On the road

A couple of days ago I was back at Hampton Court Palace, the last of many castles and palaces I’ve visited in the last few weeks, on the interwoven trails of Queen Elizabeth 1 and the Irish pirate and rebel, Grace O’Malley.

I’ll post more photos in a bit, but right now my main thought is that the politics of both the Tudor court and early modern Ireland, and the moments when the two intersect, are so complex that this book is going to take a lot longer to write than I imagined.

It’s daunting. But it’s OK.

In other news, 1917 goes to press this week – that freaky moment where you have to accept you can’t change a thing.

Westward ho!

I’m heading off to the west of Ireland soon, for another round of research for Grace, my novel about the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley (Gráinne Ní Mháille) and her meeting with Queen Elizabeth 1.

Woodcut of Grace and ELizabeth meeting

Two queens meet: Anthologia Hibernica, vol. 11, 1793

It’ll be winter in Ireland then (the change of season is November 1 – early winter!) but that will be an adventure in itself. Grace ruled the waves around Clew Bay and the coast of County Mayo – now part of the wonderful Wild Atlantic Way. Last time I was there, it was uncharacteristically sunny and calm. I look forward to a little wildness.

Stay tuned for lots of photos of me standing damply beside castle walls.

Map of Mayo
And in other marvellous news, I’ve been awarded a Fellowship to spend some blissful writing time, working on Grace, at Varuna, the National Writers’ House, next year.

Feeling very grateful.

Lately I’ve been…

Planning

I’ve kicked off a new writing project: Grace, a novel based on the intersecting lives of the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley and her nemesis, Queen Elizabeth I.

Portrait of Elizabeth 1

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I

I’ll get stuck into the first draft next week, when I go to Varuna, The Writers’ House, for a blissful week of writing retreat.

Reading

Besides all the references of Irish and Elizabethan history texts I’ve been scouring, I’ve read:

Fierce Attachments, Vivian Gornick’s memoir of her childhood and her relationship with her mother.

Sisters on the Somme, by Penny Starns, an account of the lives of nurses on the Western Front, because I still haven’t quite (if ever) finished researching and thinking about my work in eternal progress, War Songs.

Charlotte Wood’s brilliant The Natural Way of Things, which is winning all the literary prizes this year, and deserves them.

Lucy Treloar’s exquisite historical novel Salt Creek.

And of course Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. Although I’m a bit stuck due to loathing of one of the male characters and it’s such as realistic portrait I just don’t want to go near him. Excruciating. But so clever.

For weeks I was so tired I could only re-read Harry Potter. But it’s winter here, and sometimes you just have to curl up with something familiar and entertaining.

Podcasting

One reason I’ve been so busy is that I’ve been working on a new podcast on women and writing, Unladylike. It’s a collaboration with Adele Walsh and has just launched at the weekend.

We plan and program, read, record, edit – and do all sorts of mysterious technical things we’ve had to learn on the way.

Huge fun, but also demanding. We have five episodes out now, and another on the way any day now. If you’re interested in writing and reading, check it out.

So now I’m off on a writing retreat, and I’ll see you on the other side.