My latest novel, ‘The Memory Box’ (published in the UK in September) is the story of an Irish woman, Pandora Schuster who on the eve of her thirtieth birthday discovers that she may have her mum’s heredity cancer gene, Breast Cancer Gene 1. As you can imagine, this sends her into a complete tail spin, and makes her question her life and also the future of her nine-year-old daughter, Iris. Pandora is a single mum and she has never told Iris’s French father that he has a daughter. So she travels to Paris to find him, with disastrous consequences.
As a writer I like to tackle big subjects that mean something, situations or life experiences that interest me as a person and that I hope readers will connect with too. Popular fiction (or ‘chick lit’) is often dismissed as ‘fluffy romance’ but as its loyal readers know, it’s far from it. I greatly enjoy reading books by authors such as Jojo Moyes and Sinead Moriarty, writers who also tackle life’s big questions and dilemmas.
When writing about topics such as adoption, infertility or in the case of ‘The Memory Box’ a hereditary cancer gene, it’s vital to get the facts …
I’ve always liked Oliver Jeffers – both the man and his wonderful picture books. I first met him almost ten years ago, just after his first book, How to Catch a Star was published. It was at a Children’s Books Ireland conference in Dublin and from the start I loved his passion and his enthusiasm for his work.
The weekend before last I had the good luck to catch him not once but twice at Offset, a wonderful conference held in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin which celebrates design and illustration. He spoke to a crowd of thousands about his painting and his picture books. Afterwards he gave a very honest and inspiring public interview to one of the Offset organisers.
During this he spoke about ‘people who do things and people who talk about doing things’. Oliver works on a huge amount of different projects – often simultaneously – exhibitions of his paintings, exhibitions of his drawings, picture books, illustrating other people’s novels, book covers. He only takes on projects that he truly loves and he works HARD. His work has to mean something – to him. If it means something to him, then he figures that …
Born in Dublin, Oisín McGann spent his childhood there and in Drogheda, County Louth. He studied at Ballyfermot Senior College and Dun Laoghaire School of Art and Design, and went on to work in illustration, design and film animation, later moving to London to work as an art director and copy writer in advertising.
He now lives back in Ireland and works full time as an author and illustrator. He has written and illustrated numerous books for all ages of reader, including the Mad Grandad series, The Forbidden Files series, and eight novels, including The Gods And Their Machines, Small-Minded Giants, and his steampunk trilogy, The Wildenstern Saga. His new novel for readers of 10 years and upwards, Rat Runners, has just been published.
Oisin, can you tell us about your latest book, Rat Runners, and where the idea came from?
The core idea that sparked the story was based on a very simple premise: we’re observed by surveillance cameras every day now, but what if there was a person standing there, staring at you instead? Then I took it further and thought: what if they had the means, not just to observe you, but to examine you in detail? …
(From the Girls Heart Books blog)
Earlier this year I made a decision – I’d say YES to as many things as possible. YES to going to new plays and gigs; YES to reading at book events and festivals; YES to visiting as many schools as I could; YES to travelling to new places and having new experiences. So when the Hong Kong Young Readers’ Festival asked if I’d attend their festival for a week, I took a deep breath and said YES.
It took a lot of organising. My parents very kindly offered to take my youngest two children during the trip (the eldest is 18 and said he’d stay at home and mind the rabbit and the house) and I booked the flights rather nervously. I love visiting other countries but I’m not a great flyer and it’s a twelve hour flight from London to Hong Kong. Luckily my partner said that he’d travel over with me.
On Thursday morning I arrived home from what can only be described as a whirlwind tour of Hong Kong – 9 events in 5 days.
The first events I did were nursery rhyme sessions with young children and their mum and …
I’m at the Hong Kong International Young Readers Festival in March. I’m giving a talk to parents on raising a child who loves to read. This is the recommended book list for that talk.
Mad About Books – Raising a Child Who Loves to Read
1/ Babies and Toddlers – Birth to Age 2+
Sing them lullabies, read them nursery rhymes
A good nursery rhyme book – with art work you love – eg Sally Go Round the Stars (Sarah Webb – Irish)
Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli (Board book)
Where’s Spot? By Eric Hill (Board book)
2/ Toddlers of Age 2 +
Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell (Irish)
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury
A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton – (Irish)
Other books to try:
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen
Farmer Duck – Martin Waddell
Alfie’s Feet – Shirley Hughes
Dear Zoo – Rod Campbell
3/ Younger Children – age 3 or 4 +
Fairy Tales – invest in a good collection
Oliver Jeffers – Lost and Found, The Heart in …
Social media can be a minefield for writers. Seen by publishers as a cheap, convenient and effective way for writers to communicate with their readers, it makes many writers new to the medium very nervous.
Which is better – Facebook or Twitter?
How often should I post or tweet?
What exactly should I be posting or tweeting about?
I spoke to Cormac Kinsella, publicity director of Repforce Ireland for his opinion. (And thanks to Cormac for his time and expertise!)
Enjoy social media for it’s own sake.
Don’t just tweet and post when you have a book out.
Engage with other people on social media.
Offer something – share information, links and observations.
Post/tweet about things that you are interested in.
(Books, writing, movies, music . . . whatever you are passionate about and would like to share with others.)
Don’t use use it for self-promotion.
He recommended following @nadineoregan @eithneshortall @sineadgleeson and @guardianbooks to see how it’s done.
And you can follow Cormac himself here - @cormackinsella
I find a lot of children’s book writers and picture book makers use Facebook more than Twitter. Teen readers love Facebook and are not so interested in Twitter. Adults who are interested in …
CBI Children’s Book Awards 2013 (for books published in 2012)
In early March the shortlist for the CBI (Children’s Books Ireland) Book Awards will be announced. Every year I make my predictions, or as Kim Harte puts it I become ‘Mystic Web’. Yes, I am on the Board of CBI but I am not on the judging panel and these are my opinions only.
Who do YOU think will win? It’s a hard one to call as there is no clear winner this year, but my money is on Sarah Crossan or Derek Landy.
Here are my predictions for this year’s shortlist:
(There are usually 9 or 10 books on the shortlist – I’ll go for 10)
1/ Sarah Crossan for The Weight of Water
Sarah’s book is masterful. The tale of a young Polish girl and her new life in London, it’s beautifully written and the voice is perfectly pitched. If she doesn’t win the Eilís Dillon (first book), I’ll be very surprised. In fact, she could win the overall award.
2/ Oh, No George by Chris Haughton
Another strong picture book from the previous winner of the award.
3/ The Great Explorer by Chris Judge
Chris’s strong, graphic …
It’s about Pandora, who is about to turn thirty and who has just been tested for a hereditary cancer gene, BRCA1. I have written some articles about the research and the gene, and as soon as they are published I’ll post them here.
I’ve been the usual bundle of nerves waiting for publication date – I think it gets worse every year in fact. Here’s part of a blog I wrote in 2011.
Lots more writing and getting published blogs to come in 2013, plus lots new author interviews.
Yours in writing,
Writers at every stage of their careers are riddled with doubts and insecurities, especially around publication time. I’ve written eleven adult novels now (nine published, two out in the next two years), I’ve written four Amy Green novels, and lots of other children’s books, but I’m still horribly nervous about the reaction to each and every new book.
Seeing your new book on the shelf for the first time is terrifying, yet exhilarating. Not seeing …
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