Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Debut Spotlight: Nicola Cassidy

Today it's my pleasure to be shining the spotlight on Irish blogger and author Nicola Cassidy and her debut novel December Girl as part of her blog tour.

Nicola Cassidy is a writer and blogger from Co. Louth, Ireland. She started her writing career early, entering short story competitions, penning protest letters to magazines and making up characters in her head. These scribblings saw her place in a number of competitions as a child and encouraged by her English teachers, she chose to study journalism at Dublin City University.

While working in political PR and marketing, Nicola studied a series of advanced creative writing courses at the Irish Writers' Centre and set up a lifestyle and literary blog at www.LadyNicci.com, which was nominated in the Ireland Blog Awards in 2015 and 2016.

During her maternity leave for her first daughter, Nicola set about researching and writing a historical fiction novel, December Girl, inspired by true events and set in the mystical and ancient Boyne Valley, famed for its stone age passage tombs, near to where she grew up.

Nicola signed with US based Trace Literary Agency in 2016. December Girl was picked up by Betsy Reavley at UK digital publisher Bombshell Books in June 2017 and will be published 26 October 2017.

She is an avid reader, inspired by the likes of Anais Nin, Joan Didion and Jessie Burton and is currently working on her second novel, also inspired by true events. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
My name is Nicola Cassidy, I’m a Mum to two young girls and I work as a marketing manager in an engineering consultancy in Co. Dublin. I’ve always been interested in writing and studied journalism after leaving school. I chose this course, because at the time – I didn’t know of any other career where you could earn a living, writing. Looking back I can see that I was really searching for a creative career – and as journalism deals with facts, I soon moved out of it and into marketing and PR where there were more options to come up with ideas or imagery or words to sell a story. I soon returned to the creative writing fold – taking some courses at the Irish Writers’ Centre and starting my blog www.LadyNicci.com. It wasn’t until I had my first child though that the idea to really knuckle down and write a book struck me. It was something I always wanted to do in my lifetime, and on maternity leave I thought – why not try it now?

If you had to give an elevator pitch for December Girl, what would it be? 
Oh I hate giving elevator pitches! I find them really difficult. As soon as anyone says – what is your book about – I completely freeze. Everything I’ve learned about publishing and selling your book says you need to be able to pitch your book in one sentence – but I haven’t been able to do that with December Girl. There are a few strands to the storyline, a bit of background to how I came to write it and I always fear people’s reaction – that they might wrinkle their nose and say, ooo I don’t like the sound of that, so for all those reasons, I never really know what to say! BUT, if pushed, I say, it’s a historical fiction novel, inspired by true events, based on a real life eviction and a story of a woman who had her baby kidnapped. It’s set in Co. Meath, Ireland, where there are famed stone age tombs, older than the pyramids – and every year, the tombs are lit by the sun on the winter solstice. My character Molly is born on the winter solstice – so this is where the name December Girl comes from. She carries an ancient powerful spirit with her, that helps form her character. And throughout the book she longs to get home to beautiful Boyne Valley where she is from. How’s that for a long drawn out elevator pitch?!

Where did the inspiration for December Girl come from? 
I knew I wanted to set my novel in the Boyne Valley where I am from and the timeline – late 19th century as this is my favourite period of history and one I’m quite comfortable with writing about. So I went to my local library and read everything I could get my hands on about this time. I came across a true story of a husband and wife who were forcefully evited from their home at Dowth, Co Meath in 1880 and the man died, shortly afterwards – likely caused by the stress of the eviction. I thought – what if he had a family – what if he had a daughter and this eviction changed everything about the path of her life? And so I created a fictional character and wrote her story, 

Describe Molly in three words.
Molly is feisty, independent and strong. Really, she’s a woman ahead of her time. She has an inner strength, a sincere sense of justice and a great love for her family and for her children. Ultimately, she is a tragic figure though, a person whose demons eventually catch up with her. She’s very human and relatable I think. 

What attracted you to write historical fiction as opposed to any other genre?
I’ve always been drawn to it. I just love it. The Victorians were a very forward people, despite their social restrictions. If you look at how things changed over the 19th century – with travel and machinery and even their fashion – they went through an enormous shift into the 20th century. I love to explore that – to think about what it would have been like to live back then. I’ve always thought like that – even in school when I was young we were asked if we had one wish – what would it be? I said I wanted to travel back in time to the 19th century and the whole class laughed at me. But I’d still say the same today – I’d just love to see it all, to feel it. Of course, I’ve come to understand what a difficult time it was too – healthcare was so poor and sanitation and illnesses – there is no comparison to the life we lead today. The other positive I find with writing historical fiction is that it doesn’t date and you have a bit more freedom when it comes to fact checking. By that I mean no one is alive today (practically) that can say – that’s not how it was. It’s not in our experience anymore – only in our records. 

Did you treat yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing deal? 
What a great question! I’m always treating myself to wine if that counts! No, not really, I was very very pleased, but I don’t’ think I treated myself as such. I’m having a big launch though so that’s like a treat in itself – really I’m just throwing a massive party. But I am considering getting a tattoo to mark getting published. I’m still nursing my baby though, so will have to wait till I finish up with that before getting inked. And hey, I might see how sales go too before marking myself forever! 

Finally what can we expect from you next? 
Well I really hope I don’t fall off into the abyss, never to be heard from again. There is that fear! But I do have a second novel half drafted, historical fiction again, same time period and set in Drogheda. It’s also inspired by true events and an advertisement I saw in the local paper 1880 looking for a nanny to look after a three week old baby who has just lost its mother. I have a very dark, disturbed and manipulative lady turning up to be the nanny. I’m enjoying writing it and looking forward to getting time to get back into it when the launch PR for December Girl dies down a little. I also have a sequel in mind for December Girl, which will be fun to write – but I’ll probably only write it if there’s an appetite for a follow up. We’ll see. 

Twitter: @ladynicci
Facebook: Lady Nicci
Instagram: @ladynicci

Molly Thomas is a feisty, independent soul, born on the Winter Solstice. At every stage of her life, she has faced troubles.

As a young woman, her family are evicted from their home at Christmas. Molly swears vengeance on the jealous neighbour and land agent responsible, Flann Montgomery.

Then in 1896, her baby son is taken from his pram. While Molly searches the streets for little Oliver, the police are called but her baby is gone.

Why does trouble seem to follow Molly? And will she ever find out what happened to her child?

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