Tag Archives: Tom O’Neill

Writing and more writing

It has been so long since I blogged. No excuses available.

But in the meantime I was delighted to be part of two short story collections – Magic! which was edited by Siobhan Parkinson, beautifully illustrated by Olwyn Whelan and published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. My story is called Finbar the Furious: The Ogre who could do no Wrong. I loved writing it and being part of this collection. Thank you Siobhan!Magic!

The second collection is Once Upon a Place, a Laureate na nÓg  and the brainchild of Eoin Colfer. This was published by Little Island and wondrously illustrated by PJ Lynch. My story in the collection is called Beautiful Dawn. Again, I felt privileged to be a part of this book. Thank you Eoin!

Once Upon a Place

Since then I have been working on another book for children, this time, unlike The Butterfly Heart and The Sleeping Baobab Tree which were both set in Zambia, it is set in Ireland. More specifically set in Kilkenny where I now live. I have for many years resisted writing books set in Ireland as I still feel something of a stranger to the country. However I have now lived here for thirteen years and am starting to get used to it… So, I thought I would give it a try. I am hopeful it will come out in the early part of next year. Not going to talk about it much till it becomes a reality – but a couple of the characters in it somewhat resemble creatures like this one below..


So .. now back to other writing. Firstly to a work in progress – this time for adults and co-written with my partner Tom O’Neill. We are almost there with this one.  (Tom, by the by, has a book that has been accepted for publication by Dalkey Archive Press – very, very exciting!)

Then on to another work in progress – also for adults – that might take longer… not as much progress as I would like with this one. But a start made.. and a start is better than a non start..

So, there we go.

Happy Days

Yesterday was a happy writing day.

Robert Dunbar in the Irish Times had this to say about the Sleeping Baobab Tree …

Finally, with Paula Leyden’s The Sleeping Baobab Tree , we travel to Zambia for a mind-opening novel featuring twin sisters, the boy next door and his formidable greatgrandmother: a car journey involving all four provides a wonderfully sustained piece of comic writing in a novel that nevertheless engages with serious contemporary themes.

But as for the “best”? My Honour Award for fiction would go to the Paula Leyden title, which, as some duplication is allowed, would also carry off the book-of-the-year award. 

Now. I know this is one person’s opinion – and as I said in a previous post, the shortlist is a strong one and I am a newbie so my expectations are low – but I am thrilled to be on the list and his comments warmed my heart. I especially loved that he was amused by the book ..Thank you Robert!

Then, a review of Tom O’Neill’s book (Tom is my partner) Fionn and the Legends of the Blood Emeralds by Mary Esther Judy of Fallen Star Stories

author: Tom O’Neill
HeroicRealm.com (2013)
ISBN: 9781909483279
Dark McLeans’ Uncle Connie has been struck down by a mysterious illness: an illness of alarmingly rapid progress with no obvious cause or treatment; an illness that is killing him. Dark is now in a race against time to find a cure. Their sinister neighbour is shadowing Darks’ every move, his friends are abandoning him and Dark is losing hope and courage. Each night, Dark ventures into a nearby fairy ring in desperation. Perhaps the Old People know of a cure. Each night, Dark is told a tale….. a tale of a young man called Matha who, long ago, was on a similar quest to his own; a tale of Fionn MacCumhaill and ancient journeys, of bards and battles and a magical land. As time is running out for Uncle Connie, Dark begins to understand the true meaning behind his uncles’ words: “They walk among us.”
Tom O’Neills’ previous book, “Old Friends: The Lost Tales of Fionn MacCumhaill” was thoroughly gripping. 

This one is even more. This one is simply spell-binding, packed with lyrical story-telling, raw and complex emotional impact and evocative characters and setting. The flow of the contemporary story into the mythical is smooth, and the correlations drawn between the two stories create an ebb and flow that pulls the reader into the tale. Each chapter is genuine, believable and intriguing. The power behind the words is tangible and will keep you awake well into the night reading on…. and casting your vision out into the night wondering what is actually going on out there in the trees and hills. A wondrous adventure that blurs the lines between reality and mythology. Just loved it!

The Next Big Thing – Blog Hop

How the Next Big Thing blog hop works

An author answers ten questions and then tags other authors to do the same thing the following week on the same day, which in this case is a Wednesday (I am a little late..)

Tom O’Neill tagged me.

Tom O’Neill had his book Old Friends: The Lost Tales of Fionn Mac Cumhaill published recently. He likes writing for both old adults and young adults. It allows him to spend time amongst strange characters and to add to the public body of lies. Other preoccupations: Africa, farming, and restoring castles. You can find out more at Tom’s blog.

FionnTalesCover 2

Here are my answers to the questions..

What is the working title of your next book? 

The Sleeping Baobab Tree

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

It came to me as I was looking at photos of Baobab trees (as you do) and I came across one at a place called Ingombe Ilede, roughly translated as The Place of the Sleeping Cow. It is in Zambia and nearby an ancient burial site. A magical place.
What genre does your book fall under? 

Magical realism.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 

A hard one, but as the book is set in Zambia I would like actors from there to play the roles rather than people from other countries pretending to be Zambian.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Three friends and an old woman embark on a journey, each of them hoping to right wrongs, both past and present … but dark clouds are gathering and ancient magic is in the air beneath the shadow of the sleeping Baobab.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

It will be published by Walker Books in London.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? 

This book has taken many twists and turns along the way so that’s a hard one to answer!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

Certainly my first book, The Butterfly Heart, not sure which others.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

Primarily my love for Zambia inspired me – it is where I spent my childhood and my memories of it are vivid and clear.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

 One of the sub-themes in the book is the damage done by those people, scientists among them, who have spent many years denying the existence of HIV/AIDS. In the process they have caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

Tagged Authors

I have tagged a few authors as it seems as though the Blog Hop allows you to do this. However if my tagees (!) wish to limit themselves to only one other author, that is no problem.

 I have tagged Jean Flitcroft, Jean is the author of The Cryptid Files series published by Little Island and you can read more about Jean here. In this series Jean’s love of travel, her scientific background and her writing skill have combined into three wondrous tales of Crytpids. So far the books have taken us from Loch Ness to Mexico and finally to a remote island off the coast of Canada.

I have also tagged Vukani Nyirenda. Vukani is a Zambian writer specializing in children’s folktales based on Zambian folklore. He has published two picture books and many of his stories have been published online and in magazines. He currently lives in Ontario, California. You can read more about Vukani here. 

I have tagged Colleen Cailin Jones. Colleen lives in Cork and is a Canadian writing for children. She is also a very active member of SCBWI (the Ireland chapter) and a Sacred Heart singer. You can find out more about Colleen here.

And, finally, I have tagged another O’Neill. John O’Neill, who hails from Ballon in County Carlow, is the author of the book Children of the Cromlech, as well as the script-novel Ned Hickey.  John lives in New Zealand now.

An author with opinions – on writing and storytelling

I don’t often re-post things in their entirety but want to post this – as I think it says such a lot about writing and it says it so elegantly. It comes from Tom O’Neill’s blog on his book Old Friends – take a look 

Disturbing fiction


An author has to keep an eye on the reader as the storyteller always did, just with the disadvantage of being a step removed.

You have to keep an eye on them because you have a job to do for them. You have to amuse them and keep them amused. That’s all.

Luckily, there are various ways in which you can do this. Like every storyteller understood, you must always have characters more interesting than anyone present and you must have disturbing things happening to them. You should have excitement, treachery, loyalty, loss and if at all possible, revenge. You have to have a laugh with the characters and another one at them. You should have layers of hidden story for the more alert reader to dig up.

There must always be love. Nothing moves without it. Every good story is embedded in it, even where it is never spoken, even where it is contorted.

And of course you should disrupt the reader’s afternoon.

I hope Old Friends amused you.

Dubray Books Kilkenny

I have written and spoken before on the number of great bookshops we are privileged to have in Kilkenny – The Book Centre, Stonehouse Books, Dubray Books and Khan’s. More recently Easons have opened a small branch as well.

Imagine living in a city with a population of around 24,000 and being surrounded by that many wonderful bookshops? Each one of them staffed by people who are enthusiastic, helpful and incredibly supportive of both readers and writers.

One of them, Dubray Books, is hosting an evening tomorrow night (17th August) celebrating local talent as part of Arts Week here in Kilkenny. Both Tom O’Neill  and myself will be there.  Looking forward to it. Excuse the bad photo!

Dubray Books Window Display

The Wondrous Baobab

Last week I was in the home of a great gardener from Ballon, Co. Carlow (Stasia O’Neill, who happens to be Tom O’Neill’s mum!) and lying on the kitchen table I saw the book The Remarkable Baobab by Thomas Pakenham.

A book entirely dedicated to my favourite tree – and, coincidentally, a tree that is central to the sequel to The Butterfly Heart).

Thomas Pakenham said in the intro to his book Remarkable Trees of the World that after meeting an elephantine Baobab in South Africa it took the self control of a monk not to allow the whole book to be dominated by this tree. He let his self control go in 2004 when this book was published. I do not know how I missed it, but thank you Stasia for introducing me to it.

It is not, and nor does it pretend to be, a botanical textbook. It is a collection of photographs, stories and personal recollections of these trees in Madagascar, Africa, Australia and the Caribbean. The trees arrived in the Caribbean (as did many of the inhabitants) in the slave ships. The slaves themselves carried emergency rations in small pouches – among these were the tasty seeds of the Baobab pod.

One gripe with the book. He says in the introduction that ‘The African baobab was the first to be discovered’ and later says ‘The 21 years old French explorer and naturalist who discovered it, Michel Adanson…’

No.  This is not so. The tree may be named after Adanson (all eight species have the prefix Adansonia) but this tree was well known by people who lived in Africa and Madagascar for many centuries prior to Adanson’s visit in 1749. So, discovered is incorrect Mr. Pakenham.

Notwithstanding this,  anyone out there who loves trees (and who doesn’t?) should get themselves a copy of the book. I got mine on Amazon for tw0 quid!