Red Ribbons and Louise Phillips

Me: So, what book you reading?
Husband: Sports one, you?
Me: A creepy psychological thriller.
Husband: I thought the ladies just read about marriage and babies?
Me: It’s called having a varied diet, darling.
Husband: Why are you making more book marks?
Me: Each book deserves their own Teacher Moloney King hand-made book- mark.
Husband: What is with the RED RIBBONS on that one?
Me: Go read my blog on Friday 31st to find out, my dear…
Welcome dear readers,

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welcome to the award winning author and my questions. Louise Phillipsis realisng her debut book RED RIBBONS and she has asked some high-flyers in the writing world and, ammm, me(!) to be part of a blog tour. I am whole-heartly honoured Louise. RED RIBBONS, a psychological thriller, is released on September 3rd.

I met Louise when she was unpublished but an award winner. Her flash fiction chilled me, my favourite being Monkey and the Brain Eater – A childish toy is the pride of an elderly woman, her daughter is an annoyance and the enemy is the brain eater…this was the first post of Louise that had me at hello.
Louise is inspired and helped from living in the shadows of the mountains.

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You have often blogged about the mountain where you live in Dublin how does the geography of where you live affect writing RED RIBBONS?

I would say it affects me on many different levels. For one thing the area is secluded, and although we do have great neighbours close by, you can’t always see them! More likely to see cows, sheep, rabbits and deer than people at times!
It’s a great place to go walking, on good weather days and bad. I find walking terrific for clearing out the cobwebs that can get trapped in your mind. I would often get stuck on a piece of writing, or I might have finished a first draft of a chapter – off I go out to the wilds of the Dublin Mountains, and an idea, a solution comes from nowhere as I’m thinking about the rain bashing against my face, or notice some lazy cows taking in the breeze. Very often without meaning to the words I’ve written before leaving the house come back to me with lots more questions. I always walk with my mobile phone close on hand so I can write the notes into it as the questions and ideas come to me.
The other thing about the mountains and the landscape, apart from the isolation and being a great place to clear the mind, is the instant connection with nature. Mother Nature keeps you grounded, except of course when the gales force winds come up over the valley and the breeze has a very different idea of the direction it wants to send you!
But overall, I’m at home with the semi-isolation. When the children were younger we lived in suburbia, and that was brilliant too, because the children had easy access to friends, schools and the community. After twenty years of not writing at all, raising my family, working in the bank and striving to make a success of our family business, I returned to writing later in life than most. I moved to the mountains in my forties, and with the change of location, and my family reared, it meant the environment was right for me to begin to write again, or maybe, I was simply ready.
Montpelier Hill is located near you, do you think the history of the prehistoric passage grave, Mount Pelier Lodge and the Hell Fire Club had an effect when writing Red Ribbons?
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The place is laden with history going back hundreds, even thousands of years. When we moved up first, our cottage was almost derelict, but we fell in love with everything about the place, the stories, the folklore, the sheer sense that so much had happened in this place before any of us were here, and will still be part of the magic long after we are all gone. I did a lot of research when we moved into the area, trawled through many manuscripts and papers in the National library and local libraries. (BTW, in case I don’t mention it, libraries are a brilliant resource – we are really lucky in this Ireland to have so many great ones on our doorstep, so go take advantage of them folks!)

But when it came to writing RED RIBBONS, I guess the place, the history behind it, affected me in different ways. You only have to look across the landscape, feel the breeze as it whisks by, and if you try hard enough, you will hear the cries from the past. I remember the first time I passed Fettercairn bog, where many of the Dublin famine victims are rumoured to be buried, I got the strangest of feelings, hard to even describe, but it was almost like the land, has a kind of underbelly of sorts, a mark in a place undeniably changed by what has gone before.
We all know of people who have gone missing in remote places like the Dublin Mountains and beyond, and that’s the thing about vast open terrains like here, if the land has secrets; it makes a habit of keeping its secrets safe.

The Hell Fire Club is haunted by a massive black cat, have you ever hear it?

Yes I have heard of it, but I’ve never seen it, unless of course you include pictures. We Irish love our folklore, and our ghosts and banshees. We are well suited to exploring the dark, the mysteries of things we can’t always explain. I went to a talk with John Connolly recently, and he spoke about the same thing – how this form of magic is somehow ingrained in us, something we have carried from generations before, if that make sense.
Do the numerous lurid stories of: wild behaviour, debauchery, occult practices and demonic manifestations, freak you out or did you become inspired when writing Red Ribbons?
No, they don’t freak me out. My mother used to say, we have more to fear from the living than the dead, and I think this is true. But certainly, there is a form of black magic about many aspects of this landscape, but sadly, when one reflects on some of the true life stories, my mother’s words ring though loud and shockingly clear.
My mother says the same thing. I was brought up on a diet of banshee stories. We have one who lives in the old milking parlour. Sometimes, late at night when there are dogs howling…I repeat my mothers words. It helps, but my over-active imagination does not!
Anywho, I have heard that the earlier occupants of the house where you live were hung by public hanging in the early 1800’s (a father, and two sons), tell me more?
Yes back in the early 1800’s the family who lived in our small cottage were known for their republican sympathies, and had been involved in 1798. At the time of the hangings, the father, who was an in his eighties, and two of his sons were accused of killing an unpopular gamekeeper who managed much of the land in the area. All three were hung by public hanging, and there are ballads and many stories which have been handed down throughout the generations.
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I do love a bit of historical spice, me! I hear that your area was the last hideout for Robert Emmet during the rebellion. Do stories like that make your imaginative juices salivate?

I can tell you’ve done your research teacher Michelle! Yes after the 1803 rebellion when many of the rebels headed to the mountains to seek refuge, they stayed for a while in a place owned by a Mrs Bagnell. As we all know from our history, informers always play their part, and the rebels on fearing that their location had been revealed to the state forces, hid out in a glen near our cottage. The following day they took refuge in the loft bedroom (where I often write), which was then a place for storing hay, Robert Emmet, Devlin, and the other rebels. They were nearly caught too, but avoided detection due to the quick thinking of the lady of the house. After that, they went their separate ways, Robert Emmet to Harold’s Cross where he was eventually found and executed.
Yup, I did some research. You have blogged about the Dublin mountains and I am mad about finding out about the person behind the words. Right so, you, my dear, are an award winning poet, how does this affect writing your debut RED RIBBONS?
I don’t think too much about awards really. They are really positive things, and help a lot to give you confidence along the way, especially when you are trying to find your voice as a writer. But overall, the important thing is to write about what you love, and do it to the best of your ability. You are your own judge, and you don’t always look on your work favourably, but hopefully this form of self-examination also helps to improve the writing, and the story or poem you are working with.
How does blogging benefit you as a writer, (besides the obvious; getting to know awesome people like me?
Well all forms of writing are good practice for a start. Blogging can be great fun, and is a lot freer than other forms of writing. It can be different for everyone. Some people use it as a kind of daily diary, although I would not recommend writing down your more personal information, it is the internet after all. But I think people can learn a lot about you, your personality, your way of thinking about the world, from many perspectives, including blogging. I wasn’t sure when I started the blog, if it was for me. But once I did, I loved it. I loved getting comments back, connecting with new people, people with shared interests or ideas, and it has certainly widening my group of writing and non-writing friends.
If you are thinking about starting a blog, I’d say, go right ahead. It will be your blog, and you can tweak it as you go along. But have fun with it, and if you’re lucky, like me you will connect with others who will become lifelong friends, like yourself Michelle!
Ah! Thanks Louise, I loved your blog from the start and meeting you at bookish events was the icing on the cake. So, which poem on your blog tells us most about you and why?

As a health warning here, I’ll say this …. yes I write poetry, but in the ocean of amazing poets out there, poetry would not be my strongest point. But poetry is a very special form of writing, and others more gifted than I are in a better position to talk about it. A writer friend of mine, who passed away a couple of years ago, Joan O’Flynn, used to say she wrote her best poetr
y when she was sad. I’m not sure if that is true, but certainly, a poem pulls on certain emotional heartstrings that other forms of writing don’t reach in quite the same way.
If I was to pick a poem from the blog which says most about me, it would be The Voice. I think we are all born with a particular voice – it can change over the years, but the core of it is essentially always there. When I began to write again, after a very long gap, I discovered this truth. And if we’re lucky, we can all connect with that inner, almost soulful voice, every now and again.
Louise, thank you very much for your answers – when I get the courage I will go for a walk near The Hell Fire Club, and look out for that cat, but until then I’ll read your psychological thriller RED RIBBONS from the comfort of my cosy (and safe) bed!

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You must watch the RED RIBBONS book trailer on YouTube.
Louise will also be appearing on many high profile writers blogs, have a click-it and read more.
A beautiful example of a poem by Louise Phillips:
Whose voice is this I want to know,
I hear her,
She is so familiar.
Sounds like me, but not so.
I hear her voice from years ago.
I hear it now,
I want to smile,
I love her spirit and her guile.
Where did she go?
I want to know.
I hear her playing a different tune,
The beat less sure,
The tone less tuned.
To strangers, she’s a side of herself,
To family, friends, she’s many guises.
To me, she’s part of what might be.
I hear her voice,

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love the book case and ladder too, it's beautiful. I loved the post Michelle and Louise, I'm going to get the book now!



  2. I am soooo in love with that bookcase and ladder!


  3. Thanks for the Q&A Louise. You were an inspirational guest to host.

    You rock!


  4. Louise really makes the isolation sound appealing. I was brought up on a farm in the middle of nowhere and it is only now I appreciate the lonely beauty of the place.


  5. I know, right! I must sus out the Hell Fire Club some time. If I have the guts!


  6. Louise says:

    Plenty of inspiration Val!!

    I recommend it Brigid, for when the time is right:)




  7. Brigid says:

    Hi Michelle, what an interesting post. My mum is from out your way, Louise, and I love mountains and sea. Loved the history of your area, moved from semi-suburbia to mountains when your kids were raised? that's my plan too:)


  8. valerie sirr says:

    Thanks Michelle and Louise. Really enjoyed reading about Louise's haunting surroundings. Didn't realise there was so much history attached – plenty of inspiration for more stories there.


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