Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Flemish Connection

'As searing a critique of our own times as is Arthur Millers The Crucible. ' EU Prize for Literature. 

Her Kind is based on the Sorcery Trial of Alice Kytler - the infamous Flemish moneylender that lived in 14th century Kilkenny. I have been amazed and delighted with the interest in the novel, and the story behind it, especially the connection with Flanders, and the Flemish woman who made such an impression. 

Jose Kytler's Grave Stone
A lot of people who have read Her Kind, have been very curious about the existence of ancient Flemingstown.  The fact that Kilkenny has long been made up of an English town and an Irish town is well known, but not quite so well known is that there was once a third town - the town of the Flemings.  

Extract 'Her Kind' 
The Flemish settlers arrived -‘not long after the English invasion,’ (John A. Prim) and built their own separately walled town, with its own towers and gates. It's referred to in ancient documents as Flemings towne, or the ‘town of the Flemings. They were a colony of traders, fullers, cooks, brewers and weavers – who were invited over for the advancement of art and improvement of trade by the early inhabitants of Kilkenny. Well established by the 14th century, it was built where Switzer’s Asylum, (St James Asylum) existed. I would love to know where the town gate ended up, Prim recounts that it was moved and re-erected at New Key (his spelling)...its a location I'm not aware of, perhaps a Kilkenny historian out there can help us with that.. it features strongly in Her Kind, so it would be very exciting to locate the ancient gateway. 
In the meantime, in St Canice's cathedral, the grave slab of - Jose Kytler - can still be seen. He died in 1280, and his slab is inscribed in Norman French requesting 'Stop and say a prayer, you who pass by here'.  His daughter Alice would go on to be the most well remembered of those Flemish Settlers.

I was interviewed on Arena by Sean Rocks recently - we talked about Alice Kytler, Sorcery trials & Her Kind - put on the kettle, and have a listen HERE

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Hot Press Interview

Photo by Manuel Ruiz

Her Kind:  'A beautifully absorbing novel, illuminating the remarkable story of a woman whose life has been since subsumed by folklore. Highly Recommended.' 

Hot Press - Roisin Dwyer 

Here's an excerpt from the recent Hot Press Interview with Roisin Dwyer...
Live From the Witch Trials
A re-imagining of the events leading to Ireland’s first witch trial, Niamh Boyce’s Her Kind is a brilliantly compelling effort.
When you think of medieval women you think of cowed, subservient people,” says Niamh Boyce, sitting in Cassidy’s Hotel, where we’re discussing her new work Her Kind. “Alice Kyteler was incredibly powerful. She was one of the first money lenders and a property owner. She was a mature older woman who had four husbands. If she existed, how many others that we don’t know about did? We know a version of history which the powerful wanted us to know.”.
Her Kind – the title is a nod to the Anne Sexton poem – is an historical reimagining of the events leading to Ireland’s first witch trial, told primarily through the story of Alice’s servant Petronelle..... Read the full Article Here.
Her Kind is available from Amazon, & from the Book Depository for U.S. readers.
Signed Copies - There are now signed copies in Dubray Books in Kilkenny and Grafton Street; The Book Centres in Kilkenny and Wexford;  Woodbine Books, Kilcullen; Easons, Newbridge; The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar; and in all Easons in Dublin City. 

I was delighted to discover that Her Kind is still a best seller in Dubray Bookshop and in The Book Centre in Kilkenny! Thank you so much readers and booksellers.

Dubray Bookshop Kilkenny.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Reading and Q& A in 'The Maynooth Bookshop'

I'm really looking forward to visiting Maynooth, Co Kildare this Thursday evening to read from Her Kind, answer questions about the novel, the Kilkenny witchcraft trials, or whatever comes up :) The bookshop has even recreated the scene from Her Kind's cover in their window display! Everyone is more than welcome.

The Maynooth Bookshop


'Atmospheric, magical thriller' 

Hilary A White reviewed Her Kind in the Sunday Independent, and completely made my week...

'There is something bizarrely accomplished about how Boyce delicately unfolds this atmospheric, magical thriller with pace and juice, while also making sure that the sentiments (vilification of women, policing of female biology, etc) echo through time.
In doing so, Her Kind feels like a reliable classic you'd find in the type of local library Boyce worked in, not the work of a second time novelist.' can read the full review HERE

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Publication Week News

Greetings from Rescue Remedy Season, also known as publication week :) 

Amazing news... 
Her Kind was shortlisted by the Irish jury for the EU Prize for LiteratureIt was nominated with Jan Carson’s The Fire Starters, Catholic Boy by Rosemary Jenkinson, The Watch House by Bernie McGill. 

Review... I was thrilled to read Anna Carey's review in the Irish Times. You spend years, in this case five, working alone on a book, putting your heart into it - sending it out in the world can be a pretty terrifying experience. So it was wonderful to read ... '14th century Kilkenny is so evocative and atmospheric the reader can almost taste the honeycombs in Petronelle’s carefully tended hives and feel the heavy animal pelts that line Alice’s secret chamber...' the full review can be read Here.
Irish Times Interview....
I was interviewed by Rosita Boland in Athy last week - 'historically, it was always women who were deemed to be witches, and considered to be dangerous personages, especially when they showed any evidence of independence ... the full interview can be read Here
The Irish Times
Thank you readers, and future readers, booksellers and fellow writers, journalists and reviewers - if you didn't love books, the world would be an arid, lonely place. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cuirt 2019 : Her Kind Galway Launch!

So, in addition to the hometown launch, we're off to the West to have a Galway Launch for Her Kind! It'll be on Monday 8th at 6pm in the Biteclub on Abbeygate Street. I'm delighted to be bringing the novel to an International Festival like Cuirt - Everyone and their granny is welcome of course! I'll be teaching a workshop that morning at the Galway Arts Centre called Fact to Fiction...(for more details and to book a place click here )

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Her Kind Launch

And goes without saying - you're all invited!

Available to pre-order from Amazon,  Book Depository, Hive & Waterstones
1324, Kilkennie
A woman seeks refuge for herself and her daughter in the household of a childhood friend. The friend, Alice Kytler, takes her in, but warns her to hide their old connection.

In the months that follow Petronelle realises the city is as dangerous as the wolves that prowl the countryside, and that Dame Alice is no one’s guardian…

Once again, Petronelle decides to flee. But this time she is faced with forces darker than she could ever have imagined, and finds herself fighting for more than her freedom ...

Her Kind is a moving and atmospheric re-imagining of the events leading to the Kilkenny Witch Trial of 1324.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Her Kind

Published by Penguin Random House

The release date for my novel based on the Kilkenny Witchcraft trials is nearing, its the 4th April! 

The book is inspired by events in Kilkenny in 1324, by a trial that arose after moneylender Dame Alice Kytler was accused of witchcraft by Bishop Ledrede. She was a very wealthy business woman with debtors, and relations, in high places - records show she had lent King Edward (half of Kilkennie was governed by the crown in those days) a princely five hundred pounds. There's no record of his honoring that payment... but more of all that later. 

The case is historically significant for a number of reasons, it predates the Witch hunts of the 16th Century by two hundred years, yet the accusations made against Alice and her household, are almost identical to those that were to follow. It marks a significant moment in witch trial history, one where sorcery was elevated from being a petty to a much more serious, heretical crime - a change that had significant long term consequences... But, the heart of my book are the people involved in the case, Richard Ledrede, Dame Alice Kytler and her maid Petronelle ... 

Her Kind is available to pre-order Here


The novel also got a mention in this piece...


For anyone interested in hearing more in the meantime - I wrote an article about the background to the trial for Womankind's Gothic edition....

Issue #5: Gothic

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Irish Writers Centre Workshops

I'm delighted to be back teaching in the Irish Writers Centre this Spring - I love teaching there - I first set foot in the Centre as an inaugural Novel Fair Winner, and ended up being published by Penguin Ireland as a result. That was The Herbalist, and my new book Her Kind (about the Kilkenny witchcraft trial) will also be published by Penguin Random House next April. I am teaching two courses, one runs over a few weeks, and is aimed at beginners, or those of you beginning again. The second reflects my interest in turning fact into fiction, as my two novels were both based on real life trials....   

Six Week Starter Kit
'This course is suitable for those new to writing, or interested in getting back to writing. Fun but focused, the core of this course will be weekly writing exercises. Through these, participants will create, and shape new fictions. These might grow into flash pieces, short stories, monologues, rants or chapters. Each writer will work towards completing their piece over the course of the six weeks. Basic character development, voice, point of view, story and setting will also be discussed.' 
To book - click here 

From Fact to Fiction (One Day)
Do you have a story you always wanted to tell? Something that really happened but you don't know how to handle the material? This workshop will explore how true stories can inspire a work of fiction. Participants will look at character, voice, setting, first draft, research, 'how much truth, how much fiction,' and revision. The course is suitable for both beginners and those who have been writing for a while. All you need is a pen and notebook.
To book - click here

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Book Show - Historical Fiction

Both of my novels, The Herbalist and Her Kind (available for pre-order here!) were based on legal trials from another century. The Herbalist was inspired by the case of Don Robert Rodriguez de Vere in 1940's Athy, and Her Kind explores Kilkenny's infamous sorcery trial - the case of Dame Alice Kytler. 

My interest in hidden stories, in excavating silenced voices has led me to write books are often seen as historical, or more recently as bio-fiction. Like most writers, I just write what fascinates me, and am sometimes surprised at the labels attached to the finished book. This is just one of the subjects discussed on The Book Show tonight. 

The show is hosted by novelist and poet, Nuala O Connor. The guests are Paul Lynch, Andrew Miller and myself. We'll be discussing historical fiction, language, research and whether historical fiction has an image problem! Listen in, at 7pm or catch the podcast later.

For more - check out The Book Show Website. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Flight of the Wren

The Wrens were a community of women who lived brutal lives on the plains of the Curragh in the 19th Century. They worked as prostitutes, and earned their name from the hollowed out nests under the furze in which they sheltered. The Wrens of Kildare have long intrigued novelists, poets, historians and artists, including Maria Luddy, Rose Doyle, Martin Malone, and Ann Egan. A first hand account was published in Dickens newspaper, The Pall Mall Gazette in 1867 and remains a fascinating document. Today, I'm talking to award winning writer, Orla McAlinden who was inspired by this community of women to write her exciting debut novel, The Flight of the Wren. 

The Curragh Wrens lived a fascinating and brutal life, did you feel a spark, a strong desire to write about them, from the second you learned of their existence, or was it something that developed over time?
I knew very little about the Curragh wrens for the first ten years that I lived in Kildare, despite living within a brisk half hour walk of the Curragh. I knew of their existence but little more. However, the turning point in my relationship with the story came during the bicentenary of the official founding of Newbridge Town. Newbridge 200 was celebrated in 2012 with a plethora of art, history, walks and music. I found myself walking through the She-barracks (the old brothel district) with local historians; poring over old drawings and photos that showed a military installation fit to rival Collins Barracks in Dublin; and learning to discern traces of the past in the architecture, the street names and the shop-fronts and signage. Co-incidentally, 2012 was also the year in which I first started writing, after the death of my father. Prior to his death, I had been an avid reader, but never had put words on a page before. The writing, which had begun as a secret catharsis, soon turned into first a hobby, then an almost-obsession.   I instinctively knew that I wasn’t ready, had not yet the skills, to attempt the story of the Wrens. It took two years before I felt able to start fleshing out their tale.
Jane McNamee Sings of the Wrens of the Curragh...

How important was sense of place in writing the story of Sally Mahon - do you think living so close to the area, gave you an essential sense of connection? Is place important to you in general as a writer?
A sense of place is everything to me. My first book, a short story collection called The Accidental Wife, is set in a fictional village outside Omagh in Co Tyrone. Although the village, and the farm at Drumnagort, do not exist, I see them clearly in my mind’s eye. Those characters cannot walk through the world as they do, or use the magnificent language they use, unless they come from the very real landscape of rural Ulster. Likewise with The Flight of the Wren, the landscape of Kildare and particularly the Curragh, permeates every page of the Irish sections of the book. I have stood in the howling wind which rushes off the Dublin mountains, sweeps unhindered across the Curragh Plain and slams into Newbridge. I have heard the thundering hooves of a dozen horses at full tilt across the short cropped grass of the Curragh, as Sally Mahon in 1849 would have heard the Cavalry. My Tasmanian chapters are all set indoors. I have never been to Tasmania, and rather than risk inauthenticity, I brought my Australian characters inside, into the domestic environment.

I am interested in how you began The Flight of the Wrens. Did Sally's voice come to you with ease as you began to write the story? Or was it something that evolved as the story developed? How was she to work with as a character, did she surprise you at any point?

People are sick to death of hearing how I started writing The Flight of the Wren, probably because the story seems too neat to be true. The bones of the novel, the general narrative arc, and the social milieux of the characters fell into my brain in the local history section of Hodges Figgis bookshop. I picked up a small non-fiction book by Catherine Fleming entitled The Transportation of Women from Kildare to Van Diemens Land, and the novel was firmly fixed in my brain by the time I had paid for the book and walked back to the car park. I knew I finally had my route into the exploration of the Wrens of the Curragh.
I found Sally’s true voice very late in the process. The entire book was rewritten at least five times in numerous voices and points of view. For a long time my preferred voice was of the twelve year old Sally, extremely naïve and trusting, relating baldly the facts of her existence. I also tried a universal, omniscient POV, second person, third person. Sally did not find her authentic voice until the final rewrite, when I thrust her forward in time by almost 70 years, and let her tell her story with the full strength, wisdom and clear-sight of the crone, rather than the maiden.  
I adored Sally and she surprised me at every turn. I don’t plot, and although I knew before I started writing that she would survive her journey and triumph, I had absolutely no idea how. At the end of each writing session of the first draft, I would sit back and say, wow… I did not see that coming.
Your book explores the famine as well as the Curragh Wrens. Have you any tips for emerging writers who may be interested in exploring an aspect of social history or a real event from their own lives?
The most important advice I could suggest to any emerging writer is to read. Read voraciously in your time-period and locality. For those writers approaching historical fiction, the local library networks are amazing, covering genealogy, land-leases, censuses, contemporary photographs etc. Get stuck in. But, very importantly, remember that a novel is not a text book. As long as you know everything, your reader doesn’t have to. Use your research lightly.
What's next for you in terms of writing?
I’m lucky in one sense. Because it was such a monumental and time consuming effort to find a publisher for The Flight of the Wren (4 years and 70 rejections), I already have my next book written and ready to go, so I am not under the enormous pressure that other writers often find themselves; promoting one book, while trying to write another. Full of Grace is another short story collection, which re-introduces us to some of the characters from the award-winning stories in The Accidental Wife, and new characters have arrived in the village, or come to my attention for the first time. I wouldn’t call it a sequel, more a companion to The Accidental Wife. Full of Grace will be published next Spring by Mentor Press. 
Thanks so much for the interview Orla, for more about The Flight of the Wren and Orla's work check out her Blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Bookshow on RTE Radio One

Nuala O Connor is  guest-presenting The Book Show on RTE Radio 1 next Sunday 21st at 7pm. I'm delighted to be joining her and writer Paul Lynch  to chat about historical fiction, research, and my novel, Her Kind, which was inspired by the Kytler Sorcery Trial of 1324. Andrew Miller will join Nuala on the line from Bath.

During the show, I'll read a short excerpt from Her Kind. It will give a sneak preview of the novel, which will be published next April by Penguin Random House. Its exciting to have the novel finished - it was over four years in the writing, not quite the time span I expected when I began back 2014!

Next week, I'll be interviewing writer Orla MacLinden on the blog, and after that, I'll be taking a rest from social media ( especially Facebook which cannibalizes writers!) -  so this winter, I hope to work on a new novel without (too many) distractions. 

Till then, happy writing :)