Lisa Alber visited Ireland 10 years ago to research her County Clare mystery series. Now, she returns to Ireland as a published author with two books—and counting—in the series.
Two years ago, I wrote a post for Shelf Pleasure about my Ireland travels for my first novel, Kilmoon, a County Clare Mystery. Now, here I am again, just after launching my second novel, Whispers in the Mist.
It’s a testament to the perseverance required to get novels published that a full decade—count ‘em, 10 years—had elapsed between the research trip for Kilmoon and my most recent research trip this past spring.
What a difference a published novel makes when it comes to research travel! Back in 2006, I didn’t have a publishing contract. I was an untried novelist and felt almost sheepish walking into a Garda (police) station to ask (beg!) for time with a detective.
Fast forward a decade, in which I got to wave my books around for everyone who wanted to see. Look, look! My novel did get published and the next one is coming soon!
Things change, of course they do. For one thing, I have changed. I no longer feel sheepish. And County Clare has changed too. It still hasn’t recovered from the 2008 downturn, which is probably why the Garda station in Ennistymon, out of which my contacts Sergeant-in-Charge Howard and Detective Sergeant Sheedy worked, never seemed to be open when I dropped by (budget cuts). I finally called and discovered that Howard had been promoted to Detective Sergeant working out of Ennis (the county seat) and Sheedy had retired.
I had a helluva time meeting up with Howard even though I knew where he worked. Detectives are busy, always out of the station. And Sheedy? I found him through plain old Irish-style serendipity, which is to say that Clare is pretty small and everyone knows someone who knows someone.
Here’s the story: One afternoon I was sitting with the administrator of an elder care facility in dire hope that she could point me in the right direction for health care questions. (God bless the Irish, but their health care system is a boondoggle.) The administrator answered what questions she could. Along the way, I showed her the acknowledgments for Kilmoon, telling her that I would include her name in my next book. I pointed out Sheedy’s and Howard’s names.
“Oh,” she said, “I’m friends with Sheedy’s wife. I’ll be seeing them tonight, in fact.”
Whah?!! I just about hugged her I was so excited. She gave me Sheedy’s wife’s phone number and I left her a message. From there, I met Sheedy at the Lahinch Golf Club, where we’d met up a decade previously. The nicest thing? He didn’t fully recall who I was, yet he was willing to meet up with me anyhow. We had a great talk, and he was touched by the copy of Kilmoon I signed for him.
I spent three weeks in Ireland, and had all but given up on catching up with DS Howard. Toward the end of the trip, I decided to give it one last try and walked into the big Ennis station. Of course, he wasn’t in, so I left a note and proceeded to play tourist in the town center.
About an hour later, I received a phone call from him. He was in the station—now—and could I drop by—now? So I ran back, tripping all over the cobblestoned lanes. Howard remembered me even less than Sheedy had.
Amazing what showing a person his name on an acknowledgement page can do. He snuck me into the station to give me a tour of the custody suite, where suspects are fingerprinted and entered into the system.
The interview room with its chair in the middle of the room where suspects sit and the little desks facing them where interrogators sit.
In a trip full of special moments like this one, in which I was sorely tempted to buy the baby goat this Traveller child was selling …
… tracking down Sheedy and Howard stands out. These were moments in which to relish how far I’d come in my life as novelist. And what a fantastic feeling to share part of my journey with these two men.
I now count Sheedy and Howard as Irish friends I can email at any time with questions. And you’d better believe I’m not waiting another decade to return to Ireland!
Lisa Alber writes the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, was nominated for the Rosebud Award of Best First Novel. Her second novel, Whispers in the Mist, has been called “rich, dark, and complex,” “ingenious,” and “a first-rate crime novel.” She balances writing her third novel (Midnight Ink, August 2017) with gardening, dog-walking, and goofing off. She lives in Portland, OR. You can find Lisa at: website | Facebook | Twitter | blog.
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