I’m the author of a debut novel, set in Belfast and Harris in the early 70s.
As a teenager living in Northern Ireland at the height of the conflict, I spent my days desperately wishing for peace. When the violence showed no signs of ending, I left. A cop out, some might say. For me it was the right decision because it took decades before peace became a possibility.
Last year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It was a remarkable achievement. Yet amongst all the celebrations there was little mention of the women who tirelessly campaigned for peace long before the politicians (mostly men) sat around the negotiating table. I always admired these women and feel they deserve a mention too.
It’s probably no surprise then to find that the main character in my book is a young peace campaigner. Unlike me, who hightailed it out of the province at the first opportunity, she tries to change things for the better. She’s more courageous than I ever was and gets to do things I would never have attempted. She refuses to give in to the pressure to take a side.
Back then it was hard not to take a side. You’d invariably end up sticking with your own kind (Catholics got together with Catholics; Protestants with Protestants). It was an unwritten rule. The young peace campaigner in my book breaks the rules, and by doing so, finds herself pitted against a younger sister with paramilitary links and a very different vision of how to solve the conflict.
I was thrilled to have my first book, Soldier Doll, longlisted for the Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition 2017. This encouraged me to forge on and begin polishing the manuscript, following a full editorial review.