I’m not sure how often I have asked myself why I bothered trying to get published. Probably every time I got an iffy or downright bad review, when deadlines loomed, or when royalty statements made dismal reading. What I do know for certain is when I found the answer to this question. It happened the day I decided our attic needed a major tidy up.
Our attic, stacked as it is with boxes, cases and broken bits and pieces, maps our family forty year history in this house. Climbing that narrow stairway up to the space under the roof is like journeying back into the past, a place I seldom visit but find it difficult to leave when I do.
On that major attic tidy up day, I started by sorting through boxes. I divided things into two piles – ‘Tat’ and ‘Keepers’. Into the ‘Tat’ went jig saws with pieces missing, the pile of used gift wrapping I meant to recycle, now faded and crumpled, lamps with broken switches, three-wheeled dinky cars, picture frames with cracked glass, threadbare floor rugs I must have had a reason for keeping.The ‘Tat’ pile grew.
Then I came to my precious books. At that stage, I owned so many, I had to store the overflow from down stairs bookshelves in a big trunk in the attic. None of them would be destined for the ‘Tat’ pile. They were too precious for that, but as I leafed through my books, I knew that it was wrong to lock their magic away. So I created a third pile – ‘Sharing’. Unloading that trunk brought back so many memories to me of hours spent immersed in the world created by the authors. There were the Leon Uris novels, Walter Macken, Beatrice Coogan, Dickens, Jackie Collins, Carl Sagan, Jane Austen, John Irving, Stephen King and many, many more. Each book reminded me of the stage I was at on life’s journey when I read it.
I had, of course, to create a fourth category – the ‘never to part with’ pile’. Into that went my tattered copy of ‘The World According To Garp,’ by John Irving, which I still consider one of the most moving novels I ever read ; Candy Is Dandy – the poems of Ogden Nash, Quite Early One Morning, collected stories of Dylan Thomas, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations. On and on the sorting went until I got to the bottom of the trunk and unearthed a copy book. It was covered in brown paper, the green of the copybook cover peeping through where the paper had torn. The writing on the cover was so faded I had to bring it under the light to read. In a very childish hand I had written ‘My Stories And Poems.’
I opened the copybook. I was aged ten when I had made the first entry and twelve by the last. It was filled with poems about the sea, trees, flowers and nature in general. A lifelong love that has grown with the years. There were stories too, one about a greyhound and another about Irish patriots of the 1916 rising. The intensity, particularly of the poetry, made me blush. There was no sparing of adjectives or of sharing my every emotion with the copybook. It was all locked in there in the dusty pages – my journey through those growing up years, my fears, passions, dreams. Above all my need to write.
I pulled down the lid on the now empty trunk and sat on it as I read through to the end. The last page held a dried autumn leaf. It crumbled when I touched it. Much like memories fade when you drag them from their hiding place into the harsh light of day. I realised how little I had changed in the intervening years. I still love nature, I am in awe of the power of the sea. I still struggle with my love of adjectives. I still write, but now my stories are about characters I imagine, set in places I make up, driven by events I subject my characters to. And the biggest change of all, my writing is no longer a secret I keep locked away.
And as I sat there, embarrassed by the childish angst in my copybook, I wondered if I should now also be ashamed of my first published short story – Theorem Five – or should I cringe at the thought of my first novel, Parting Company’ published in 2006? I wondered most of all why I had forgone the safety of secrecy by exposing the intensely private act of creative writing to public gaze. Was it because I craved acclaim, wanted fame and fortune? No, I knew for certain I had never been motivated by any of those things, which is just as well. So why had I gone down the challenging route of sending my work off to publishers?
I looked down at my faded copybook, the poems and stories only ever read by me. It was then I knew that words on a page are dormant. Nothing more than a hibernating collection of letters. Creative writing needs readers to bring it to life, just like flowers need sunshine and people need love. And that was the answer to my question. I would never know if I had told my story properly, if my words were just geometric shapes, if the characters I always grow to love over the course of writing a novel have any life outside my imagination , unless my work found readers through publication.
My angst-ridden copybook had done its job. Page by page, I ripped the paper, tore it into tiny pieces and threw them on the ‘Tat’ pile with the crumbled leaf.
Thicker Than Water is my eighth novel, and even though Tirgearr Publishing are a very kind and supportive publisher, submitting, editing and finally being published is still a very daunting prospect. But as my copybook taught me, every story needs readers so that it can live and breathe. It is my hope my work will be read and enjoyed by many. Below find an excerpt from Thicker Than Water.
Thank you to Kathy for hosting me today (Kathy: you’re very welcome 🙂 ) and also to Lucy Felthouse (Writer Marketing Services) for organising my visit here. ~Mary O’Sullivan
Title: Thicker Than Water by Mary O’Sullivan
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller
Length: 336 pages
When local teenager, Keira Shannon and her father, business man Gerard Shannon, go missing, the town of Ballyderg unites to search for them.
As the search continues rumours of domestic violence, extramarital affairs and criminal behaviour are rife. The crisis causes families and lifelong friends to doubt each other.
The only certainty left is that the town has been visited by evil. Or has it? Could it be the evil one has always lived there sharing history, laughter and tears? And if so, who could it be?
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Autumn is my favourite time of year. It’s a deceitful season , on the surface all red and gold and lush with berries, while underneath its fetid breath strips trees of leaves, fields of flowers and the skies of light. And yet I find something comforting about that season’s gloom. There are autumn days when I imagine I can reach up and draw the low lying grey clouds around me to protect and strengthen me in my purpose. And here is the secret autumn and I share. We are both dedicated to righting the wrongs brought on by fecund spring and brazen summer. We balance things out – the autumn and me. We lay things bare and uncover the true nature of what lies in the heart of a gaudy flower. Or a bejewelled whore.
They are very active now – the dreams that tell me how much work I have yet to do, the subconscious scanning of crowds, the laying of a plan of action, the stirring in my gut of the energy to power my mission, the voice that tells me to rid this world of tramps, whores, prostitutes or whatever name you want to give those whose calling it is to cater to the basest instincts. And, no, I’m not insane. The voice I listen to is not delusion. It is my own.
Mary worked many years as a Laboratory Technician. Her hobby, her passion, has always been writing. Busy with family and career, she grabbed some moments here and there to write poetry and short stories. She also wrote a general interest column in a local newspaper.
As the demands on her time became more manageable she joined a local creative writing class. It was then, with the encouragement of tutor Vincent McDonald, that the idea of writing a novel took shape. She began to expand on a short story she had written some years previously. It was a shock for her to discover that enthusiasm and imagination are not enough. For the first time she learned that writing can be very hard work.
Mary now has six traditionally published novels, nine eBooks and hopefully more to come, inspiration permitting.
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