Amanda Geard : ‘Ireland during the war — it’s such an interesting history’

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People go authors successful a assortment of ways. Many drift crossed from a sister subject successful journalism. Some survey originative penning successful assemblage to “get successful the game”. Some bash it to termination clip during maternity permission oregon periods of redundancy. Celebrities are routinely offered publication deals.

manda Geard’s travel to work of her debut novel, The Midnight House, was thing rather different: determination can’t beryllium excessively galore exploration geologists crafting humanities mysteries. The time occupation had seen her question the satellite successful a “peripatetic lifestyle” for a fig of years, earlier a vacation successful Co Kerry — and an auspicious flyer for Listowel Writers’ Week — led her to her alteration tracks.

Born successful Tasmania, Geard studied geology successful assemblage and adjacent then, she thought, “the satellite is your oyster”.

“At uni I spent a semester successful Iceland and worked summers successful Botswana and Laos,” she recalls. “By the clip I’d qualified, determination was a batch of enactment successful Australia but I truly wanted to get retired and about.”

She moved to Jordan, wherever she met her husband, a chap geologist. They acceptable up a consultancy, moving mostly successful confederate and occidental Africa, arsenic good arsenic clip connected a Norwegian land wrong the Arctic Circle.

What, exactly, is exploration geology? Geard laughs. “Mostly crawling done jungles and camping successful the desert. There are each kinds of facets to it but fundamentally we were looking for mineral deposits. You mightiness beryllium searching for mines, doing exploration for governments truthful they person everyplace mapped, looking for water.

“We’ve had precise nomadic lives passim our careers. It’s exciting, adventurous, but it does go your full beingness — and yet we wanted much than that. I deliberation we were thirsty for a spot to acceptable down roots.”

Eight years agone they came to southbound Kerry connected vacation — “we’re implicit blow-ins”, she says, with nary Irish roots — which “morphed into a program to renovate an aged location connected the coast”.

They would rented a prosecute car and 1 time “turned a corner, not acold from Sneem, and conscionable thought, ‘my God, this is beautiful’.” They recovered themselves successful beforehand of a derelict house, with a ‘for sale’ motion outside.

“The adjacent time we walked done the door. Within a fewer hours we were walking the Kerry Way and met a husbandman who said, ‘Oh, it’s going to beryllium great, having immoderate beingness backmost successful the aged house’. And we’ve had the champion time. We came for the scenery and stayed for the people. It’s a fantastic assemblage here, we emotion it.”

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The renovation has since been completed — “A large job, I won’t lie!” — and the mates person moved “down the road, to a smaller spot with a spot of land”. This country, she reckons, isn’t wholly dissimilar to different island, 10,000km away: Tasmania.

“The colonisation is lone a tenth of Ireland’s, but it has seasons and is overmuch cooler than the remainder of Australia. Summers tin beryllium bedewed too… And it has that existent consciousness of community. I surely consciousness precise overmuch astatine location here, among the greenish hills.”

She had written “a fewer articles” implicit the years, reasoning it seemed an absorbing happening to do. But the roadworthy to fiction, and The Midnight House — a rich, evocative mystery, acceptable successful Kerry and spanning 3 timelines from the 1940s to contiguous — began with the roadworthy to Listowel.

“In June 2019, I saw a flyer for the Writers’ Week and jumped successful the car. There was a existent buzz successful the town, we saw a sheet and watched Patricia O’Reilly talk astir her stories. At the end, idiosyncratic asked however they should find an cause for their manuscript. I conscionable thought, this idiosyncratic looks wholly normal! Not dressed successful floating clothes, successful a nook successful the corner, sipping java with a notebook successful beforehand of them.

“I realised everyone determination was a writer, each having a go: either had books published, oregon starting a novel, oregon trying to get their manuscript placed for 20 years. I reckoned I could springiness this a spell arsenic well.”

Geard took an appropriately technological attack to creating her archetypal work: she “pulled apart” respective novels successful her favourite genre — humanities enigma with aggregate timelines — and “marked them each for timelines and tropes. I planned the caller connected a spreadsheet past started writing, astir 5am to 7.30am each morning. After possibly 4 months I had thing to edit.”

Daphne du Maurier was “definitely” an power connected the writing, arsenic were contemporaries successful the genre: Kate Morton, Linda Reilly, Iona Grey. She work books connected the Blitz, utilized the spectacular Kerry scenery arsenic inspiration for setting, plotted retired timelines and listened to what her characters were saying.

On completion, Geard bought the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, “did a batch of Googling astir however to get an agent” and sifted done her postulation of humanities mysteries for tips, winnowing it down to three. Her “number 1 choice” was Becky Ritchie (at AM Heath), who liked the manuscript and took her on.

“It took longer to find a publisher,” she adds, “which was rather disappointing aft the flurry of finishing the publication and getting an agent. But successful the extremity we had 3 interested. I talked to 3 editors, having ne'er talked to one; it’s been a immense learning curve. In the end, we went with Headline for a two-book deal.”

She keeps her manus successful with geology, doing “a small consulting, mostly from home”.

“That changes the gait of beingness aft each those years of being overseas, missing a batch of weddings and things,” she says. “You’re ever away. It’s bully to person determination to bent your hat.”

But it’s besides afloat steam up for her 2nd contracted book, portion she has immoderate ideas for a 3rd and fourth. As things stand, she says, “they’ll each beryllium standalone, but successful that genre. I’m mounting 1 successful Tasmania arsenic good arsenic Kerry; constitute astir what you know, arsenic they say. A mates of evacuees caput disconnected to Tasmania; unluckily lone 1 of them returns, but we don’t cognize what happened. I besides person an thought for a caller acceptable successful Norway during wartime.”

She “loves” incorporating Ireland during the warfare into her stories; it’s “such an absorbing history, this happening of neutrality but not rather neutrality, and past the post-war play wherever everything was precise uneasy. And there’s an inherent play anyhow successful World War II.”

Publishing a debut caller is simply a unsocial thing, a one-off by definition; it tin beryllium fraught with trepidation. Is Geard nervous, excited, possibly some astatine the aforesaid time? “I deliberation I’m stepping into the unknown,” she says, “in the aforesaid mode I ever have. Just going for it. I americium a spot nervous, but a batch of it is retired of my hands now. I’ve heard from radical successful Tasmania, aged friends, truthful it’s already fixed maine the accidental to reconnect — and of people conscionable caller people.

“Whatever happens from present on, I’m blessed to person had the experience. It’s a bully spot to be.”

She astir apt shouldn’t worry: The Midnight House will, successful each likelihood, bash precise well. It’s a large melodrama with well-drawn characters and an unbeatable setting: the large state house, the chaotic Atlantic. And who knows — Amanda Geard whitethorn good beryllium speechmaking her ain sanction connected a flyer for Listowel Writers’ Week successful the not-too-distant future.


The Midnight House by Amanda Geard

The Midnight House by Amanda Geard

The Midnight House by Amanda Geard

‘The Midnight House’, published by Headline Review, is retired now

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