I returned from my Clare-Connemara-Galway Tour, glad to be home and see my family, but 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 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 (I was and continue to be very new to technology – maybe that’s why I write historical novels!) as well as exploring the FB community. I made two valuable contacts that year. I found the Wild West Irish Tours FB page, and I met the person who was to become not only the best research advisor I’ve ever had, 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, where 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. My family helped, especially my daughter, but I continued to search for the inspiration – and feared it might never return.
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” – my son once called me hermit – 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. And thought I paused in my writing for a while last year, I have a notebook filled with ideas, inspiration, and plotlines ready to use for my next several books!
When I was asked to write the “Dispatches” for the Clare-Connemar-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.
The Crannog at Cragganowen fascinated me. A 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 (for ill and/or for good) on all four stories in this series.
Bunratty Castle was another gem of information. I found myself snapping pictures (my phone may never recover!) and imagining the celebrations that would take place in the banqueting hall, the battles that will be fought, and of course, the romances that took place in the most secret spots of the castle grounds. The folk park, too, 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?
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, or a dust-and-dirt track that desperate Famine refugees trod on the way to what they prayed would be a better life over the water.
I’ve had such a wonderful time sharing my experiences with you. A few of you have asked me about my books (and I hope have been inspired to read some of them), 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.