs of slowing down, as she is currently in the process of writing her fourteenth novel which will be published in June 2017.

Always on the lookout for new storylines, the inspiration for her latest book came from a reunion at the last place she taught, the Limerick School Project.

“I spent the evening talking with parents of children I’d taught over the years, and one of them remarked that a reunion might make a good theme for a book, and so it came to pass,” said Roisin.

Prior to her success as a writer, having qualified as a primary school teacher, Roisin taught in Dublin for a number of years. Then she moved on to teach English in Zimbabwe, after that she worked as an advertising copywriter in London, and then returned to teach in Ireland.

In 2001 she decided to try and write a book, but was unsuccessful with her first attempt, which was a collection of stories for children. At this point she took a writing course given by David Rice at the Killaloe Hedge School in Clare.

It was while on another break from teaching, while staying with one of her brothers who lived in San Francisco, that Roisin wrote, The Daisy Picker, the book which launched her career when it won Tivoli Publishers ‘Write a Bestseller’ competition. The prize was a two book deal, and on the strength of her win she got an agent.

When she returned to Ireland she resumed her teaching career, and wrote her second book, Putting Out the Stars, in her spare time. In 2006 she signed up with Hodder Headline Ireland, now Hachette Books Ireland, and in 2008 Roisin gave up teaching to concentrate on her career as an author.

A disciplined writer, who always meets her deadlines and plans her writing, Roisin prefers to work at the kitchen table. She structures her day as a normal work day and then takes the evenings off. Her first draft would usually take six months then she spends the next four to six months fine-tuning the text.

Roisin conducts research for each of her books, in order to thoroughly know her characters and make them true to life, she interviews people who work at jobs that her characters have.

“I’ve spoken with doctors, nurses, barristers, guards, sheep farmers, social workers and artists. I signed up for a life drawing class when I was writing The Things We Do for Love, and I spoke with the model during the break. I’m currently looking for a musician to chat to about my work in progress.”

Roisin enjoys writing compelling stories with interesting characters and usually starts with a plot, “but some of my plots are pretty sketchy so it’s a case of growing the story as I write it, and this can go in a direction I didn’t expect. My first book in particular, The Daisy Picker, turned out very differently from what I had planned.”

Roisin believes her writing style has evolved since she was first published, and feels she is learning a little more with each book she writes. She becomes emotionally involved with her characters when writing, and recalls crying while writing a scene in her novel One Summer where a character dies, “I love writing that’s unexpected, that you don’t see coming. And also writing that moves you, in any way.”

Roisin enjoys the glitz and glamour of book launches, but equally enjoys an escape away to the sun, or relaxing with a glass of wine or cup of tea, with a book by the fire where she competes for space on the couch with her two cats Fred and Ginger who snuggle up beside her.

She loves to read and write general fiction and mostly enjoys books about ordinary people, “I don’t mind which era the novels I read are set in, as long as the storyline keeps me hooked and the characters are ones I can warm to. If a book doesn’t grab me in 50 pages I toss it aside. Life’s too short.”

Roisin’s top three favourite books are Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Ann Tyler and 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. She has just finished reading, All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan’s, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Of all the books she has ever read Roisin wishes she had written, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It’s got it all – humour, pathos, heartbreak, joy.”

One of Roisin’s favourite films is Love Actually, “It has its corny moments but on the whole it’s a joy from start to finish. I love all the different stories and the connections that become apparent gradually.”

Not one to suffer from writer’s block, if Roisin is ever stuck in her writing, she will go for a walk or do a bit of gardening. But why does she write?

“That’s easy, because I love it. Even when it’s hard I love it. I pinch myself regularly to make sure I’m not dreaming. Sometimes it seems too good to be true that I’m getting paid to make stuff up,” she smiled.

Roisin Meany by Angles Photography

Roisin Meany by Angles Photography