Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Among a series of pieces about titling work, I have a piece called 'The Savage Business of Titles' at Blue Fifth Review today. It's specifically about how the title for The Closet of Savage Mementos was arrived at. You have to scroll down to find it here.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Black Cake - with a chunk taken out :)

This cake features in my forthcoming novel Miss Emily (out July in USA and Canada, August in UK and Ireland) so it was about time I actually made it. In the book Emily makes it for her December birthday and shares it with her Irish maid Ada.

Juno beating the eggs and sugar

Emily's version of this calls for 19 eggs and 5 lbs of currants!! I made a quarter sized version. The finished cake certainly looks black and it tastes more like a plum pudding than cake to me. It's rich and very fruity. I have no clue how Emily baked hers at 120°C in three hours. My much-reduced cake took three hours and forty minutes and still looked a bit moist around the middle.

Treacle marbling the batter - Emily used molasses in her version

I had a lump of it hot from the oven last night - I am looking forward to having a piece today with soya custard or that lovely Alpro Lemon and Lime 'yogurt'.

•           225g self-raising flour
•           225g butter
•           225g sugar
•           half teaspoon baking soda (bread soda in Ireland)
•           quarter teaspoon ground nutmeg
•           1.25 teaspoons total: cloves, mace, cinnamon (or mixed spice)
•           5 eggs
•           550g raisins
•           150g citron (candied peel)
•           150g currants
•           60ml brandy (or whiskey)
•           60ml treacle

•           Preheat oven to 120°C
•           Grease and line the bottom of a round baking tin (8”)
•           Sift together flour, bread soda and spices
•           In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar
•           Add eggs one at a time and beating after each one
•           Add brandy (or whiskey), mix well
•           Add flour mixture, mix well.
•           Add treacle and sprinkle in fruit as you stir
•           Pour into greased tin
•           Bake for 2 hours at 120°C
•           Bake for a further 1 hour 30 mins at 160°C then remove cake from tin to cool
•           Store in an air-tight container. Douse with whiskey/brandy once a week


(Note: This post is cross-posted with my cooking blog, The Hungry Veggie.)

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


For Reading Ireland month, self-confessed book-buying addict and Antrim-based Arts Officer Cathy McNally, interviewed me on her 746 Books blog here. We talk about novel writing (including Miss Emily) and women's place in the literary world.

Today she has a heart-warming review of my first novel YOU on her blog: 'The reader is left to deduce what our narrator often cannot understand and the apparent simplicity of the narrative style belies a moving poignancy and understated intimacy.' The full review is here.

Míle buíochas, Cathy :)

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


Brooklyn based book-lovers site Book Riot has featured The Closet of Savage Mementos in their St Patrick's Day blogpost. Along with books by Kevin Barry, Mary Costello and Daniel Seery. Honoured. The post is here.

Here are the Book Rioters beliefs, as set out on their site - you may argue with them, but they're good :)

  1. We create.
  2. We always prefer the book to the movie.
  3. We riot as a team.
  4. We geek out on books, embarrassingly so.
  5. We’re leaders.
  6. We practice charity.
  7. We miss our subway stop cause the book is that good.
  8. We are non-traditional.
  9. We believe in family (bookshelves and cats count).

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


Beannachtaí na féile oraibh! I have two Paddy's Day poems in my (un)vast repertoire and the one below was written as part of a project some years ago which I forget the exact details of. Let it suffice to say that the photo that was sent to me by the artist as inspiration featured a large, ugly, mannequin-like doll.

Have a lovely spud- and Cadbury's choc-fuelled day. That's what I have in mind. With a side-order of the local parade to view kids #2 and #3 marching.

           Saint Patrick’s Day, Achill Island

‘Jamesie,’ she says to me, from the chair,
‘put the green frock on me today,
I’m feeling powerful festive.’
‘I will, Dolly,’ says I, ‘it’s the one colour
that brings up the gold in your hair.’
‘Don’t cod me,’ she roars, ‘the hair’s a disaster.’

We settle down, watch the parade on RTÉ,
and drink six bottles of porter apiece.
‘This is the life, Dolly, hah?’ I say,
but there isn’t a gug out of her;
all I hear are gulls and the hum-thrum
of a tractor going down the boreen.

Friday, 13 March 2015


Summer Fiction Workshop
This June The Stinging Fly literary magazine is running an intensive week-long daytime workshop, designed for writers of short stories and/or the novel. The workshop will be led by writer Seán O'Reilly. (Having done a course with Seán many moons ago, I can highly recommend him. Great writer, great teacher.)

During the workshop, each writer’s work will be up for in-depth discussion twice. All the work will have been shared and closely read in advance. Also included in the structure of the course are three sessions on aspects of narrative prose by guest speakers, including the editors of The Stinging Fly.

Up to ten writers will be offered a place based on work they’ve submitted by the application deadline (Thursday, April 23rd).

Dates of workshop: June 22nd - June 26th 2015

Times: Monday to Friday, 10.15am-4.30pm

Venue: Irish Writers Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1

Cost: €325 (or €300 for IWC members)

More here.

Thursday, 12 March 2015


Writer Lisa McInerney
Thomas Morris, editor of The Stinging Fly magazine, will chair a panel about finishing books on Saturday 14th March at 2pm at the Irish Writers' Centre. With myself, Lisa McInerney, Gavin Corbett and Kevin Curran. This is part of the magazine's Fly on the Wall sessions.

Afterwards, Kevin Barry will read from his work and chat with Fly founder, Declan Meade.

Tickets €12. More here.