Ali Isaac is the author of ‘Conor Kelly’, ‘The Four Treasures of Eirean’, and ‘The Fenian King’, which are the first two books in The Tir na Nog Trilogy. She lives In Ireland with her husband, two sons, daughter and crazy labradoodle Indi (ana Bones).
NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?
I remember writing my first story when I was about seven or eight. It was about a puppy who followed the butcher delivery boy because he smelled so nicely of sausages, and then got lost. Obviously, that was quite a long time ago, because you don’t get such things as butcher delivery boys anymore, at least not in Ireland. I dabbled with writing (embarrassingly bad) poetry in my teens, and then in my twenties put my imagination away whilst I concentrated on my retail management career. Moving to Ireland, and having my children inspired me to take up writing again, but I never imagined it would lead to being the author of a series of books!
NAW- Tell us about your book ‘Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean.’How did you get the idea for the book?
Conor Kelly is the ultimate flawed hero, if you like. He can’t walk, and he can’t talk, and because of those two things, no-one ever believed he could do or think much at all. But inside, his mind is as active and sharp as any teenage boy. He just has no way of showing it…yet! Then he meets Annalee, a Princess of the Sidhe, the Irish fairy folk of mythology, and everything changes. You can view the trailer for this book here, or on my website.
My daughter has a rare syndrome called Cardiofaciocutaneous Syndrome. She can’t walk or talk. Many children like her come alive when an ipad is put in their hands; they can’t speak, so it is assumed they can’t read; their hand function is poor, so they can’t write, but they can press keys on a keyboard and learn to type. I realised that often, there is far more going on in their heads than they can show us. That was my inspiration for my story’s hero, Conor Kelly.
Also, I am fascinated by Ireland’s rich wealth of mythology and ancient archaeological remains, and wanted to share them.
NAW- Can you tell us about your other books?’
My second book in the Tir na Nog Trilogy, Conor Kelly and The Fenian King, is due to be published shortly. Conor is called on to help the Sidhe again. Tir na Nog is in turmoil. The sacred triad of the Morrigan has arisen and threatens tyranny over the magical realm. This time Conor must find the ancient war horn of the Fianna and with it awaken their leader, the Fenian King, who sleeps somewhere in a cave beneath the green hills of Ireland. This story is based on the legend of Fionn mac Cumhall, perhaps Ireland’s most well-known and best-loved mythological hero. You can view the trailer for this book here, or on my website.
I have also contributed two works, Of Words and Water 2013 to a charity anthology in support of Wateraid, and am currently writing my contribution for this year’s edition.
I am also working on a book entitled Unique, which is a fictional novel based on my experiences of raising my special daughter.
NAW-How many works have you completed till now? Which one was the most fun?
Conor Kelly was my first book. It took three years to research, create, and then bring to print. It was hard work, and a huge learning curve. Whilst I would say that you never stop learning, I knew what to expect second time around, and had a better understanding of the processes involved in creating a book, so I would say that my current book, Conor Kelly and The Fenian King was without doubt far more fun to write.
NAW- What was your first writing assignment? Did you face any trouble in finding publishers for your first book?
I had heard a lot of negative stories surrounding new authors and traditional publishers. In the current market, trad publishers are less likely to take a risk on a newbie, and certainly don’t invest much in marketing them. All of that is still left to the writer. So I saw no reason in putting myself through the debilitating rejection process of approaching publisher after publisher. I decided to put my books out there, and let the readers decide for themselves. The biggest problem facing the independent author is that of visibility; there are millions of independent writers out there all promoting their latest book-baby! It can be hard for the reader to wade through them all to find a book they want.
NAW- Writing is not looked upon as a full time vocation in many countries, were you aware that making a living solely out of writing is difficult when you first started out?
I was under no false illusion! And I haven’t made my millions yet lol! However, for me it’s more about having my books read, than making money. My advice is, if you want to make lots of money, don’t be an independent writer!
NAW- Where can readers buy your books?
NAW- We went through your blog and you have been very candid about your personal life. How difficult was it to juggle life with a special needs child, household responsibilities and writing? How do you find time for writing?
It is very difficult! I write when the children are at school, and when they are asleep in bed at night. It’s very hard at times to keep everything in balance. Writing to me is a form of escape, and I find it very exciting and rewarding to bring a story in my head to life on the page.
My second book has been delayed by almost a year, because my daughter got very sick for a long while, and everything else just had to give. I found it hard afterwards to slot back in and pick up where I had left off. Something like that, nursing a very sick child, it changes you, and inevitably changes how you think and feel, thus translating into what you write. The direction of the book changed considerably after that.
I hope that writing on my blog about my life with my daughter will in some way help other families raising a child with special needs. It can be quite isolating at times, and reading other peoples’ stories has helped me enormously in the past. I hope my writing will return the favour.
NAW- Please name your 5 favourite books.
That’s such a difficult one, there are so many books that I love! As I read continuously among many genres, that list is always changing. In terms of fantasy, Lord of the Rings, of course, the Narnia series, which first got me interested in fantasy, and David Eddings’ Belgarion series. In terms of mythology, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Tristan and Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliffe. I could name so many others, and I am reading a lot of work by independent authors these days, which will one day be the classics of the future.
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
After Conor Kelly and The Fenian King is published, I intend to crack right on with the third and final book in the series, The Three Waves of Eirean.
I hope to complete Unique in 2015. After that, I have this idea to write books based on some famous characters from Irish history, perhaps the ancient High Kings. It was the thousand year celebration of the Battle of Clontarf in Ireland this Easter, so I have been learning about High King (Ard Ri in Irish) Brian Boru…now there was a fascinating character! But such a series will require a LOT of researching, which is almost as much fun for me as the writing!
You can read more about me, my books, and my experiences of Ireland on my blog www.aliisaacstoryteller.com.
Illustration by Alan Van Every (Featured image on the front page)