Dispatches From the Wild West of Ireland: A Postscript

When I returned from my Clare-Connemara-Galway Tour I was glad to be home and see my family. But I felt a little melancholy at leaving the home of my heart. And tremendously grateful to have had the opportunity to share my experiences with all of you.

Wild West Irish Tours not only inspired me, they healed a wound in my heart I thought would never leave.

Let me tell you a story…

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t enchanted with all things Irish. Maybe it comes from having an Irish babysitter as a child. Or my love for Peter Pan and Neverland, which of course, is really the mythical Irish Tír na  nÓg. Possibly it stems from the 16% Irish DNA I discovered less than a week before I took the Exclusive “Heart of the Wild West” Tour in 2017. But whatever it is that held my heart, when I decided to write, I knew I had to write about Ireland.

Fast-forward to spring, 2011, when my second novel, Coming Home, was published. I was doing a lot of promotion on Facebook as well as exploring the FB community and made two valuable contacts that year. Through the Wild West Irish Tours FB page, I met the person who was to become not only the best research advisor but also the dearest friend I’ve ever had. We went from being FB friends, to e-mail buddies, and eventually, we moved to Skype. We talked several times a week and John, a Limerick man who was passionate about Irish history, would answer any questions I threw at him. Topics ranged from Irish history, Irish mythology, ghost stories, superstitions (piseogs), to magpies, fairy forts, and music. He was there to celebrate a new book contract or a great review, and to lean on when I lost my mother. We’d even planned to get together for what he called an “educational tour” of Ireland.

On January 6, 2017, I was shattered to hear that my dear friend had passed away suddenly. I grieved for a long time, unable to find the joy I’d always taken in my writing. Even when I signed the contract for what would be my twelfth novel, Wishes of the Heart, I continued to search for the inspiration and feared it might never return.

The Search for Inspiration

Finally, after a lot of encouragement from my daughter, I knew I had to take that “educational tour” John and I had talked about. I looked at several tours, but most of them were “big bus” tours. The kind with lots of people stopping for a 15-minute photo op before moving to the next spot. I’m not much of a social butterfly and I didn’t want to do just the touristy stuff. I wanted to see the real Ireland, get to know the people and places my fictionals (as I call my characters) would have known.

When I came across a glorious photo on the WWIT FB page and realized just how small their “small group” tours were, I knew I’d found my perfect tour.

And I was right. From the very first day of both my WWIT tours, I felt at home. Our guides were friendly, knowledgeable, and obliging. If one of us wanted to stop along the way to snap a picture, our guides were happy to do so. If we had a special place we wanted to see, our guides arranged for us to see it. Even though I paused in my writing for a while last year, I had a notebook filled with ideas, inspiration, and plotlines ready to use for my next several books!

The “Dispatches”

When I was asked to write the “Dispatches” for the Clare-Connemara-Galway Tour, I was absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to return to Ireland. At the moment, I’m plotting/researching a new Medieval/Fantasy series, and the places I visited seemed tailor-maid for it.

Crannog at Cragganowen

The Crannog at Cragganowen fascinated me. It’s a lake dwelling that dates back to the Iron Age. A crannog is an artificial island where people built houses, kept livestock, and lived in relative security. This spawned an idea for a small clan that will have an impact on all four stories in this series.

There are about 40,000 ringforts across Ireland, and today, I was able to visit one of these Early Christian farmsteads (C5-C12 AD).

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle was another gem of information. I found myself snapping pictures and imagining the celebrations that would take place in the banqueting hall. And the battles that will be fought. And the romances that took place in the most secret spots of the castle grounds. The folk park spawned a few ideas for Colin Delaney, hero of My Lady, My Love, a Claddagh Series story I plan to write this fall. He’s a folklorist who visits my fictional village of Ballycashel. He’s there to see the place his grandfather hailed from but does he have a secret agenda?

Bunratty Castle Clare county ireland
In the historically rich Bunratty Castle, my imagination runs wild with Medieval fantasy.

Loop Head House

As an author, the most difficult question people ask me is, “How do you come up with your stories?” It’s a question I’ve come to dread. But in Ireland, I think it must be something in the air. There’s so much history, so many legends, such magic in the lovely mist that hangs over everything that it can’t fail to stir the imagination. For me, a simple road becomes a fairy trail. A dust-and-dirt track that desperate Famine refugees trod on the way to where they prayed.

Loop Head House fishing and farming in West Clare County Ireland
Loop Head House, the home of a fishing and farming family from West Clare.

About Cynthia Owens

I’ve had such a wonderful time sharing my experiences with you. A few of you have asked me about my books, so in this last Dispatch, I’d like to tell you about myself and my books.

I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17thCentury “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there. My late father was born in a tiny Eastern-Quebec fishing village called Irishtown. I recently had an Ancestry DNA test done and received my results just a few days before leaving on my first Wild West Irish Tour. I learned that I have 16% Irish DNA. Perhaps that accounts for my fascination with Ireland.

If you’d like to find out more about my books, please visit my website. You can also find me on Facebook.

 

 

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Nicole Rappaport