|Mise and Celine
Celine Kiernan has been nominated for Book of the Year by Children’s Books Ireland. This award is in its 22nd year and aims to; ‘identify honour and promote excellence in books for young people by Irish authors and illustrators’. There are nine shortlisted titles, which you can read on my new blog crush: Yellow Brick Reads.
We, the public, can’t vote, as every year Children’s Books Ireland assembles a panel with a wide range of expertise to pick the winners of the Bisto Children’s Book of the Year Awards.
Any of you guys watch Friends? Remember the one where Joey and Phoebe swapped books, The Shining and Little Women? Joey had a tactic; every time The Shining became too scary, he would put it into the freezer! Well, as I became part of the world Celine had created……sometimes…. I wanted to put Into the Grey into the freezer! It is gripping, terrifying yet hopeful. I loved reading Into the Grey, re-reading Into the Grey and telling my pupils about Into the Grey.
I would like to wish Celine the very best of luck and hope she wins a CBI award. I will share with you, dear blog readers, a piece I wrote for her book launch, way back in September 2011.
‘I scream, ‘Oh Jesus! Help me! Help me!’My voice is silent even to myself, my scream nothing against the roar of the shells and the thunder of the guns. I slide off the edge of the boards.’
This was the extract shared with the audience in the Irish Writers’ Centre as we join Celine Kiernan for the book launch of Into the Grey. Celine read the above extract from Into the Grey, a supernatural, chilling yet heart-warming tale of twin brothers set in 1970s Ireland, whipping the audience into a frenzy. We want to hear more, read more and listen even more intently.
Her book is published by O’Brien Press, and is being launched by Robert Dunbar at The Irish Writers’ Centre, where she taught creative writing courses and was over the moon to be returning to celebrate the publication of her 4th book.
Celine, born and raised in Dublin, trained as an animator with the SullivanBluth studios, worked in the film business for 17 yearslives in Virginia, Co. Cavan, Ireland with her husband and two teenage children and is the author of the critically acclaimed The Moorehawke Trilogy a dark, complex trilogy of fantasy YA (young adult) books set in an alternative renaissance Europe. Oh and she draws her own graphic novels. Phew! She is one accomplished lady and even takes time out to talk with me at the height of the busy book signing and even shared some great tips.
Her work is translated into ten languages and published in 15 territories! Celine’s fourth book, Into the Grey, It is a ghostly tale of a boy trapped in a dream-like place between this world and the next. Only his twin brother can see him and maybe save him…..possibly.
Robert Dunbar, a lecturer in English and children’s literature, presenter of a weekly radio programme and reviewer for The Irish Times and magazines on children’s books, took to the podium and welcomes everyone present. ‘No matter how old you get, you lose people and lose people and lose them again and never get them back.’ This universal truth, (combined with Roberts articulation, orange-purple psychedelic lights of the Irish Writers Centre and Into the Grey clutched in many hands and the wine) was met with an audible surging agreement. He ends by saying, ‘I heartily recommend this book to all of you, both 14 and well-beyond.’
Michael O’Brien, from O’Brien publishers speaks next of the ‘remarkable success of The Moorehawke trilogy’ he listed the several languages that it has been translated into – from Danish, Polish, German, and French to Turkish, to name but a few. And adds ‘her voice is distinct, her stories exciting and all of us at O’Brien are enthralled with Into the Grey, so it is my pleasure to welcome Celine Kiernan to read a little bit from her book.’
A hush descends on the audience, the younger people sit up straight and all eyes, ears, cameras and Dictaphones are pointed on Celine for her reading:
‘I scream, ‘Oh Jesus! Help me! Help me!’
My voice is silent even to myself, my scream nothing against the roar of the shells and the thunder of the guns. I slide off the edge of the boards. My heart, my lungs, my stomach – all contract with fear. My eyes fill with tears at the terrible, terrible knowledge of how I am going to die. The mud inhales me feet first. A cold gullet squeezing around my legs, my thighs, my belly, my chest, it pulls me right off the boards and into its arms. It is very fast. Men run past me, their feet a blur as my chin and mouth and nose go under.
Before the mud wraps its blindfold over me, I find myself staring up into someone’s eyes. There is a boy standing above me, a solemn-eyed child of ten. Untouched by the rain and the mud and the shells, he watches me go down. I know him; I know exactly who he is. No amount of years could have erased the memory of his face.
He says my name and I am gone.’
Rowdy applause replaces the intent listening silence. You can tell she has a background in art, resulting in her worlds painting another universe with words.
After her reading we queue to meet Celine, the room is thronged with lots of young adults, chatting in animated and excited voices at the prospect meeting Celine. I speak with a cousin of Celine; ‘she writes about Skerries in her book, Into the Grey, as this is where we all used to go on our summer holidays. All of us cousins used to head there nearly every year. Celine was born to be a writer, always reading, watching and writing. Our family were great for telling stories too, and the family history of the grandparents fighting in wars added to the family folklore. I suppose we were lucky really, we got to listen to it all and now, here we are all these years later at our own cousins book launch, we are all so proud of her.’
The queue moves and I get a chance to talk with Celine Kiernan, her work, words, cartoons, methods and madness. You cannot help but be truly awed at her generosity of spirit and passion. ‘I like the Writers’ Centre, I have only taught a couple of courses here, I will be back in October, and it’s great to have a launch in Dublin. I use to have my book launched in a library in Cavan so that my dad could attend and we would have a really big family party then after it, it was always great. I am delighted to be here in Dublin, I am just stunned at the turn out. I didn’t know what to expect here, I am so grateful to all the people who came here.’
Despite the long line of fans waiting for Celine she was kind enough to share some advice to writers for the readers of my blog:
· ‘Keep writing and write the stuff that you love, what is distinct to you and that means a lot and matters to you. I mean, my book was turned down loads of times. But I kept going.
· · There will eventually be someone who is interested in your work. It is more important to you, as a person; to write what you love.
· · It’s more important to write a really good book rather than one that you think will sell.
· · You are not going to get rich from it, so you have to do it for you and your truth.
· · Every project has pits of despair, you will get so into your novel and then you will get so sick of it and half way through you will not want to finish. But, that’s the difference between a dreamer and a writer.
· · I know the plots before I write, but I am not a mad planner. But the story is in my head and I do know where it is going to go, it, the story, is just dying to get out of me. Suppose that’s where writing about what you love and obsess about is important, the stories just come to you.
· · Don’t go into it thinking you will become famous, rich, read or even published do it for the love of writing your words – that’s my opinion.’
She is trying to relax as she has ‘been writing like hell lately, I finished a book of 173,000 words, so I am trying to keep to drawing one page a day of my graphic novel. I do my graphic drawings for a bit of craic really, but I do love them I just finished a really intense book and it nearly killed me, so I thought I would have a little relax and do a bit of drawing.’ When asked what genre her next book will be she said, ‘you never know really, you just write what you want to write and then leave it up to the publishers and the sales people.’
Her love of the written word and sharing her stories are apparent, she signs my book, pauses and as she looks up her eyes sparkle as she half whispers, ‘I am dying to get into the latest book. But I really need to get a little relax and take care of myself. I wrote about 11 hours a day, but now I’m going to relax.’ She looks determined not to go down the rabbit hole, despite wanting to.
She likens her obsession with writing to a cartoon she has drawn – ‘down the rabbit hole.’ Celine says, ‘Once I start writing that’s it. I am gone down the bunny hole, me and my dragon are gone down, sucked down that rabbit hole, so a bit of relaxing, enjoying the children lit season, one page a day of my graphic novel and then, then I will write my next novel…which I am mad to start!’
When I met with Robert Dunbar he said; ‘I think two things about Into the Grey. One, it is an extremely well written book, now knowing Celine’s previous novels that wouldn’t come as a great surprise! The second thing… her ability to weave and twist the two strands of the two times in the book was very well done, and very touchingly done. She managed to write about 1970s Ireland and WW1. The relationship that exists between the twin brothers, Dom and Pat is brilliantly observed, so all-in-all I thought it was a very impressive novel and not just by Irish standards but by any standards.’
Robert confirmed that, ‘YA is a great genre to write in provided that we don’t go too far along the roads of pandering to the lower tastes, rightly or wrongly, of young adult reading. I am sure that they get a very bad press and it is not always their fault, they don’t need, or, sometimes even like reading books that are grotesquely violent or gratuitous either, as is very admiringly demonstrated by Celine Kiernan’s success.’ Robert was awarded The Children’s Books Ireland award for services to Irish children’s literature; he is indeed, a source of high praise for Celine Kiernan.
Maria M. Flood, a YA fan said, ‘we need to give young adults more credit; Some writers go with the populous idea of what they think YA readers want to read, but look at Celine Kiernan, her books are about war, ghosts, finding out about what is important through the mistakes you make or your choices. YA readers have much more discerning tastes than what they are thought to have by some writers. They know what they like because they know who they are. They have not forgotten, maybe as they age they will forget, but if they do then can pick up a YA book and remember; that joy, hope and wonderment in a well told story.’
I was lucky to get the opportunity to talk with Michael O’Brien, from O’Briens Press. ‘The YA market is a strong market; it is stronger than most other genres. I think that families are prioritising how they are spending in general and are supporting their children’s learning through books, particularly books that are well written like Celine’s work. The market universally is strong, and a lot of our work is in getting books translated. Celine’s works has been translated into 10 languages in over 15 different territories. We are delighted that Celine Kiernan is in such high demand both here and abroad. In France, Germany and Holland books that sell for EUR10.00 here sell over there for EUR20.00, so the royalty is much higher, and a lot of people don’t know that.’
As Michael turned to leave, he turns and adds, ‘Celine Kiernan has the ability to be a major world writer.’
Longer extract from Celine Kiernan’s Into the Grey is available here:
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