The Accidental wife in the Belly Telly

The Accidental wife in the Belly Telly

When I was a child, my family bought The Irish News. It wasn’t a decision one had to think hard about. “We” bought The Irish News, “They” bought the Belfast Telegraph, and never the twain did mix.

It has given me great joy to hear from readers who are participating in The Armagh Big Read, that The Accidental Wife is resonating with readers from both traditions in Northern Ireland. Readers of both nationalist and unionist backgrounds are enjoying the vibrant dialect of their homeplace and the warts-and-all fond representation of the home that they recognise.

“As I was writing it down I thought ‘this is disappearing really fast – I wonder how many people are writing this down?’ And I started thinking I really wanted to write in this dialect so people would know it had existed,” she says.

I’m thrilled that The Armagh Big Read has helped me really accept the magnitude of the changes that have occurred since my childhood and the real tangible progress in coming together as a civic society since the slow, painful birth of the peace process.

Twenty years ago, I never could have imagined this lovely, and generous article appearing in the Belfast Telegraph, never mind a photo of me in my First Communion dress, and I’m so grateful and happy for the change. Read the full article here, if you are not already utterly sick of hearing me talk about myself!!


Here I am on the front page of the Telly!

And don’t forget, if you have read The Accidental Wife, before or during The Armagh Big Read, pop up a review somewhere… I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Then there are the expletives…

Then there are the expletives…

I don’t usually share reviews of The Accidental Wife, I feel they are for readers to browse at their leisure, and not for me to gloat over…and then this one comes along!

Oh Happy Day!

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first review that has been generated by the Libraries NI public massed-reading project The Armagh Big Read. And it’s the first review which I know for a fact has been written by a Northern Irish reader from the “other” tradition.

What a relief! I can’t help sharing it. My first Armagh Big Read review, written by Angeline King, author of Snugville Street, and she “gets it”, she really, really gets it!

There’s the language of farming and it’s sharp and metaphorical in a way that only one familiar with the metal spike on a velvet-soft muzzle could imagine, “The bull’s nostrils slammed open on the instant and he sucked in a huge, shuddering breath, rasping like a stone caught under a tight-fitting door.” There’s Irish mixed with Scots mixed with Middle English, all churning into buttery swirls of Ulster dialect on the page.

And then there are the expletives…

Then there are the expletives. Orla McAlinden excels at expletives and she sprays them like a deadly weapon charged with poetry, rhythm, pathos and comedy. Jesus! The bastard. Jesus! Insufferable bollocks. Jesus! Useless bollocks! Christ! Pillock. Jesus. Shut up to fuck. For Christ’s sake! Jesus. Thon wee bastard. Fuck it to hell and back. Jesus. Fuck and shit and crap and damn.

I had to write in the authentic language of my childhood, but I know it wasn’t the soundtrack to a lot of Northern Irish lives; in the homes of those often referred to as “good livers” one never took the name of the Lord in vain. I will admit to a few pangs of concern about the language of my characters as The Armagh Big Read draws closer…


Thank God, at least one reader in The Big Armagh Read recognises the poetry and the vigour and the authenticity of “the expletives”. Read the full review here

I can’t emphasise enough, how much I would love to see more reviews from those who have read The Accidental Wife (as part of the Armagh Big Read, or not.) On Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon or on your own personal blogs…sooner or later, I’ll find them. Or post them to The Armagh Big Read. I can’t expect them all to be glowing…but I’d like to read your thoughts before I head up to Armagh in March to speak with the members of Libraries NI!!!


Good news just keeps coming…

Good news just keeps coming…

This is the first time I have ever attempted to write a full post on a phone, so excuse the brevity!

I’m thrilled that Libraries Northern Ireland have chosen my first book, The Accidental Wife, as the Armagh Big Read for 2017. There will be hundreds of copies throughout the nine branches of public libraries in Armagh, and I’m hoping for large turnouts at four author events I’ll be participating in during March 2017.

I know every reader won’t fall in love with my characters but I hope they’ll come along and I’ll try to explain myself

And here’s a lovely article from the Portadown Times, who are helping to spread the word!

Better start revising , in case there’s a test at the end !

Talented friends…

Talented friends…

Let’s see how many of you can recognise yourselves in this wonderful photo video by my good friend and ace photographer Ana Dorado of ABD Photography.  She was sneaking around at the launch of my award-winning debut The Accidental Wife and I bet you didn’t even notice her! Go on have a look at yourselves and see how lovely you all are. (PS…I don’t have any idea why there is a chocolate and a can of Diet Coke on that table! Must belong to someone else!)



The Accidental Wife on the telly!

The Accidental Wife on the telly!

I’m gonna be on the telly! My children think I’m famous. Unfortunately, they are so young that they think famous automatically means “rich”. Boy, are they in for a shock.

I spent last Friday morning with Alan Brereton and a crew from the Kildare County Matters magazine show from Irish TV. It was fascinating… two hours later we had enough material to edit into a six/eight minute article. And I thought writing was slow!

We had a great time chatting about the book, and the process and all things writing related, before we got into the meat of the interview. When I finally stopped talking, Alan looked slightly shell-shocked. “Wow,” he said, “I wasn’t really expecting that.”

He’s not the first person in the last few weeks to tell me they weren’t really expecting to be so moved by my depiction of Northern Ireland during the Troubles. And I, on my part, have been surprised by how little many of my friends in the Republic of Ireland actually know about Northern Ireland’s conflict, which was only a few years ago, and just a few miles away.

Finally Alan said “I think it because there’s no big spectacular in your book. I wasn’t expecting the sensitivity….I was expecting a big bomb.”

accidental wife final cover

There’s no “spectacular” in The Accidental Wife.  It’s the story of very ordinary people trying to survive in an extraordinary time and place. I hope you enjoy it as much as Alan di, and I look forward to posting a link to the show.  Or you can watch it from the cache at Irish TV Kildare Matters in a few weeks.


Buy The Accidental Wife here  or contact me through the comments section


My father’s parting gift…

My father’s parting gift…

Burial to book launch…

I never intended to write a book (or three) it just kind of happened. Now that the launch for my first published book, entitled The Accidental Wife  is organised and confirmed for Wednesday 21st September, in Barker and Jones Bookshop Naas, I thought I’d share an essay I wrote a few years ago about how the floodgates opened and the words poured out. I should of course have shared this two weeks ago, on my dad’s birthday, but that’s me…the genius idea always comes a bit too late.

So here’s the essay, written three years ago when I hardly knew how to switch on a laptop!

My father’s parting gift

365 days ago, I had no idea that one year later I would have written a memoir. I have always known that I can make words leap and soar and bounce around, but I never felt I had anything about which to write. “How many books about Teenage Mutant Ninja Vampires does the world actually need?” I wondered.

My father and I, 1970s Armagh, clip-clopping along. We shared many interests: a passion for horses, history, old books, peace and quiet. These shared hobbies drove us out into the highways and by-ways of rural Armagh. He taught me to ride. He walked beside me, holding a long rope, for years, until I was judged safe, and released. During these long, self-indulgent trips a relationship grew that transcended the hero-worship small girls have for their fathers. We were friends.

My father died a year ago today, after an accident from which he was recovering slowly but satisfactorily. We re-arranged the furniture, on Friday, to facilitate his return from hospital on Monday. He died on Sunday morning.


The early, numb weeks passed in a straightforward fashion. I had four very young children, and a husband to organise. Women whispered at the school gates. “Isn’t she doing well? Isn’t she coping great?” I wondered what all the fuss was about. Friendly people commiserated and I would reply, “Yes indeed, he was a very elderly man. Yes, it was for the best. Yes, things could be a lot worse.” I really thought I meant it!

Afterwards? What I’d call ‘the lost weeks’. I would spend a morning full of murderous rage and frustration; tearing the house apart looking for my wallet, only to find it in the salad drawer of the fridge. I would return from Tesco to feed my family of six for a week, with a half-dozen unripe, unwanted mangoes, and no milk. I leapt to my feet, cursing, late for the school run, having sat down for five minutes, two hours previously.

As always, in times of crisis, I turned to the written word. I ploughed through heavy tomes by eminent psychologists and sociologists. Eventually I landed, by chance, upon ‘You’ll get over it’ by Virginia Ironside. She was full of wise advice and sympathy. I was not going mad; I was grieving!

A little secret tribute

On 27th July 2012, I opened my rarely used laptop. I would write a story, a family history. It would be a secret tribute to my father. I would show nobody. Three hours later, I looked at the work. It was a dusty, half-remembered family legend, passed on to me, probably accidentally, while he re-told and embellished it for his own friends. The piece was finished. It was whole and complete. I did not think, or pause for breath. I submitted it everywhere, I didn’t know any better, didn’t know that you shouldn’t submit your first story, didn’t know it’s supposed to be rubbish and live in a drawer forever.

It was published in January 2013, by The Chatahoochee Review in Georgia, USA.

Then I couldn’t stop

The writing continues. I sit down alone. Two hours later I read my new story. It spills out, fizzing, on to the screen, while I type, five or six disorganised fingers flailing, struggling to keep up with the words. Fiction, scripts, memoir, family tales.

A precious child-free hour, snatched here and there, equals a thousand words vomited into the open maw of a blank screen. During the other 160 hours per week the stories jostle and fight for position, shrieking to be released next from their incarceration. “Write me!” they plead. “Tell me.”
I edit in the kitchen, lunch-boxing a thousand ham sandwiches or stirring bolognese. Insomnia is my constant companion. I lie unquiet in the small hours; stories flash and streak across my mind until I long to clamp my hands over my brain’s ears, and scream “Enough! Let me be!”

My stories and memoirs whirl across the internet; a prize here, a shortlist there, hundreds of rejections. A short story which has arrived in a blur of busy fingers, unprovoked, uninvited, lurks in my hard drive. Each time I log on, that story- a young woman deceived by an American GI during the war- screams its rage and its indignation. “I am not a story!” it yells; “I am a PROLOGUE, get me out of here!”

And the tears have come too. I cry constantly. I cry, listening to the news. I sob at adverts for cheese, and at Tom and Jerry. I weep when my children laugh. Thank God for Virginia Ironside!

How long can this exquisite torture last? If the beehive of buzzing words sinks back into hibernation, leaving me sane again, I will be ever grateful that I, briefly, wrote. My hope is that I have been permanently blessed; my father’s parting gift.

Deep breath, everyone

Wow! I really wrote that. The extravagance of the words and the melodrama makes me cringe. Reviewing that piece makes me realise how far I’ve come, in a fairly short space of time. Endless, hypercritical revision has cut thousands of adjectives, adverbs and exclamations out of The Accidental Wife.

If I wrote that essay today it would be half as long, and a lot less hysterical. But the American GI has sneaked into The Accidental Wife,  and the world can breathe more easily, because the long-form memoir is safely where it belongs, on a hard-drive, never to see the light of day. accidental wife final cover





A picture tells a thousand words

A picture tells a thousand words

Aaargh, my eyes, my eyes!

My mother always warned me that too much television would make my eyes go square. These days we know that myopia is basically genetic and there’s not much you can do to prevent it, but I was convinced when diagnosed short-sighted at 8 years old, that I had brought it upon myself, not through excessive TV, but from reading under the blankets (sometimes even actually under the bed) by torchlight.

Well, last August I had my eyes laser corrected and it’s been plain sailing for the last few months until today. My eyes burn and ache. I’ve been sitting up night after night, staring fixedly into a screen scrolling through thousands of images of Northern Ireland during the Troubles and through thousands and thousands of stock images of weeping women, crying children, war scenes and fields of barley. It looks like my mother may have been right all along about the eye-damaging dangers of too much screen time.

I have been looking for the perfect image to send to Philadelphia to start constructing the cover of my debut collection of short stories, The Accidental Wife. It’s easier said than done, finding the image, painstakingly tracking down the copyright owner and then falling off the chair in shock upon finally finding out the fee for using these important historical documents. Leaving aside the thorny issue of the fiscal space, the act of searching through these images has brought a lot of emotion up to the surface and has also created a deeper horror and loathing of the events currently taking place in Aleppo and elsewhere. It’s a bit of a moral quagmire to be scrolling along through these stunning images until the voice in your heads shouts That’s perfect, that’d be perfect, and you pause for a moment and look again and realise that you are looking at the shattering of someone else’s life.

I am deservedly excited about the book, but the act of reviewing the images has made me wonder, how many authors, musicians, ballerinas, sculptors, woodcarvers and mathematicians are currently growing up without an education in the Jungle in Calais or in the colossal refugee camps just inside the Lebanese border.

I will go back in a day or two and try to find my perfect picture. But in the meantime, if you want to sleep at night, don’t type ” black and white image children playing war conflict” into your search engines.