Set in contemporary Ireland, this novel follows the lives of the various members of the O’Sullivan family during a pivotal five-month period which marks a number of important transitions in all of their lives. The main backdrop for the action is the remote and magically beautiful island of Valentia in County Kerry, one of the most westerly points of the country.
The author, Catherine Conlon, is a medical doctor and lecturer in Public Health and Epidemiology in UCC Public Health Department. Married with 4 children, living in Blackrock in Cork, this is her second book and first venture into self-publishing. I had a quick word with her about her new book.
What is this all about? Catherine sends me on a moving synopsis: “Valentia is a readable, absorbing story with engaging, well-drawn characters in situations many of us, and women in particular, will be able to relate to. While the author explores, with a light and often entertaining touch, some of the traditional territory and themes of romance, female friendships and family dynamics, the narrative also offers a deeper, more profound reflection on what is truly valuable in modern life. In this era of widespread economic downturn and material hardship for so many people – which has hit Ireland particularly badly after so many years riding high on the Celtic Tiger – Valentia brings the reader back, time and again, to the core values of family, a sense of community and the need to belong.”
I asked Catherine which authors inspired her to write. “Those who inspired me to write on similar themes,” she says, “include Adriana Trigiani, Victoria Hislop, Rosemunde Pilcher and Joanne Harris. In non-fiction, it would have to be Mind Body Spirit, John O’Donoghue, Neale Donald Walsch, Sister Stan, Mark Patrick Hederman and Robin Sharma.”
What did Catherine enjoy the most to write? “I enjoyed writing the dramatic bits and also the descriptive pieces, particularly in creating the magical quality of the island.” And according to the readers, those are the bits that stand out most.
As we know, this isn’t her first book. I asked Catherine what she’s written before. “I previously published ‘Sonas; Celtic Thoughts on Happiness’ with Hachette.”
So what brought her to self-publishing? “I liked self publishing because I had more control over the product and because it was so much simpler and quicker. I shopped around first but the message coming back was that no matter how good the book, publishing fiction first time at the moment was difficult in a publishing industry under siege.”
How did she find it? “The self publishing process was remarkably straightforward and the team at Lettertec were professional, approachable and flexible with every aspect of the book. I would be delighted to self-publish again although I will wait and see how well the book does first!”
Where is the eye-catching cover from? Catherine is happy to tell us. “It is by a local photographer in Ballinskelligs, Michael Herrmann, and I am delighted with it. It is exactly right for the book.”
Where to go from here? Is she finished with writing? “Not at all,” she says, “I’m starting a sequel so watch this space!”
Valentia will be available in all Eason’s branches this Christmas.