Welcome to Celtic Connexions, Sharon. Do make sure you kiss the Blarney Stone here on the table by the front door. At least you don’t have to sit on a ledge and lean back until your head is lower than your bum.
You’re looking very much in the St Patrick’s Day spirit all decked out in green. Can I offer you a drink? I have to say, I LOVE your hat. I have a selection of Irish Whiskey. Have a look on the sideboard and see if there’s something there you fancy.
I have plenty of nibbles to snack on whilst we chat. Crisps with French Onion dip (coloured green, naturally), jelly beans, chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Don’t be shy. Dig in. Who knows, before the end of the night we might even find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thank you for my Cead Mile Failte (a hundred thousand welcomes) here today, Melanie. I was born in Dublin, the eldest of three children, and grew up in an area called Rathfarnham, which is at the foot of the Dublin mountains. I studied history and politics at college, and then did a postgraduate in journalism, before working for national newspapers. I now live in a small coastal village in Dublin, with my husband and our three children. It’s a place where most people know each other, so apart from my friends from school and college, I have really good friends here.
Back home in Ireland, how do you normally celebrate St Patrick’s Day?
Traditionally, we would have always brought the children to the parade in town (which is what Dublin people call the city centre). Our eldest two are far too old to go with us anymore, so if they want to see it, they would go with friends. But our youngest is still game. The parade runs right through the centre of town, so most people have their favourite places to view. Ours is on Dame Street, on the south side of the river Liffey. Afterwards, we’d go to the Kilkenny Design Centre in Nassau Street, which is a mecca for Irish design, and have a hot drink and a treat.
We have the Americans and in particular the Irish Americans to thank for much of the improvements to our parade down the years. The St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin was incredibly boring when I was a child. I don’t think we understood what it was meant to be about at all. The highlight was always the American groups who came over to participate. They brought colour and excitement and, dare I say it, a professionalism that we lacked.
Now, it’s a festival that runs right over the weekend, and we have wonderful contributors, both Irish and from further afield.
You made the jump from journalist to novelist – is Going Against Type loosely based on your previous career?
I suppose the book is very loosely based on elements of what I knew, when I worked for the papers. I drew on bits of people I knew for some of the characters, and all the jargon is authentic.
I had also written a column for a while, for one of the national newspapers, but it wasn’t a sports column. I never wrote about sport, so Charlotte and her columns needed a lot of research.
Dinner is ready? *looks towards manservant* Come through to the dining room. I have to admit I got a bit carried away with the decorating – sparkly, green Leprechaun hats at the place settings, pots of basil with shamrocks and candles, and green noise makers. What can I say? I wanted it to be special, it being my first St Patrick’s Day party.
I hope you enjoy your meal. I’ve got Potato Leek soup
with soft pretzels followed by your choice of Corned Beef and Cabbage,
Guinness Braised Pork, or Guinness Meat Pie. You can think about it while we have our soup course.
I love potato leek soup. My mum makes her own all the time, and gives me over big pots of it. The whole family love it! And I was raised on corned beef and cabbage. My grandmother made it a lot. She would shred the cabbage up really fine, and stir it in through creamy, mashed potatoes.
We’ll chat while we eat. Going Against Type is your debut novel. Can you tell us a bit about it?
I’d love to. It’s set against the backdrop of Dublin newspapers, and it’s the story of two rival newspaper columnists who fall in love. Because they write their columns under pen names, they have no idea that they’ve each fallen in love with the enemy!
The book opens with Charlotte Regan, who works as a sports reporter in a very male-dominated sports department, getting a chance to write the new sports column Side Swipe. The column is very sharp and her views very controversial – and it’s noticed by The Squire, a gossip columnist on a rival newspaper.
The Squire is written by fashion journalist Derry Cullinane, who initially assumes that Side Swipe is a man! And he takes no prisoners.
Some would say Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Regan has it all. Beautiful, smart, athletic and a great job working as a journalist – in the almost exclusively male sports department. But Charlotte is not quite as sure as she seems. Recently split from her overbearing boyfriend, she escapes for weekends, surfing in the Atlantic, and spends her free nights watching sports, roaring at the TV.
Derry Cullinane is a fashion writer, gossip columnist and sophisticated man-about-town. The go-to guy for any woman seeking expert advice on what fabulous outfit to wear for any given occasion. He’s also tall, dark, good looking – and straight! So what’s the snag? He has a track record of dating glamorous, vain and shallow women.
Charlie gets an opportunity to write a new column under the pen name Side Swipe, but is soon drawn into a war of words and wit with a rival paper’s columnist The Squire – and their verbal fireworks get readers and editors talking. Yet neither Charlie nor Derry knows just whom the opponent is…
When Charlotte and Derry meet at the Races, the attraction is instant. As their relationship develops, so much more proves at stake, than protecting their alter egos. But a blunder puts Charlotte’s job in jeopardy just as Derry’s past makes front page, and Charlotte begins to doubt her feelings.
When Side Swipe and The Squire are finally forced to reveal themselves, will they revert to type – or confound everyone’s expectations?
Oh good grief, Charlotte thought. It’s Panama Hat Man. She found herself blushing as Fiona steered her into the man’s line of vision.
A slow, amused smile of recognition spread across his face. Brown eyes locked hard with green. Okay Charlotte, play it cool. With a show of dignity, she looked away.
‘Everyone, this is my old school friend Charlotte Regan. Charlotte, this is Clare, Tina and Rosemary.’
Charlotte smiled and shook the other women’s hands, quickly memorising their names, acutely aware of the man’s attention.
‘And Derry Cullinane,’ Fiona said.
Almost reluctantly, Charlotte met his gaze again, forcing herself to breathe normally. She smiled politely and extended her hand. Derry held it a fraction longer than necessary.
‘Tiny hands too,’ he murmured. Charlotte flushed.
‘How’s your foot?’ he asked, releasing her hand but holding her gaze.
‘Oh, do you already know each other?’ Fiona asked, looking slightly puzzled.
‘No,’ said Charlotte quickly.
‘We met at the Galway Races,’ Derry said at the same time. An image of the peroxide blonde woman popped into Charlotte’s head.
‘Can I leave you for a minute? I must check on things in the kitchen.’ Fiona briefly squeezed Charlotte’s hand and left.
Charlotte glanced quickly about, hoping to engage with the other women, but to her frustration she found that they’d drifted away. Leaving her with this egotistical…
‘So as an experiment, do you think we’ll work?’ Derry said, interrupting her thoughts.
‘Um, will what work?’
He shot her an arrogant smile.
‘Fiona’s matchmaking attempt. Either Cupid will be on target or we’ll end up throwing bread rolls at each other.’
Charlotte gritted her teeth.
‘I’m a crack shot with a bread roll.’
It sounds like a fun book. I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR list.
Can you describe your writing routine? What time of day do you find you’re most productive – that kind of thing.
I’m definitely at my best in the morning, but I’m not one of those people who can get up at five O’clock to write. I wish I were. Once my younger two are in school, I start to write. The trick for me is to know what I want to write, the night before. I’m far more productive when I have a plan.
I think the party is about to start. I hope you got enough to eat. There is dessert but we’ll let this settle first before we have it.
*escorts Sharon back into other room and inserts Cranberries CD*
I hope you like the Cranberries. They’re one of my favourite groups.
While we listen to music, I’ve stashed a pot of gold somewhere in this room. Do you think you can find it?
I love The Cranberries. They’re a brilliant group. Hmmm, a pot of gold? Is it under the stash of sweets that we were eating? Those chocolate-covered gold coins might do. They’re very lucky.
We have Baileys Mousse Pie and Apple Amber for dessert. Which would you prefer? While you search, I’ll get it and bring it in for you.
I’d love the Apple Amber, it sounds delicious.
Returns to room with dessert(s) *changes CD* There’s a bit of a story behind this one.
It involved one of my cousins but I won’t go into all the details here.
It’s been a fun party. I hope it lived up to your expectations.
Before you go, can you tell us where to get your book and how to find out more about you?
This will take you to my book page at Tirgearr Publishing, and has all the buy links, as well as a nice excerpt: tirpub.com/gatype
I can be found on Twitter: @Authorsharonb
Here’s my Author page with links to my blog, various excerpts and other nuggets of information:
Sharon Black Author Page
Thanks so much for stopping by, Sharon.
Thanks a million for allowing me to be your guest today, Melanie.
How do you celebrate St Patrick’s Day? Do you have any family traditions? Tell us about them in the comments.