Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Festivals & Readings from Her Kind this August

Greetings from my writing shed - 

I'm popping out to post word of some upcoming events.

I'm delighted let you know that I'll be bringing HER KIND - my novel based on the Sorcery Trial of Alice Kyteler; the first European witchcraft trial - to the following four festivals in August...

I've also added a Page for Book Clubs to this Blog, with Questions & Info about Her Kind - cast your eye to the right, and you'll see it :)

On Saturday 3rd August, at 5pm  -

I'll be in the Literary Tent at the uber cool  All Together Now Festival in WaterfordThe amazing Patti Smith is one of the acts!
Its a Special Book Club Extravaganza arranged by Waterford Library..
For more information and the line up - here

On Saturday 17th August at 11am

I'll be in the Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle - the very building which houses the ancient jail where Alice Kytler and her alleged sect of witches were held! Its part of the amazing Kilkenny Arts Festival...
Tickets can be bought HERE, or at the Festival Office.

On Friday 23rd August at 7pm

I'll be in Graiguenamanagh Library
as part of Graiguenamanagh Town of Books Festival, reading and taking part in a Q & A with their brilliant Book club.

On Saturday 24th August at 4pm

I'll be reading alongside John MacKenna in Abbeyleix as part of inaugural The Power of Words FestivalThis is the first year of what promises to be a memorable festival, this year the festival celebrates poet Pat Ingoldsby. Tickets can be bought Here, & click Here to read more... 

Amanda Kelly who created POW, with the legendary Pat Ingoldsby 

And one more good thing... Brussels!
Her Kind is based on a real case, the sorcery trial of Alice Kytler - a Flemish moneylender who lived in medieval Kilkenny. I'm absolutely thrilled to have been invited to Belgium by Ambassador Helena Nolan. I'll be reading from Her Kind and chatting about the Flemish connections, on October 15th as part of the Embassy of Ireland Book Club - tickets can be booked Here

with Sheba in the shed - letting ourselves go :)

I'm reading at festivals later in the Autumn and will update the page then, in the meantime -  I'm writing a new novel from my new shed and trying to be offline & rustic for whats left of July ...  Have a great summer, happy reading to readers, happy writing to writers and happy resting to resters !   

Friday, July 5, 2019

Book Club Pack - Her Kind

Book Club Questions ...
a selection to choose from... 

Q. Alice Kytler was a powerful, mature woman. Are older women still likely to be demonized for being independent? 

Q. The Sorcery Trial of Alice Kytler was notorious at the time - many of the annals contain a reference to the case. Did you know about it before you read the book? Did you know that the first woman to be accused of leading a sect and having a demon lover, lived in Ireland?

 Q. If there was a point of no return in the book, a point where things were never going to be the same again – where do you think that was?

Q. The word witch – how does its use differ today? Can you still destroy someone’s reputation by calling them a name? What names have the same affect now as ‘witch’ did, in medieval times?

Sorcery, religion, politics, greed, privilege, power – all pale in comparison to what one finds at the heart of this story: that natural connection, the love of a mother for her child. (Historical Novels Review) 

Q. What did you think about the relationship between mothers and daughters in the book? Between Petronelle and Basilia, or Lithgen and Petronelle? Are they different to relationships nowadays?

Q. How are names significant in the telling of Her Kind, and the power relationships between the characters?  

Boyce’s depiction of life in 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. (Irish Times)

Q. Medieval Ireland was a melting pot – full of different languages and customs. Were you surprised to learn how diverse Ireland was, that it was a fractured place, full of tribes and walled towns – not one united entity?

Q. What do you think Ledrede’s real motivation for accusing Alice Kytler of witchcraft was?

Q. Was Alice undone by her love for her husband?

The characters are part of a world that at times is utterly alien to us, and one of the most haunting aspects of the novel is the depiction of anchoress, the holy woman who has been bricked alive into the walls of St Canice’s Cathedral. ( Irish Times)

Q. Did you know about the anchorites before reading Her Kind? That there were women and men who lived such lives by choice? 

Q. Who do you think Agnes, the anchoress, really was? Why was she locked between the walls?

‘The cathedral was also where I came across the anchoress’s grave. An anchorite or anchoress is a hermit who gives up ordinary life for a solitary life of prayer – they are often sealed in between the walls of a church, with only small ‘squints’ or windows to receive food through. The figure of a nun is carved onto the anchoress’s grave stone.  Her hands are held in old style prayer position, palm facing outwards rather than palms together. When I placed my palms over her stone ones, I felt a strange sensation, close to the one that Petronelle describes in Her Kind, that of an old truth pushing back – that day the character of Agnes the anchoress came to life.’ (Niamh Boyce)

Q. How did you feel towards Alice? Towards Petronelle? Towards Basillia? Towards Ledrede? Did you prefer one character over another? 

Q. What was the real cause of Sir Johns illness? Who was behind it?

Q. In 14th century, the Pope was based in Avignon, France and he had a lively fear of sorcery and witchcraft. He accused members of his own court of sticking pins in his waxen likeness.  Richard Ledrede, was one of his more favoured clerics. He gave him the Bishopric of Ossory in Ireland. Richard, an Englishman, had never set foot in the country yet within a few weeks of his arrival, he was making accusations against his parishioners… 
Was it inevitable that someone like Richard Ledrede would make accusations of sorcery against one of the residents of Kilkenny?

The novel is beautifully written and transports us to the 14th century, though many of its themes loudly resonate today. I can’t wait to see where Niamh Boyce takes us next. (RTE Guide)  
Q. Was the world of Her Kind familiar or strange to you? What had you expected medieval Ireland to be like? How was it different? What resonated? 

Q. The case is well documented by historians and academics. There are several interesting explorations. Why do you think the case remains outside of the standard history book?

Q. There is no reference to this trial in the ancient Liber Primus Kilkennius as it stands today. Yet it records many less significant cases from the time. Do you think that it was undocumented, or that references were removed from this record of the goings on in 14th Kilkenny?

Q. Would you have preferred to live outside or inside the walls of Kilkenny City?

Q. Medieval women (who aren’t royal) are often viewed as passive, as chattel - Dame Alice was an incredibly powerful moneylender. If Ledrede had not accused her of witchcraft, we may never have even known that a woman of her kind existed. Do you think she was unique for a woman of her time? 

Q. On arriving in Hightown, Petronelle and her daughter are given new names and clothes, and are forbidden to speak their native language. They are seen as ‘other’ in their own country. What affect do you think this has on their relationship, their sense of identity?

Q. Ledrede’s words and phrases are woven throughout the novel, as fact and fiction weave – why do you think has not been given first person narration, the way Petronelle and Basillia have been

Q. Her Kind is based on a real trial - a landmark case in the history of witchcraft - did that affect how you felt about the characters and their fate? Had you heard of the case before this? Why do you think this is?

Q. This was a hugely significant case yet there’s been no memorial or monument to Petronella de Midia, as yet. Ledredes effigy can be seen in St Canice’s Cathedreal to this day. Who decides who we, as people, remember? What happens to those who are not commemorated, listed, archived, named? Whose names are on the streets of your town, who is your local bridge named after? If you open a map, what do the names tell you? What do they mean? Is that meaning still alive?  Do these things matter? Who is mapping our history for us? 

Q. If you were to retrieve someone's voice from history, whose would it be?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Reading Her Kind in Wexford Library

I'm off to this stunning library in Wexford on Tuesday evening! I love Libraries, AND its free to attend (but try to book in advance.) The nicest part of publishing a book is meeting readers and people as fascinated by this historic witchcraft trial as I am - really looking forward to the event.

To Book - 053-9196760

Friday, June 7, 2019

Irish Witchcraft and Demonology - The Bramble Hill Press Edition

Dame Alice Kyteler by Eleanor Quinn

An Interview with artist Eleanor Quinn...

I recently came across this print of Alice Kyteler on Instagram, and was really taken by it. It's a stunning image, and I love line work. Alice's demon was (allegedly!) a dog, but the artist chose to use a cat, which I think works beautifully. I was intrigued to discover that the print is part of a series of illustrations based on John Seymour's Irish Witchcraft and Demonology. I wore the pages of that particular book thin when researching Her Kind and Alice Kyteler's sorcery trial. My beaten copy came from The Book Shop in Carndonagh, County Donegal... its an old book, first published in 1913 and out of print. It is full of  very curious tales of witchcraft, demons and the supernatural. The artist of the print is Eleanor Quinn of Bramble Hill Press, and as it turns out, has reprinted a beautiful new illustrated edition of  Seymour's uncanny book . I had to find out more  ...

my old copy

Welcome to the blog Eleanor - can you tell us about your publishing house?
Well, this book is the first venture in a new bigger project that my husband, Patrick, and I have just begun - a small publishing house called Bramble Hill Press, where we will be making new editions of older books that are either out of print entirely or have fallen off the radar. Patrick works on updating the format and layout of the book and making a kindle edition, and I get to work making illustrations for them. We've been busy over the past few years finding all the cool books that we think people should still be reading, and Irish Witchcraft and Demonology was my personal favorite, so was a clear starting point.

It's a great choice! What did you think of Irish Witchcraft and Demonology when you first read it?
I was enthralled! I kept reading bits aloud in amazement to my family - they had to tell me to pipe down and give it a rest. I couldn't believe that I hadn't heard of these stories before, especially the Cork case of Florence Newton, I've lived here for 25 years and not come across her. My secondary feelings and thoughts were much more reflective - How many of these women were actually witches? Probably very few. How easy it must have been to deduce that if a woman was old and ugly she must be evil, and how easily they believed the accusations of the young 'victims'! How much of this could now be explained by medical knowledge? Could some of it actually be true? I found myself hoping that a lot of them were in fact witches so at least they didn't suffer all the gruesomeness of a trial in complete innocence.

I had the same reaction while researching the sorcery trial of Alice Kytler, at first its all quite sensational and fascinating - but then there's that 'hold on a minute, these were real women' realization, and all that comes with that. There are quite an array of familiars, charms, ghosts and witches in this strange book -  was it hard to choose which elements to illustrate?

Mary Butters by Eleanor Quinn
Very. Unlike other projects where you are given a tidy brief to work from, how to go about this was entirely up to me. I felt sure that I didn't want to make a comedy of the stories, and sure that I didn't want to sensationalize them by going full on fairytale witchy or Gothic demonic on it. I was most interested in the people, because they were real people, who really went though this, so I settled on a portrait of each main character, trying to depict them with a bit of respect, and some ambiguity on whether they were actually witches or not.

There's a dignity to that creative approach, and it comes across in the finished work. I think thats what drew me so strongly to your print of Alice. Of all the stories in the book - what was your favorite to work on? 

My favourite piece was the portrait of Mary Butters, I think it was the most fun because it's such a dramatic story. Mary was a plant-witch, or butter-witch, from Co. Antrim at the start of the 1800s. She was hired by a local family to lift a cattle-curse from their livestock but ended up killing three of the family members in the process by asphyxiating them with the fumes of the potion she was brewing. I've drawn her leaning over her pot of noxious smoke, which was gorgeous to draw with all the swirling clouds. This story is also a favourite of mine because Mary was acquitted and carried on practicing her craft, a rare good outcome in the annals of witch-history! Though hopefully she didn't try that particular method again.

Let's hope not! I love your illustrative style. Can you tell us a little about your aesthetic as an artist?
Sure, I owe a lot of my style to my two main loves from art college, line drawing and copper etching. I had the most wonderful drawing teacher, Megan Eustace, who taught me to love line work, which followed nicely into working etching onto copper plates. Etching is such a beautiful traditional process, and has been used for some of my all time favorite illustrations from the Golden Age. 
I'm just working with pen on paper at the moment, but the style of my work very much owes to printmaking. The content of my work has always leant towards the magical, dreamy side of things, so projects like this are made for me. We've just begun working on Sharpe's The History of Witchcraft in Scotland - much more grim reading but some fantastic stories there too, I'm already excited about the illustrations that could come from them.

So more witchcraft - but a much darker project I imagine. Best of luck with Bramble Hill Press, and thanks for the interview Eleanor!

The Bramble Hill edition of John Seymour's Irish Witchcraft and Demonology is now available on Amazon  
& here's a link to Bramble Hill Press Etsy Shop where prints are available

The Bramble Hill Press Illustrated Edition

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Historical Novels Review

Her Kind is featured in the latest issue of Historical Novels Review, the monthly magazine from the Historical Novel Society.... its a very insightful piece by Bethany Latham - who touches on the heart of the book - the mother-daughter dynamic... 'Sorcery, religion, politics, greed, privilege, power – all pale in comparison to what one finds at the heart of this story: that natural connection, the love of a mother for her child.'

the full article can be read HERE

Bibi Baskin reviewed Her Kind today on The Today Show with Maura & Daithi
 'I couldn't put it down.'

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 Kyteler- 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 the prosperous merchant Jose Kyteler - can still be seen today. 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, she would go on to become notorious. 

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.'
...you 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.