Liz here, happy to welcome Carlene O’Connor to the blog today. Her recent release is Murder in an Irish Bookshop and I know you’re all going to love this heartfelt post about Ireland, connection and the hope for better times ahead. Take it away, Carlene!
Here it is, March of 2021, and over a year into a very difficult period for the entire world. As a writer I am so grateful that books are still being read and written and sold. Not only is writing them my passion, I love reading books. They’ve always been there for me, an escape, an experience outside myself, a connection to something bigger than me.
As a human I am humbled that is the case when everything else has been turned upside down and shaken around. I don’t think I’ll ever take “normal life” for granted again and I find myself reflecting on the things that matter to me the most. At the top of the list is family. My parents who I haven’t hugged in a year. My sister, and niece, and nephew who I haven’t hugged in a year. The writing friends I haven’t had coffee dates with or readers and writers I haven’t been able to meet at conferences, or festivals. The writing students who no longer fill the seats in my home. The bookshop events, the Irish festivals I enjoy every summer, all canceled one after the other as together we faced this new normal.
Learning of friends and family members getting sick, rallying together and loving them through it. I have not lost anyone to Covid but my heart is very much with those who have. I feel the pain. I know you do too. I know just from the fact that you’re reading this blog that you’re my people. Connection is what matters most and this year connections were put on pause, or funneled into a different form.
I’ve thought a lot about Ireland during this time. As you probably know, Irish pubs in normal times are the hub, the heart and soul in many towns and for many folks in Ireland. The place where locals gather for friendship, music, a nice peat fire, networking, and a pint or two of the black stuff. Where stories and jokes flow right along with the tap. Where everyone knows your name, your stool, and your drink. Connection is a human need and in some ways, despite being isolated this year, I do feel connected to my fellow man.
I’m so grateful for phone calls and Zoom, and the easy exchange of pictures and texts. I feel connected in a sense of responsibility to help protect one another, to be kind, to lift each other up. I’ve had cookies left at my door by thoughtful neighbors and I’ve left them in return. I’ve cried and I’ve listened as others have cried. I’ve cheered people up and I’ve allowed others to cheer me up. We need each other. I, as a writer, need readers. We’re an ecosystem. Zoom has allowed me to see the faces of my writing students or engage in panels and interviews to talk about my current release.
We can do hard things. We can lift each other up. And hopefully soon, we can travel again. To far away places. To pubs with roaring peat fires and local lores. To sandy beaches, or simply to the kitchen of a friend, a family member, or even a stranger. In the Fall of 2019 my father and I traveled to Ireland for HIS first time. We thought about the trip for a few years before committing to it. And we had a fabulous time. From Limerick to Cork, to Galway, and Connemara, I showed him this land that I love. He reads all of my mysteries and wanted to see the town of Kilmallock which is the inspiration for Kilbane in my Irish Village Mystery Series.
At first I thought the trip wouldn’t be as special because when I went for the first time, it was a specific set of Irish friends that made the trip extra special for me. By showing me around with that world class hospitality the Irish are known for. But I was going to do my best and just hoped his experience would come close to my first experience of Ireland. The joke was on me because the exact same group of folks who made the trip so special when I went for the first time showed up for my father too. A man they’d never met. They welcomed him like he was family. They opened their homes, their cars, their hearts. They rolled out the green carpet and showed him the land they love. They used their charm to make him feel welcome and their humor to illicit belly laughs. That is a gift I can never repay. He had one of the best times of his life.
Little did we know that after the trip we’d spend the next year not being able to see each other. How grateful I am we had that trip. How grateful I am that I have a second family in Ireland. And how grateful I am that the characters in my Irish Village Mystery series are just as dear and real to me as the people who inspired them. In my recent release, Murder in an Irish Bookshop, I welcome a new bookshop and more people into the close-knit village of Kilbane, County Cork Ireland.
Roam the aisles of the new bookshop: Turn the Page. Be careful– not all of them can be trusted. And if you have some extra time on your hands, Eoin reveals his recipe for Irish stew at the end. It’s comforting and we all could use a little of that right now. #Grateful. And thank you to The Wickeds (how cool are they?!) for their very gracious invitation to this guest blog. I am sending my light out to all of you.
Better days are coming, and you’ve got this. And until we can safely be together, you can always pull up a chair, open book and get lost in the pages. As a wise Irishman once said: May your day be touched with a bit of Irish luck, brightened by a song in your heart and warmed by the smiles of the people you love. #ForeverGrateful.
USA Today bestselling-author Carlene O’Connor comes from a long line of Irish storytellers. Her great-grandmother emigrated from Ireland filled with tales and the stories have been flowing ever since. Of all the places across the pond she’s wandered, she fell most in love with a walled town in County Limerick and was inspired to create the town of Kilbane, County Cork. Currently there are 7 mysteries and one novella in The Irish Village Mysteries and many more to come. They’ve recently been optioned for television. Carlene also has two installments in her Home to Ireland series and a brand new series is coming in the Fall of 2022. Readers can follow Carlene on Facebook, CarleneOConnor.net, Goodreads, and Book Bub, Insta as Writergirlchi or Twitter as @MaryCarterbook
Readers, do you have a place you love that you can’t wait to go back to? Leave yours in the comments below.