Mapping the Finfarran Peninsula novels – Felicity Hayes-McCoy

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By Felicity Hayes-McCoy

It was while eating lemon-drizzle cake with my agent in a London café that I conceived the idea of a book series about a librarian who gives up her career for love and, twenty-five years later, discovers that her marriage has been a sham.

What would she do? Where could she go? What are the consequences of ditching your life and starting off again where you began? And how might your doing so affect your adolescent daughter, who adores her dad?

From the outset I knew that I wanted to bring my protagonist home to the rural Irish setting where she grew up, which she’d left to go to London, and where her daughter must now find new roots.

For me, starting with a map was instinctive: when you’ve written for television you’re aware both of the narrative value of the physical and the importance of consistency in an episodic series. So I sketched the geography of the fictional Finfarran Peninsula on a paper napkin that day in the café, and, because of that, the rest came easily.

It’s the physical world they live in that shapes my characters, and their shared social and cultural inheritance that defines their identity; while the generational differences in their fast-changing social and economic landscape offer scope for humour, pathos and conflict.

The Library at The Edge of The World, book one of the series, focuses on how restoring a small clifftop house helps Hanna to re-establish her sense of independence, and how a threat to her job at the local library forces her to reconnect with her community. I love the contradiction inherent in the fact that what saves her both emotionally and practically is the network of support that she’s instinctively rejected, for fear of gossip. And I love the fact that what ignited her desire to be a librarian was a passion for pictures, not words. She wasn’t raised in a bookish family. She discovered the joy of reading for herself.

Book two Summer at The Garden Café digs deeper into the ongoing effect of her parent’s divorce on Hanna’s daughter Jazz. Here too it was the landscape that provided inspiration. A squiggle drawn on the original napkin, indicating a forest, produced a setting for Jazz’s narrative, physically and psychologically, and a metaphor for her sense of isolation.

With two more books in the series to come, I’m constantly adding detail to my map, which has already been re-drawn repeatedly. But I still keep the original paper napkin.

Felicity Hayes-McCoy has been a professional writer all her working life. Her commissions include books; original TV dramas and contributions to series; radio soap opera, features, documentaries and plays; screenplays and music theatre. She is an active campaigner for Author’s Rights and a founding member of The Women’s Equality Party UK. The Library at the Edge of The World, the first in her series of novels about the fictional Irish Finfarran Peninsula, was published by Hachette Ireland in June 2016. Summer At The Garden Cafe and The Mistletoe Matchmaker will be published in 2017, and the fourth book in 2018.

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