Interview with Irish Imbas Books

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Cork city in Southern Ireland. Most weekends and holidays we would drive down to the Beara peninsula where we had a house and where Dad's side of the family are based. I had a brilliant childhood growing up there, wandering through the surrounding fields with friends or brothers and sisters without any real kind of monitoring and looking for hours over beautiful views of Bantry Bay.
You tend to write a lot of Irish-related fiction. Is that intentional?
Well, yes. Being Irish, my background is obviously going to have an influence on what I write and how I write. I'd have to confess that I'm particularly keen in producing fiction that is as culturally authentic as possible. There are a lot of books out there that purport to be Irish or that utilise aspects of Irish mythology culture and heritage in a completely incorrect or inappropriate cultural context. Classic examples would be all those stories about the 'fairies', banshees, leprechauns and so on. I guess a big part of what I'm trying to do is to educate people on these elements of Irish culture, show them the truth behind the stereotypes and icons but in a way that's exciting and entertaining. As a Gaelic speaker and once-upon-a-time teacher of Irish myself, I'm also very much into helping people of Irish descent reclaim their heritage by making it more accessible.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. The first story I ever wrote was a short story called 'fridge'. It's what I call a 'snippet' - a kind of short written work that you first start producing when you write. These are the kind of things writers will send off for submissions in magazines, journals etc. It allows you to develop your skills as a writer before delving into longer, more difficult works.
Over the years, as I got better at writing, I amended the story very slightly as the core pretty much remained the same. It was published in a New Zealand magazine and was also good enough to get into 'The Irish Muse' - a collection of short stories I released in 2009/2010.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I'm just going with three books.

(1) 'Shibumi' by Trevanian - I still love it after all these years. Trevanian managed to take a sixties-style spy thriller and imbue it with a fascinating set of complex characters that completely dominate the story, make the mystery all the more enthralling and bring the story to places you could never have imagined.

(2) 'Legend' - by David Gemmell. Probably Gemmell's best book. He has a wonderful way with dialogue. It's very sparse but yet allows the development of substantial characters. He also does excellent action scenes and has a sure hand on how he ratchets up the tension to the final climax. A major influence on my Fionn mac Cumhal series.

(3) 'The Perfume' - by Patrick Suskind. This was the first book I completely read in another language (in French while living in northern France). I received it as a birthday present and although I started it with some reticence, I finished it in two days. This is the best example I can think of where a book transports you to a completely different way of seeing the world. Never bothered with the film which, by all accounts, had no real similarity with the book.
What do you read for pleasure?
If I'm reading during times of stress or have little time, I'll read graphic novels. Anything by Brian Wood, Warren Ellis or Ed Brubaker is usually worthwhile. Brian Michael Bendis has probably the best dialogue I've come across. You can learn a lot from reading him
Wrt non-fiction, I devour anything to do with Irish culture, history/archaeology and folklore.
For pure pleasure, I read a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy, some classics and occasionally a literary novel that someone recommends to me.
Can you give some background to your Beara Trilogy? Where does it come from? Where is it going?
Well, you're probably aware the first book in the Trilogy (Beara: Dark Legends) was released this year. I'm hoping to have the second out sometime next year but I'm also completing the second book in my Fionn mac Cumhal series so that may be a bit of a challenge. The first book was very much about setting the scene - this bizarre Irish historical detective who gets hired to solve historical mysteries involving key elements of Irish culture, his associated friends and enemies. All books are stand alone adventure mysteries with strong elements of Irish history/mythology but I do have a clear plan in my mind as to where it is going and how it will finish. I guess I wrote this book because (a) I missed Beara - where all my O'Sullivan side of the family come from and (b) I saw a real need for a strong Irish detective series that Irish people can relate to. After the Trilogy, I'm not sure where it will go but I may do some short stories with the characters. I'll have to wait and see.
What do your fans mean to you?
That's actually a tough one. Although the first Beara book and the short stories have been received exceptionally well by Irish people (and New Zealanders - where I'm based) I'm really just starting my online writing presence at this stage. As far as I know I have a single formal fan based somewhere in Italy (waves! Hallo Italy!). It's very flattering to know someone overseas went and made the effort to sign up and follow my writing. I do get a bit of feedback from fans here in NZ and back home in Ireland and I find that really helpful when thinking about what I'm writing next. I've just set up a website at irishimbasbooks.com where I'm hoping more people will sign up to connect with me. It would be great to get their feedback online and to be able to run drafts of work or 'special ideas' past them in the future.
What are the key characteristics of your writing style?
Hmm. I suppose I write as a speak to some degree so there's probably a bit of an Irish style to my writing. No doubt that's exacerbated by my occasional use of Gaelic words or expressions where I feel the Irish fits better than English. For example, when I address a close friend I'll often address him or her as 'a chara' - literally 'friend'. Emotionally, that's just how I feel. It's the same when I write. I tend to write Irish with my heart, English with my head. Provided it doesn't detract from the scene of course.
Other aspects, I suppose, would include humour - again, as long as it doesn't detract from a scene. I also like relatively meaty plots and I'm told my dialogue style is quite unique with a lot of play on words. I'm not sure if that's good or bad but most people enjoy the books so I'll go with the compliment, I think.
What's your next project?
I'm currently finishing the third Fionn mac Cumhaill book (The Adversary) and a prequel (The Grey One) which should be published in early October/November 2015. I'm also working on the second Beara Trilogy book but as this is a more complex narrative this won't be ready until late next year at the earliest. I'm also looking at doing an audio version of the first Fionn book but that will depend on time.
Published 2015-07-09.
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Books by This Author

Irish Imbas: Celtic Mythology Collection 2016
Price: Free! Words: 18,640. Language: English. Published: March 10, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Historical » Ancient
This collection by a new wave of contemporary authors (Sighle Meehan, Sheelagh Russell Brown, Marc McEntegart, Coral Atkinson and Marie Gethins) mark a new movement of authentic and original Celtic-based writing and a better understanding of Celtic cultures. The ‘Fairies’, the ‘Salmon of Knowledge’,the ‘Children of Lir’ and the ‘Selkie’. They’re all waiting for you here.