An Evening with Catherine Doyle
I was lucky enough to attend the book launch for Catherine Doyle’s new book, The Storm Keeper’s Island at Waterstones Piccadilly on Tuesday 3rd July. It was a brilliant evening, but July has been a crazy month so it has taken me this long to write it up!
The Storm Keeper’s Island is a brilliant, middle-grade fantasy adventure set in the Aran Islands in Ireland. I read an e-ARC through Netgalley earlier this year and it has already become one of my favourite reads of the year – make sure you don’t miss my review, extract of the first 3 chapters and an interview with Catherine Doyle herself!
On arrival we were all given the cutest mini muffins with the book cover on them and lovely die-cut bookmarks. Katie Webber was the host, whilst her husband Kev Tsang made sure there as somewhere for everyone to watch the football after the talk finished!
Catherine Doyle spoke first about the inspiration behind the book, saying that the Aran Islands were the setting for all of her grandparents’ stories. When she visited as a teenager she hadn’t really been interested, but when she visited more recently she started to visit sites with her cousins and want to find out more.
“It’s an island that holds its stories really well so people who are dead don’t really feel dead at all – they’re still spoken about as if they’re alive.”
She said that she had always wanted to write a story set in Ireland, and this felt like the right one, especially when she heard the story of the lifeboat rescue that happened 8 miles off Arranmore, witnessed by her grandfather when he was 12 years old. He described how the boat went over one wave and disappeared into the next. People were so certain that they weren’t coming back that the families started mourning the crew immediately. 18 hours later they returned safely.
Katie then asked Cat about the candles, to which Catherine Doyle replied that she hated candles! She said she was worried that lots of people would buy her candles as gifts after reading the book but the idea came from a specific candle that her mother bought her. Shortly after moving to Dublin she was having problems writing in the city, so her mum gave her a candle scented like Sea Salt which smelled like where she grew up in Galway. She lit this candle to help her write!
The conversation then moved on to talking about characters, with Catherine saying that Fionn (Fee-on) reflected elements of her own personality because he is scared of everything! His voice came from growing up stuck between two brothers. She felt it was important to have a strong, but realistic sibling relationship; they’re always bickering but they love each other deep (deep!) down. She also wanted to have a healthy dose of humour alongside the heavier themes. When talking about her writing process she said that she always pictures the scene in great detail in her head, almost as if it were a movie. This meant that, during editing, she had to cut lots of description of nature!
She then talked about how she was raised on a steady diet of Irish myth and legend, saying she wanted to capture this Celtic background in the story. She did take some creative license with it, as Dagda (father of the gods) becomes a wizard in this book!
She also confirmed that this book will be the first in a series and she sold it based on the first three chapters. When she first started writing The Stormkeeper’s Island, it was a personal project and she didn’t feel it would sell as it was too family-oriented.However, she is now excited about further exploring the magical land she has created. Book 2 will follow Fionn as he tries to raise an army of merrows to defend the island.
Catherine also spoke about how she wanted Arranmore to be recognizable as the book is a love letter to her grandparents, intended to immortalise them and their memories.
Overall, it was a fascinating evening and I am already looking forward to the next book in this wonderful series!
What did you think?
Have you read this book or do you intend to?
How do you feel about scented candles?
Can you recommend any other books based on Irish mythology or folklore?
Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading!