Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Author Jeanette Baker: Ireland Verses US Writing Styles

Black and white promo photoI’m delighted to welcome award-winning author Jeanette Baker back to Thoughts in Progress as she tours blogdom with her latest release, IRISH LADY.

Here’s a brief synopsis of IRISH LADY: Born in the slums of Belfast, Meghann McCarthy has left that life far behind. She’s a woman who has made all her childhood dreams come true, becoming a rich, brilliant barrister living in London’s classiest district. Yet Meghann can never quite banish Ireland from her heart, or forget Michael Devlin, the boy from the slums she once loved with a passion that nearly tore her apart. Because she has never forgotten, Meghann agrees to defend Michael—a notorious Irish nationalist—when he becomes involved in a vicious court case. But even as she jeopardizes her hard-won success, she at last finds the true power and spirit of the Irish heritage she has too long denied…and the courage to face her love for Michael Devlin. 

Jeanette travels between the U.S. and Ireland each year so I was curious how it effected her writing. This is what I asked her, “You live in California during the winter and County Kerry, Ireland, during the summer. How does your writing schedule differ in the two places, if any?”

When people ask me what Southern California and County Kerry, Ireland have in common, my first reaction is to reply, “Absolutely nothing.” Upon reflection, however, that isn’t completely true. Both are nestled beside the ocean, enjoy mild weather and claim views picturesque enough to be chosen as common themes for postcards and calendars. Both attract their fair share of the tourist trade despite an expensive standard of living and, up until recently, both experienced a real estate boom that sent the price of homes off the charts.  

Irish Lady CoverStill, leaving California for Ireland is like flying to a different planet. California is home, with all its comforts, its predictability and its choices. My family lives in California. My friends are available for a leisurely lunch or a quick cup of coffee, for shopping, happy hour and yoga. Because I live in the community where I teach elementary school as well as an occasional Emeritus writing class, it is impossible for me to attempt an excursion outside my home where I don’t meet someone I know. My life is busy. Organization is difficult. Writing moments are few.

Ireland, on the other hand is an adventure, the small villages, dimly lit pubs, the music, afternoon tea, the friendly people with their lovely brogues and, for me, the biggest draw of all, a thousand years of history.  It is also, for an American, extremely inconvenient. Garbage disposals are nonexistent, as are window screens, Splenda, ice in your drinks, coffee refills, maple syrup, temperature controlled buildings and Starbucks. 

I know my way around the tiny, traffic-clogged streets of Tralee, the town where I stay. I’ve learned to drive on the other side of the road, negotiating the roundabouts with my manual transmission. I convert Farenheit to Celsius like a pro, grocery shop daily and grow fuschia and hydrangeas like the natives, but I’m still a stranger, a blow-in, they call me, one of those who is not and will never, be “a local.” Except for my soon-to-be husband, the primary reason for my annual trek, I know no one beyond a pleasant, “Hallo,” and I like it that way. In Ireland, my days are my own. In Ireland, I write. 

My house sits on the edge of town, a town established in 1283 by Dominican monks. I wake to the drizzle of a soft rain and spread Kerry Gold butter and marmalade on my toast. I look out the window and watch happy cows munch on green hills. Disregarding the rain, men in tweed caps cycle the narrow streets and women in jogging suits wheel baby prams toward the center of town. 

Carrying my tea upstairs, I settle in for a morning of writing. My fingers move quickly across the keyboard. I think about my recent find, the discovery of the forgotten, lichen-covered grave of Gerald Fitzgerald, the last Earl of Desmond, beheaded by Henry Tudor in 1583. I think of Gerald’s sister, Eleanor, the heroine of my novel, NELL. I recall the delicate architecture of Ardfert Monastery, built in ____, and the cozy bookstore cradled in its wall. The hours and twenty pages fly by quickly. 

Later, in need of exercise, I pull on leggings and tennis shoes and walk toward Ballyseedy Woods, a primeval forest whose Yew trees have witnessed the events of Ireland since before written history. An hour to the northeast, 1800 years ago, Brian Boru, first high king of Ireland was baptized by St. Patrick at the Rock of Cashel. 900 years ago, Diarmed Macmurraugh, King of Leinster, invited Strongbow, the first of the Welsh marcher lords, to marry his daughter, the beautiful, Aoife, the beginning of a dynasty that continues today throughout all the royal houses of Europe. 600 years ago, the mighty Fitzgeralds, uncrowned kings of Ireland, lost all five of their male heirs to execution in England.
On the rise of cleared land before entering forest, I stop and look around at this land of mist and battle, of poets and prophets, of legend and history. The inspiration is enormous. Around every bend of the road, every lichen-shrouded castle, there is always another story to explore and reveal. 

How does my writing schedule differ in my two worlds? In California I plan my writing time, carving out an hour here, two hours there, composing blogs and newsletters, editing, promoting and teaching. In Ireland, I listen to my muse, to the conversations around me and I write my stories.
Please watch for NELL, an Irish paranormal in the style of IRISH LADY, and HANNIE RISING, a contemporary paranormal, set in Tralee.  

Jeanette, thanks so much for coming back to Thoughts. I always enjoy learning more about your travels to Ireland. I’ve always thought I’d love to visit there but now you have me rethinking that -- no coffee refills and no Starbucks -- that would be tough. LOL

Now for a bit of background on Jeanette. She is the author of 15 novels, many of them set in the lush countryside of historical and contemporary Ireland where she lives and writes during the summer months. Her ancestors, the O’Flahertys, hail from Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands located off the coast of Galway. Jeanette takes great pride in the prayer posted by the English over the ancient city gates, ‘From the wrath of the O’Flahertys, may the good Lord deliver us.’

Jeanette graduated from the University of California at Irvine with a degree in journalism and international relations and holds a Masters Degree in Education. When not in Ireland, she teaches in Southern California, reads constantly, attempts to navigate the confusing world of Facebook and, more recently, e-publishing, concocts creations from interesting cookbooks and enjoys the company of friends and children. She is the RITA award-winning author of NELL.

For more on Jeanette and her writing, visit and blog with her at

Have you been to Ireland? If you’re a writer, does changing locations change your writing schedule drastically? Thanks so much for visiting here today. 


  1. It's fascinating how different the two countries can be. I know that where I live now (Mexico) is so different from where I used to live. Looks like a wonderful story.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Jeanette.

    Jeanette - How fascinating to be living in two worlds like that. And I know exactly what you mean about savouring the peace and being left alone to write. That in itself can be a very good thing :-). I wish you much success.

  3. Jeanette, thanks again for coming back to Thoughts and sharing this intriguing look at writing in 2 different countries. Wishing you much success.

  4. Clarissa, you too have the knowledge of writing in 2 different countries - Mexico and Canada. I tend to think of writing as just writing no matter where you are, but the place does factor in greatly.

    Margot, quiet for me tends to make the voices in my head more alert. Or maybe it's just easier listening without all the noise.

  5. I've visited other countries but never had the opportunity to write there. What an interesting experience that would be. Maybe someday.

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Jeanette, I would rather be there writing! Never made it to Ireland although I've been through the rest of the British Isles.

  7. Wow, such a different lifestyle you go back and forth between. It must keep life interesting - and never dull. :)

  8. I went to Ireland about two years ago and fell in love. I vowed that if I ever left the states to live somewhere, it would be Ireland. The people are so friendly and well informed. I loved the atmosphere in the pubs and all over the countryside where we visited. I loved Galway but did not get to any of the islands.

  9. I'd love to live in Ireland for the summers! I've been twice, and the latest was in 2006. I'd love to go back!! It's the most beautiful place I've ever been!

  10. Thanks so much for your comments. I'm always thrilled when people from The States visit Ireland and stop in to see me. I always make time for visitors so make your plans.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.