Friday, 1 November 2013

Debut Spotlight: Jennifer Barrett

In today 's debut spotlight I'd like to introduce you to Irish author Jennifer Barrett whose debut book Look into the Eye is due to be published in a few weeks.  

Melanie McQuaid is firmly fixated on the future, whilst journalist Richard Blake is stuck resolutely in the past. Sparks fly when they first meet, until Richard’s past catches up with him and a dramatic turn of events changes the course of both their lives. 

Disillusioned from a broken engagement, Melanie chooses to keep life simple by avoiding love altogether. Pushed to her limits, she embarks on a life-changing trip to the Norwegian fjords while Richard, furious at his latest assignment, finds himself alone at sea reporting on Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaign. On opposite sides of the world, they each look into the eye of a whale – a magical experience which brings them back together. But can the time ever be right for Richard and Melanie?

Set in the twilight years of Celtic Tiger Ireland, Look Into the Eye takes readers on a journey through the mystical fjords of Norway and the balmy Pacific Ocean, inviting them to share in the magic of a closeencounter with whales in the wild.

What inspired you to write this novel?
Look into the Eye was inspired by a trip I took at the end of 2007 to photograph the wild orcas of the Norwegian fjords. The setting was incredibly beautiful and I found myself so profoundly moved after coming eye to eye with a beautiful orca there that the only way I could attempt to express its full effect on me was to write about it. What started as a type of travel piece went on to become an outline of the first few chapters of Melanie’s story. 

The inspiration for Richard’s story came just after my return from Norway when I spotted Irish 
environmental activist Dave Walsh speaking on RTÉ News about Greenpeace’s anti-whaling expedition in Antarctica. Until then, I knew that whaling still happened in parts of the world, but I had no idea it was taking place on such a large scale. The television footage was truly heart-breaking and I couldn’t understand why in this day and age, anyone would need to hurt a whale, let alone set out to hunt down and kill over one thousand of these animals. So I emailed Dave on board the Greenpeace ship and started to follow the anti-whaling campaign closely online. 

After my experience in Norway, my passion for whales and marine conservation grew – I gave up my job and spent over six months’ travelling, reading every book and watching every movie and documentary about whales that I could find. During that time I volunteered on a whale conservation project in South Africa and it was there, surrounded by the whales, that I started to write the novel in earnest. 

Look into the Eye is my way of sharing some of what I learned on my journey. 

Jennifer Barrett is chief executive of a developing world charity. Over the years, Jennifer has worked in a number of fundraising, marketing and development roles across a range of Irish arts companies, schools, colleges, youth mental health charities and other non-profit organisations. A keen photographer, Jennifer travels far and wide to photograph and observe whales and other marine life in their natural habitats. 

Jennifer will be donating half of her royalties from Look into the Eye to the protection and conservation of whales and dolphins in the wild, and to youth mental health charities in Ireland. 

Follow Jennifer on Twitter (@JenBarrettEye) and Facebook (JenniferBarrettAuthor).

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