Lovely Lambay

Last week I was lucky enough to fulfil a dream I’ve had since I started researching the RMS Tayleur a couple of years ago: I was able to visit Lambay.  This beautiful island lies off the coast of Howth, a little to the north of Dublin, and I was taken over on a speedy inflatable called a ‘rib’ (I’d like to make some kind of Adam/Eve joke but my brain is still too giddy, do leave one in the comments section if you’re up for it).  I saw a sleeping seal bobbing straight up and down like a cork in the water, all sorts of seabirds that I won’t even attempt to (mis)identify, jellyfish, and a minke whale.  It was BRILLIANT.  I absolutely recommend contacting Eoin Grimes of Skerries SeaTours on [Irish code] 0863043847 if you’re in the area.with Tayleur book on Lambay - harbour

Lambay isn’t just a stunning bird reserve full of deer and wallabies (yes, really), it’s also where the RMS Tayleur wrecked 48 hours into her maiden voyage for the White Star Line 160 years ago.  290 survivors climbed the treacherous cliffs to safety despite horrific injuries and shock, and stayed there for a couple of nights (most of them out in the open) until they could be transported to the mainland.  It was gloriously sunny when I was there, with barely a breeze, but I couldn’t help but look on those near-vertical cliffs in horror.  They’re menacing even on a late summer’s day, let alone in a winter storm.

Tayleur Bay on Lambay

I took my copy of “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic‘” (Pen & Sword, 2014) and read the names from the back of the book aloud, all 700+ of them.  It took ages and really drove home just how many people were directly involved with this horrific shipwreck.  I felt incredibly privileged to be there, and to be able to leave as I chose.  Many hundreds of those on board the RMS Tayleur that day did not.

Tayleur Bay

If you have any questions or information on the Tayleur do feel free to leave a comment or to email me at



‘The Next Big Thing’ (and no, I don’t mean my belly)

Victoria Watson, author of the short story collection ‘Letting Go’, has kindly tagged me as one of the next writers in a blogging experience called The Next Big Thing – you can find out more about her here
Each featured author is sent ten questions about what full length projects they’re working on at the moment. Here are my answers – if you’ve any questions yourself, stick ’em in the comments section below and I’ll get right back to you.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing

What is the working title of your book?

Well, I’m writing two at the moment as well as one with another writer which will be revealed in due course. ‘Fairer Prospects: the true story of the Victorian Titanic is a nonfiction book, and ‘An Unusual Darkness’ is a novel.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The nonfiction one presented itself to me a few years ago. I saw a small brass porthole in a museum, talked to an attendant, and was haunted by the tale of how it got there. Writing is the best way I can think of to exorcize this little known tragedy from my head. The fiction idea came from a heady mix of sleep deprivation as a new mum, a National Geographic advert on the TV, and reading lots of Roald Dahl as a kid (well, and as a big kid, too).

What genre does your book fall under?

‘Fairer Prospects’ could be classed as maritime nonfiction, history, and a tragic thriller. ‘An Unusual Darkness’ is a thriller set in the 1930s, so depending on the shop, site, or library it might be under historical fiction or thrillers or be cross-merchandised under both. But having said that, I don’t usually write with a specific genre in mind, I prefer to write the books I want to read.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m tempted to say ones I’d like to get to know because they sound or look like interesting people (or they’re terribly attractive) so that’s exactly what I’ll do.
‘Fairer Prospects’ would suit, in my mind, Alan Rickman, Sean Hughes and Ed Byrne, and maybe Stephen Rea. I think Neve Mackintosh is fab and would be perfect, with Shalto Copley (‘District 9’), Sam Rockwell (‘Moon’), and Tim Robbins, too. Paul O’Grady would be fantastic in it – especially with his strong Liverpuddlian accent.

In ‘An Unusual Darkness’ I’d say Sean Penn or somebody like that for the lead adult role, but I’m stumped for the kids. To be honest, I get more into a movie – especially those based on books I like – if the actors are unknown or so good at getting into character that you see them as the character rather than going ‘ooh, doesn’t so-and-so do the 1930s outfits well!’

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

‘Fairer Prospects’ – Heroism and villainy, treasure and tragedy; the true story of the Victorian Titanic on land and at sea.

‘An Unusual Darkness’‘Lord Of The Flies’ meets ‘Jonah And The Whale’, with a liberal dash of ‘Jaws’.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

With the nonfiction one, I’m hoping to go with an established publisher I love the sound of who has a great track record and good attitude to new work and new authors. I gather it’s more acceptable to do this with NF publishers than it is with fiction publishers; if anybody has thoughts on this I’d love to read them in the comments below.

As for the novel, I’ve had some interest from an agent I like and respect, and an invitation to send the full MS once it’s finished and I fully intend doing so.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still in the process of working on them and sending the chapters to beta testers. ‘Fairer Prospects’ should be complete by the beginning of November, and I’m hoping ‘An Unusual Darkness’ will be done for spring. We’re moving house in a fortnight or I’d be happily thinking Hallowe’en and Christmas as endtimes. I’m really enjoying writing them, but there are boxes to pack and keep my 5 year old from emptying, and that’s temporarily getting in the way.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Oh, this is a tricky one – how to answer without sounding big-headed?  Please bear with me on this one!  In terms of structure, I’d say ‘Fairer Prospects’ – hmm, possibly ‘In The Heart Of The Sea’ by the amazing Nathaniel Philbrick (one of my favourite books). I’d be interested to hear what my beta-reader would compare it to as she’s coming to the story as reader, not writer. As for ‘An Unusual Darkness’ I’d refer you back to my pitch above. My literary mentor suggested ‘Life Of Pi’ by Yann Martel but I’ve not read it and don’t think I want to until I’ve completed at least the first draft, though my sister gave me a copy as she knows I love to read and write about the sea.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

An otherwise uneventful trip to a museum sparked the need to write ‘Fairer Prospects’. My favourite author, Jeremy Scott, read one of my first short stories from way back in 2010 and encouraged me to develop ‘An Unusual Darkness’ into a novel. I was already thinking about doing so, but to have my literary hero echo that desire was wonderful.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think with ‘Fairer Prospects’ there’s something for everyone – adventure, romance, treasure, skulduggery, tragedy, miraculous escapes and falls from grace. There’s also the distinct possibility that a member of their family was affected by the key events in some way.

With ‘An Unusual Darkness’ there’s something for people who like to read about the sea, shipwrecks, tough decisions, survival, and treasure. It’s full of adventure and if you like strange but realistic fiction that will lurk in your head and distract you in meetings then this is for you.

This is probably the most difficult question to answer. Who knows what key event or tiny detail might be the tipping point that allows the reader to lose themselves in your book?

The five authors I’m passing the questions to are:

Joanna Delooze –

Len Kuntz –

Matt Potter –

Sarah Collie –

…and one more writer who’ll be announced shortly.