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Spreading of the light in darkness

March 18, 2020

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Former television writer Felicity Hayes-McCoy is the author of the Finfarran books.

 

Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott

In an essay at the back of the American edition of “The Mistletoe Matchmaker,” Felicity Hayes-McCoy recalled some of the inspiration for the book: “That year, at Christmastime, strings of lights, bought with the proceeds of the festival, gleamed gold, scarlet, and blue on both sides of the curving village street. And, after the book launch, I found myself thinking of how many Irish Christmas traditions focus on the spreading of the light in darkness. Here at the end of the Dingle Peninsula, candles glimmer in every window between the mountains and the ocean. They’re kindled at dusk each evening between Christmas Eve and the sixth of January, marking the 12 days of the traditional Christmas season.”

In the book, the days “are turning colder and preparations are under way for the Winter Fest. Everyone is hoping for a little holiday magic on the Finfarra Peninsula, and as Cassie Fitzgerald, fresh from Toronto, is about to discover, there’s more to the holidays on the mistletoe and mince pies.”

The Sunday Times called it: “Engaging, sparkling and joyous,” while fellow novelist Nan Rossiter said it would “leave the reader longing to spend Christmas in Ireland.”

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Hayes-McCoy said her books are about “love, friendship and family and, in particular, powerful women. When I talked to my agent  before writing the first Finfarran book, I said I wanted to create a setting in which I could explore life in contemporary rural Ireland, and a middle-aged, female protagonist whose job as a public librarian puts her at the heart of her community. In the past I worked in television drama, where I learned that to write successfully about a community your storylines need to be cross-generational. So, though my protagonist Hanna Casey and her library are always central, I forefront different characters in different books –  her troubled teenage daughter, Jazz, for example, or her young assistant Conor and his girlfriend, or Fury O’Shea, Finfarran’s irascible builder. Fury and his dog, the Divil, have turned out to be top favorites with readers, though I suspect he’d drive them crazy in real life.

“‘The Transatlantic Book Club’ [which is next up for publication in North America] explores the lifelong love/hate relationship between Hanna’s formidable mother, Mary, and Mary’s friend Pat,” said the novelist, adding. “It’s a delicate, painful, loving friendship, seen partly through the eyes of a visitor from Canada, Pat’s 20-year-old granddaughter, Cassie,” said Hayes-McCoy, who when in Ireland lives in a Gaeltacht area and “so, when I’m there, I speak, think and even, dream, in Irish.”

She added: “The book’s full of comedy too, and required work to get the balance right, so I was blown away when Marian Keyes, whose novels I admire, called it ‘a pitch-perfect delight.’”

 

 

Felicity Hayes-McCoy

Place of birth: Dublin

Spouse: Wilf Judd

Residence: My life is divided between an inner-city apartment in London, England, and a stone house at the end of Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula.

Published works:  Currently, I’m editing my sixth “Finfarran” novel. Each works as a standalone as well as part of a series, and all are set in a fictional county on Ireland’s West Coast. “The Library at the Edge of The World,” “Summer at the Garden Café” and “The Mistletoe Matchmaker” are published in the US and Canada by HarperPerennial, who’ll be bringing out “The Transatlantic Book Club” this fall, with more to follow.

Non-fiction works include a memoir, “The House on an Irish Hillside”; its sequel, “Enough Is Plenty: The Year on the Dingle Peninsula” (illustrated by my own photography); a guidebook, “Dingle And Its Hinterland: People, Places & Heritage”; and “A Woven Silence: Memory, History and Remembrance,” which maps the stories of the women in my family onto the history of the Irish State.

I’ve also written children’s books and contributed to children’s collections.

 

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?  

I write full-time to deadlines, so I just get on with it. Pretty much anywhere, provided there’s a hot cup of tea at my elbow.

 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?  

Read, read and read some more, all genres, including poetry.

 

Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure. 

P. D. James’ detective stories, Mrs Gaskell’s novels, and anything by Maeve Binchy, who was a dear friend, and who taught me Latin at school!

 

What book are you currently reading?

Miranda Seymour’s biography of Mary Shelley and, because I always seem to read two books at once, an advance copy of Sarah Steele’s heartwarming debut novel “The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon.”

 

Is there a book you wish you had written?

So many.

 

Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.     

Mary Shelley’sFrankenstein.”

 

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

Shakespeare.

 

What book changed your life?    

Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”

 

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?  

The end of the Dingle Peninsula.

 

You’re Irish if…

your heart keeps reminding you that Ireland is your home.

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