Good Afternoon Sheila, Hope you are having a lovely day. Thank you for being with us today!!!!
Tell us about yourself.
What is wonderful about my wandering career path is that I can use all my first-hand experience in my books. I think that bringing real details into a story makes it much stronger. Although I love to do research too.
What was it like to do the research for this book?
I first visited Ireland with my husband and daughter in 1998. While my father's parents were both born in Ireland, I never had a chance to know them, due to various family conflicts, so I thought that going to Ireland would be one way to get closer to them. What I didn't expect was to fall in love with the place.
We stayed in a small town on the south coast, in West Cork, near where my grandfather was born. The place has a population of slightly more than 200, and four pubs. One of the pubs was called Connolly's then (since closed), so of course I spent time there. I even chatted with the owner, and my daughter and I went to a private after-hours event there. Believe it or not, that was the birth of the County Cork series. Over ten years ago I sat down and wrote a book called Sullivan's Pub, mostly to capture the memories of the place while they were fresh. Over the years the story changed (it stated out as a short, sweet romance, but obviously I rewrote it several times), but the setting never did. Ten years (and two successful series) later I finally convinced my publisher that the time was right for an Irish cozy series.
Last November I went back to the town and went knocking on the door of the owner, who still owns the building, and had a chance to talk with her and her son about the way it used to be. A decade ago it was one of the premier music venues in Ireland, despite its tiny size, and performers such as Donovan and The Cranberries played there—now there's talk of reviving that, and you can bet there's a story there. I spent a couple of hours in the owner's parlor behind the former/future pub, with her dog at my feet and her cat on my lap, listening to her stories. That's my kind of research!
How did you get inspired to write Maura as well as the others in the book?
Maura actually came about after a conversation with my agent, Jessica Faust, who said she wanted a different kind of heroine, one who was a little rougher around the edges than most cozy protagonists. I live not far from Boston, and I know there's a strong Irish community in this area, so Maura comes from South Boston. She's also younger than many cozy protagonists—in her twenties—and she's trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life when she finds herself in Ireland, running a pub. I really enjoy writing about her, because she is always being surprised by how different things are there. For one thing, everyone seems to know everyone else, or knows someone who does. For another, the pace of things is much slower and easier, even for the police (the gardaí) and their investigations. Maura brings a fresh eye, and she finds to her surprise that she can make her own contribution to murder investigations. Nothing is what she expected!
Writing about a pub lets me bring in all sorts of other people. There are two main employees at the pub, Jimmy Sweeney and Mick Nolan, plus Jimmy's sixteen-year-old daughter Rose. Maura gets to know Mick's grandmother, Bridget Nolan, and of course there are a couple of gardaí, Sean Murphy and his boss, Detective Inspector Patrick Hurley from the nearby town of Skibbereen. They'll all be back. Not only does everybody know everybody else, but half of them are related to each other.
What are you working on next?
All of my series are ongoing (at the moment!). The fourth Museum Mystery, Monument to the Dead, will be released in June; the seventh Orchard Mystery, Golden Malicious, will come out in the fall. And of course, the next County Cork Mystery, Murdered in a Manor, will appear in February 2014. In my spare time (ha!) I've been polishing up some stand-alone books for release as ebooks, and I've written a few short stories as well. Yes, I'm busy!
What was your favorite thing about Ireland?
Everything. It's a beautiful country, the people are friendly and helpful (and don't mind answering my stupid questions), the food is so much better than it was even ten years ago, and the sense of history, both prehistoric and more recent, is still strong. The Irish people are used to adversity, so when things go wrong, like their economy tanks, they just shrug and keep going. And don't forget their long literary tradition, which is still alive and well if the number of bookstores is any indication. I keep returning to Ireland to make sure I haven't made it all up, but it's real—I didn't just imagine it. (By the way, I should mention that murder is rare there, particularly outside the cities—I actually apologized to a local guard for increasing the local homicide rate so fast.)
More about Sheila:
Sheila Connolly writes the Orchard Mystery series, set in a small town in western Massachusetts, the most recent of which, Sour Apples, was a New York Times bestseller. She also writes the Museum Mystery series, based in Philadelphia, and her new County Cork series, set in Ireland, debuts in 2013. Her first ebook, Once She Knew, was published in September 2012 by Beyond the Page, and was one of Barnes & Noble's Top 100 Books for 2012. Her short stories include the Agatha-nominated "Size Matters" for Level Best Books as well as e-stories from Berkley Prime Crime and Beyond the Page.
What an honor it is to have you visit my blog. I love this book and am so looking forward to the next one! Way to go on am AMAZING first!!!!!!!