Today we have a special blog post from brilliant author Patricia Forde! She has a brand new picture book out called ‘To The Island‘. I received a copy of this and it’s bloody gorgeous – my full review will be up in a picture book round up in a couple of weeks time!
“Fia looks out her window and across the bay. She longs to see the mysterious island, which appears and disappears in the water. One night a moonbeam reaches across the bay and leads her to the island. She walks with magical creatures, dances with a host of girls and boys, and visits the bottom of the sea and the stars in space.”
I’ve written all kinds of things throughout my career from plays to television drama and even a filmscript once. I’ve written two novels and a book for younger children. Yet nothing, to me, is as challenging as writing a Picture Book.
It should be easy. Think of a good strong story with a dynamic hero. Write it in 500 words or less. Be visual. That’s about it. And yet…
It can take me months to find that one strong idea. I think that it is a lot like writing poetry. You are searching for an image or a turn of phrase that resonates. You are trying to imagine an original, intriguing character. You know you want a story that will inspire great images for the illustrator but something has to ignite the whole thing. It needs a hook.
For me, the hook in To The Island was a story from my childhood. A story I heard repeated many times. A story about a mysterious island called Hy Brasil, that appeared once every seven years off the coast of Galway. As a child, I yearned to go there. The idea of Hy Brasil had been rattling around in my brain for years. But that in itself wasn’t enough for a Picture Book or at least not the book I wanted to write. And then fate took a hand.
Galway became the European Capital of Culture in 2020 and Helen Marriage, the artistic director, commissioned me to write a Picture Book to be given free to every child who started school in Galway in 2020. I told her the story of Hy Brasil and she suggested I write about the little girl who yearned to see it.
And so Fia was born, and the book became her story.
Meanwhile, I was feeling very proud of my home city and looking forward to our artists being given a chance to show the rest of Europe what they could do. I was also feeling very privileged to live here. I was born in Galway and apart from one academic year I have lived all my life here. That too informed the book.
I knew before I started to write that Fia would long to see the island and that, unlike me, her wish would be granted. What I didn’t know was how the story would end.
On the island I had her go to the bottom of the sea and from there up to the sky where starlight painted her lips with silver. It was while she was up amongst the stars that I had her look down and see Galway far below. There, she saw the brightly coloured houses across the Long Walk, the turrets of castles peeping out from behind the narrow lanes, the fishing boats bobbing on the water.
I knew immediately that she would feel a pinch of homesickness – and I had my ending.
The ties that bind us to home are very strong and though many of us long for adventure the compass of our own hearts often lead us home at the end of the day. And so it is with Fia. Though I loved taking her to Hy Brasil and all the wonderful things she saw there, I wasn’t truly content until she was running through the narrow streets and tucked up warm and safely in her own bed.
A massive thank you to Patricia for taking the time to write this brilliant piece for my stop on the blog tour. It’s always fascinating to hear from authors about their lives, their inspirations and their books! A huge thank you to the publishers too for inviting me on the blog tour.
Check out To The Island, out 10th September! And check out the rest of the blog tour – jam packed with treats to read!