Monday, August 12, 2013

The Romance of Irish Heroines

Antique Book from a Special Library
Every writer goes about the task of crafting stories in unique ways. For me, the first step is gathering research, a process a lot like setting out the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I link the straight edges together to form the outline, and little by little, pieces whose shapes and colors fit together just so begin to fill the empty space. I know that with dedication the whole picture will soon become visible.

For a jigsaw puzzle, I usually find them on the floor, or in the hall closet if the cats have been playful. A missing piece in a plot means I’ve hit a spot that requires research. I try to find what I need online, or in those notebooks I filled with facts before I started writing the story. When that fails, it’s time to get off my duff and go to the library—unless what I need concerns Ireland.

If it does, I drive to Boston and visit The Aunts. Both have been avid collectors and readers of Irish books for as long as I can remember. Their frequent trips to Ireland over the years have filled their home with other treasures—Belleek pottery and Waterford crystal, copper sculptures and paintings of the Aran Islands—but it’s the books that draw me when I visit.

From Geraldine’s side of the shelves, my choices include poetry, literature, ancient laws and customs, or mythology. Kathleen’s side offers modern history, biographies, politics, and current events. The Aunts’ interests overlap, which is great for me. I find all the puzzle pieces any author of Irish fiction could ever want.

The Aunts generously share the treasures in their magical library. My current "check out" (pictured) is The Romance of Irish Heroines, an antique whose thick yellowed pages overflow with wonderful old Gaelic names like Gormflaith, Meave, Macha, Dervorgilla, and Pirate Queen Grace "Grainne" O’Malley. Sadly, The Aunts were born too late for inclusion in this wonderful showcase of distinctive Irish ladies.

Retracing The Aunts' book-hunting footsteps in Ireland is difficult. Many of the bookstores they haunted are gone. Still, I enjoy browsing in Ireland’s bookstores knowing I’m seeing things I won't find in New Hampshire. I'm planning a visit to Dublin this autumn. I’ll make the rounds from Read’s and Hodges Figgis near Trinity College to Eason’s on O’Connell Street, stopping somewhere along the way for tea and a chocolate muffin. I’ve also found wonderful bookstores in Cork, Galway, Killarney, and Westport (pictured).

Book hunting isn’t the only reason I visit Ireland. It certainly isn’t the only reason I visit my guardian angel Aunts. It is a great adventure, though, and as they say in Ireland, "Seeking one thing often finds another."


  1. Pat, I envy you your aunts' library...and I'm jealous of your upcoming trip to Ireland! :)

    1. They do have some amazing old things, Cynthia, and they've always been generous lending them to me. And yes, I'm heading over in the fall for a quick blitz on the bookstores. Research, research! :-) Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Great blog, my friend! What a treasure trove of knowledge, intrigue and adventure your aunts watch over, it's so awesome!

    1. No question about that, Dave. Thanks for visiting!