SUMMER/AUTUMN 2015 / VOL 15 ISSUE 2
Gaynor is an inspirational force in her own right. When publishers passed on her first novel, she was steadfast and smart, using savvy marketing skills to her advantage. "I self-published The Girl Who Came Home in 2012 to coincide with the centenary of the sinking of Titanic," she said. "The success of that book eventually led to a publishing contract with William Morrow (HarperCollins) who republished The Girl Who Came Home in 2014. My second novel with them, A Memory of Violets (inspired by George Bernard Shawís Pygmalion), was published earlier this year. Both books have been New York Times bestsellers, which is amazing - and proof that you should never give up! I firmly believe that I would never have written the books if I hadnít moved to Ireland, because it was here that I found the inspiration for them both."
Indeed, the Irish experience is an integral part of Gaynorís imagination and life. "I love sharing in Irish traditions with my children and reading Irish myths and legends with them as they grow up and learn more about Irish history and culture. Of course, we always mark the traditional Irish celebrations through the year, but in addition to that, it is really the way in which the Irish community comes together for the big, important occasions that constantly surprises me," she says. "The #HometoVote campaign for the recent Marriage Referendum, for example, was so incredibly inspiring and something that I feel only the Irish community would have done. I feel very proud to call Ireland home."
Literary tradition looms large in Ireland, home to a wide range of gifted writers. Who is Gaynorís favorite Irish author? "I have several! I absolutely love Roddy Doyle, for his sharp social observations and his humour. He writes brilliant childrenís books, as well as adult novels. I adore the classics by Oscar Wilde and from a more contemporary perspective I would have to say Maeve Binchy, whose amazing legacy lives on. She really set the bar for all other Irish female writers to follow."
So what is it about Ireland that produces so many innovative storytellers? "From the early myths and legends, to all the wonderful folklore and the classic writers and poets such as Joyce and Wilde and Yeats, it just seems to be within people here to tell stories; part of their fabric," says Gaynor. "The Irish people are very honest, open and warm Ė great traits for storytelling. Whatever Ďití is, it clearly got inside my head and really sparked my desire to write when I moved here."
Like many Irish writers, keen and subtle psychological observation informs Gaynorís prose. Is this a talent required for good novel writing? How do you nurture such a talent? "I always try to put myself in my charactersí mind Ė to literally become them when I am writing their scenes," says Gaynor. "Iím very interested in how people behave and what motivates them to act in a certain way. All good fiction has to transport the reader to a different place and has to create a connection between the reader and the character. Iím not sure how I nurture this exactly Ė I just always try to make my characters as authentic and compelling as I can."
In Gaynorís novel, A Memory of Violets, the ultra-difficult lives of Victorian-era orphan girls is dramatized with an eye for period detail. While researching the book, did she discover material she desperately wanted to use but had to leave out? "With both my novels Ė and also with the new one Iím currently working on Ė there is a lot of research material left out of the finished book," she says. "This is the eternal dilemma of writing historical fiction: knowing what research to leave out (regardless of how much it might fascinate the historical geek in you), as well as knowing what to include."
Did Gaynorís view of human kindness or cruelty change while writing
the novel? "I found the accounts of street life in Victorian England very
harrowing to read," she says. "I hadnít appreciated how unbearably harsh
and unforgiving life was for the very youngest flower and watercress sellers,
which made it all the more incredible to discover the true story of John
Groom, who took it upon himself to help these young girls and take them
off the streets. He made such a difference to their lives and it is wonderful
to know that his legacy continues today under the charity, Livability.
For all the cruelty in the world, there will always be someone who rises
above and takes a different approach. It happened in Victorian London and
it still happens today."
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