CONNECT chats with Castleisland woman Lisa Geraghty on how she used lockdown in the Kingdom to pen her first novel More Than and Match
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I grew up near Castleisland with my parents Denis and Martina Reidy and five younger siblings. I went to school in St Joseph’s Presentation, Castleisland before going to Dublin to study Veterinary Medicine. I practiced as a vet in Galway in both farm animal and small animal practice for about ten years. I then took up a post in Athlone Institute of Technology as a lecturer in Veterinary Nursing. I now live in Ahascragh, East Galway with my two teenage children, 19 year-old Donnacha and Maeve who is 16 – and my Irish Wolfhound, Mac.
When did you first realise you enjoyed writing?
Last year, at the start of lockdown, I started writing some blogs. I knew I really enjoyed writing but had only ever written scientifically. I’ve published a few employment law articles, a peer reviewed paper on antimicrobial resistance in veterinary practice and I am co-author of a textbook ‘Veterinary Law and Practice in Ireland’ which is due out in June.
When did you make the decision to write a novel?
So, I loved to blog, and had a few non-fiction articles published in local papers. Writing really gave me pleasure. A few friends suggested a novel. I had some themes in my head for a long time, but I just needed to put a story to them. Last June, while renting a house in Abbeydorney where both my sisters live, I literally opened a word file and started to write.
Tell us where your inspiration for More Than a Match came from
I knew I wanted to write a story about a strong woman – a character that could empower other women. The #MeToo movement was well underway at the time. The themes I wanted to encapsulate in the story were that people are flawed, we all make mistakes and have to learn to live with the consequences. I wanted to address the theme of stress and mental illness and the message that it is possible to heal and be well and move on. I also wanted to include the theme of bullying and the destructive force that it can be in peoples’ lives, especially when it happens behind closed doors. Lastly I hoped to include the theme of grief and loss, and how universally it hits all of us, non-discriminatory, without prejudice.
So, tell us about the book itself
Jennifer Burke lives the dream life – a successful law practice in Castlebar, a husband who worships her and two beautiful, talented teenage daughters. At least that’s what she’s always told herself.
A West Kerry native, Jennifer met her future husband John and best friend Sinead in UCD where she studied law in the 1990s. From University, the confident and stylish Jennifer followed the pair back to their home County of Mayo where she started her family and opened her own law practice. But as the years progress, somewhere inside of Jennifer the splinters begin to deepen. When her mental health is shattered by a life-altering diagnosis she discovers how fragile her world has become.
This is a story of fear and loss, of desperation and pain, of hope and survival. When a woman’s strength is tested to the limit can she stand and fight for her life?
Jennifer Burke is a real woman, raw and flawed. Her story is one that will resonate with all women at some point in their lives.
You credit the ‘fresh Kerry air’ with helping you write the book. Tell us about the process
The story of More Than a Match was written in the summer of 2020, when the country was in lockdown. I was in Abbeydorney at the time, breathing Kerry air. I wrote it in 90 days. It sort of flowed out of me once I got started. I had asked a couple of trusted friends to proofread the chapters as I wrote them and they gave me so much encouragement. I generally wrote for a couple of hours in the morning and again at night, which meant that I got to spend plenty of time on Banna Beach and in the National Park with my niece, Hanna.
How difficult is it to have your book published?
From a mainstream publishing point of view, it’s not easy, especially as an unknown author. If this is the route you want to take the best option is to get an agent – again not easy as the number of new authors that they take on each year is limited. Details of literary agents are available online. The alternative route
is self-publishing or independent (indie) publishing. This is a fantastic option for new authors who do not have a direct route into the big publishing houses. Indie publishing is coming into favour lately, even with the more established authors, because they see it as a way of having more control over their books and they get more of the royalties ultimately. The most important thing when you are hoping to publish a book is to hire a good editor. They are skilled and experienced and will transform your book into a professional product. I was introduced to Liz Hudson of the Little Red Pen Editing Company in Dublin and she was literally invaluable to me when it came to preparing my manuscript for publication.
How exciting is it to see your book become a reality?
I have to admit it’s very satisfying. When you are sitting in front of your laptop on your own watching your characters come to life, it’s difficult to imagine the final product – to see your friends and family hold it in their hands. I believe that this is the only reason someone should write – because it makes you feel good. If you write because it gives you pleasure, then your work will always be a success. A second reason to smile, in my case, is that the cover of the novel was created by my son, Donnacha. He is an aspiring tattoo artist and hopes to move to Tralee in September to study Tattoo Artistry.
Will we see more novels from Lisa Geraghty in the future?
I’m going to enjoy this one first. However, I believe that Jennifer Burke has more stories to tell. She is such a strong character, one that I hope will have an empowering influence on women. I think there is a possibility that she might make an appearance in the future.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing a novel, but doesn’t know where to start?
The best advice that I can give is this: If you want to write, then write. If you have a story to tell, then let it out onto the page in front of you. That is the most important bit of the process.
You don’t need specific training in writing. I didn’t have any training in creative writing or fiction. Writing your novel should be for you first. If you think you would like to have it published, then my next advice is to hire an editor. This is essential and is worth every penny. Lastly, look into indie publishing. It is easier than it sounds. I used Kindle Direct Publishing and can recommend it, but there are several other options.
Finally, where can people read your book?
My novel, More Than a Match, is available in eBook on Amazon.co.uk and in paperback on Amazon.de and Amazon.com.