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irish writer

I’ll put my hands up and admit that I’ve always been hesitant about YouTubers releasing books. There was a stage when Alfie Deyes, Zoella and co. were taking over the shelves at local bookstores. It was a little disheartening to see because I couldn’t help but ask was this just another way for them to make money?

This view has now changed since reading She Must Be Mad by Charly Cox and interviewing the endearing Savannah Brown earlier this year.

And now following in their footsteps is Irish author Melanie Murphy.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Melanie Murphy (@melaniiemurphy) on

The YouTuber has just released her first novel If Only and readers are going to adore each and every page.

If Only follows the story of soon-to-be thirty-year-old Erin, who is extremely unhappy with how her life has panned out thus far. She’s miserable in work, she just called off her wedding and she can’t help but yearn for the ‘perfect’ life her flatmate has.

She decides to return to Ireland for her momentous birthday and to visit her dear grandmother. Everything changes forever when Erin is given a secret family heirloom that may hold the key to the happy life she has always longed for.

We spoke to Melanie on the day of If Only’s release about her inspirations, fears and nerves as she enters the literary world as a first-time fiction author.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Melanie Murphy (@melaniiemurphy) on

Melanie hopes If Only will do is re-introduce her followers to the joy of reading that has been lost in this digital age.

“I hope that some of my YouTube and Instagram followers (ones who've found themselves with mild to severe cases of Internet addiction) will pick up If Only and discover, or re-discover, a joy of reading. I’d also really love for people to come away from the novel with some optimism, with a deeper understanding of what truly matters (to them) in life and with a sense that they've been properly entertained. “

Writing a book is certainly no easy task, especially when you’re managing your own business, creating content and dealing with your personal life like Melanie. The author struggled with avoiding self-insertion during the writing process, but luckily she found a way to move past this hurdle.

“It was more difficult than I anticipated. The thing is, I'm not like most authors who experience the luxury of writing for people who may not even know what they look like. Many people who'll read If Only know a lot about my life from my vlogs and my years of YouTube content, and so the idea of writing a fictional character who appeared as an idealised version of me scared me senseless.

“I didn't want reviews about how Melanie wrote a self indulgent fanfic about herself, I wanted reviews about the story, the plot structure, the character development or lack thereof, the voice, the ending. Constructive feedback is to a writer what water is to a plant, and I knew that a self-insert would dominate reviews. I ended up deciding to add bits of myself into ALL of the characters and for everyone populating the story to be made up of a combination of me, friends, family members, acquaintances and characters I love myself.”

If Only is a truly magical tale so it came as no surprise to hear Melanie turned to the stunning romantic-drama About Time and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for inspiration. Talk about the dream duo.

“The story was inspired by my tendency to wonder how life might look if I'd done things differently and by the slow burn romance between myself and my fella. I felt most inspired to write while listening to movie soundtracks and eighties music, which dominates the pages of the story.”

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There’s no doubt Melanie has poured her heart and soul into this book, sharing glimpses of the writing process with fans along the way, but the fear of being judged as a ‘YouTube writer’ hung over her, despite the mass praise and excitement from her adoring followers.

“I've been chewing the insides of my cheeks from the second the book was sent out for advance reviews on NetGalley! There are always going to be plenty of people who accuse me of having a ghostwriter, or who think I'm good for nothing but filming and editing videos in my bedroom, and that's okay. Because at the end of the day I'm doing something I love, and I'm hoping to do it for the rest of my life. My work will speak for itself and it'll improve as the years roll out. So I'm doing my best to swallow the nerves,” Melanie shared.

If Only has been swiftly swept up off bookshelves across the country. Melanie’s debut novel will warm your heart, reassure your mind and help you see the true magic of life.

You can pick up a copy of If Only here.

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By Domhnall O' Donoghue

Actor and journalist Domhnall O’Donoghue explains how his experiences living in between two brothels served as inspiration for his second novel, Colin and the Concubine:

Before 2016, I'd always believed myself to be streetwise. Without tooting my own horn, I was certain that I had a good sense of all the shenanigans that were going on around me. You might imagine my disappointment, therefore, at learning that I’d been living slap bang in the middle of two brothels, and despite all the obvious signs, it took me weeks to realise that these ladies were more than just convivial social butterflies.

The first brothel took the form of a massage parlour and was located next to the entrance of my new apartment complex in Dublin city centre. Just after receiving the keys from the landlord, I was busy unloading my suitcases and boxes from the boot of my boyfriend’s car when I noticed a series of men enter and exit the premises – most of whom were in the older age bracket, over 65, say.

‘Aren’t these gentlemen just marvellous, taking such good care of their ageing bodies,’ I thought to myself, as I lugged another box into my new abode. ‘When it comes to aches and pains, so many men suffer in silence! I must ring my mother and get her to encourage Dad to make an appointment – hasn’t he been complaining of a sore lower back recently?’

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Domhnall O'Donoghue (@domhnall82) on

That evening, inside, as we treated ourselves to a well-earned glass of vino, having unpacked all our wares, I began noticing how frequently the intercom for the apartment directly next to us sounded. I remember looking at the clock at one stage – it was close to midnight, and a school night.

‘Great, it seems like we have friendly neighbours,’ I commented as I made light work of the Sauvignon Blanc. ‘We must invite them over dinner one of these nights.’

While a meal never materialised, it wasn’t long before things became a little fishy…

As the days passed, our initial admiration for our neighbours’ hospitable nature soon made way for exasperation. It seemed that time wasn’t an issue for their guests’ visits and no matter the hour – be it four in the afternoon or four in the morning – the loud intercom blared resulting in our forty winks been reduced to single digits.

Similar to our own, their apartment was on the ground floor. It faced out onto our communal courtyard and I was struck by the fact that their curtains were never drawn; their windows were never open.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Domhnall O'Donoghue (@domhnall82) on

However, I finally had my lightbulb moment about a week later when two incidents occurred simultaneously that allowed me to properly deduce what was at play right on my doorstep.

The first incident took place during the dead of night. My trip to the Land of Nod was suddenly interrupted by the sounds of screaming in the hallway.

‘I want my money back! I didn’t even get to do anything to her!’

Never one to ignore a juicy scuffle, I jumped out of the bed, raced to our door and peeped through the spy hole. A young, inebriated chap was storming the hallway demanding his money be returned to him post haste.

A male figure then appeared at my neighbours’ door and threw a note at this unwanted figure – who I suspected wasn’t the local pizza delivery guy soliciting a tip.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Domhnall O'Donoghue (@domhnall82) on

The following morning, I was returning from the reception area having just picked up the post and I spotted a chap waiting outside my neighbours’ apartment. He was handsome and athletic and wore casual clothes while a backpack was draped over one shoulder. I noticed that his face looked somewhat panicked and despite the distance between us, I was certain that I glimpsed beads of sweat on his forehead. Then he did something rather peculiar.

He blessed himself.

Before he became aware of my presence, the door opened and the seemingly devout Christian cautiously entered the apartment. As I passed, for the first time, my neighbour and I locked eyes – she looked Eastern European and was strikingly beautiful if somewhat peaky. My smile wasn’t reciprocated – instead, it received a curt slamming of the door.

While I wasn’t going to be considered for a job at CSI anytime soon, I finally understood what was happening: I was living next door to a brothel. And maybe that massage parlour outside the complex wasn’t exactly what it appeared to be either…

For the duration of my stay at that address, I was doing a large amount of work from home and I became intrigued by all that was happening across the hallway. It emerged that there were two women and one man – all from Romania – living and working there. As a way of entertaining myself, I began having  a little fun with their male callers – purposely bumping into them in the hallway and being nothing short of a nuisance.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Domhnall O'Donoghue (@domhnall82) on

'I don't suppose you could help me find my missing cat?’

'My name is Domhnall and I've just moved in – you must be my new neighbour. What's your name?

‘Oh, are you the plumber I just called – my apartment is this way.'

That sort of nonsense – but those looks of panic etched across their faces as they tried to make up some excuse or other almost made up for the sleepless nights.

Running parallel to this tomfoolery, the marriage equality referendum was being debated passionately on the radio, television and across the media. How often I rolled my eyes skywards when I heard or read the argument that the gay community was “a threat to the institution of marriage” when there were queues of men – many of whom were married – lining up outside my next-door neighbours’ apartment and the massage parlour.

However, it wasn’t just in these two aforementioned properties where happy endings occurred – these experiences gave me the material to write my new novel, Colin and the Concubine, a light-hearted farce about a baker named Colin who – surprise, surprise – lives beside a brothel.

My stint in that particular apartment was short-lived but I believe that soon after I left, the Gardaí caught wind of the high jinks taking place and neither brothel continues to exist today – at least in those locations. Where those ladies are today is anyone’s guess; my only hope is that they aren’t in danger.

Colin and the Concubine is available nationwide and online from mercierpress.ie.

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