August 9, 2012

Guest Post: A Quick and Dirty Guide to Ireland by Violetta Vane

Weeks ago, author Heidi Belleau shared with us the anatomy of a co-written scene. Today the other co-writer, Violetta Vane, is here to tell us a bit of their research process. So get ready to meet Violetta, their Irish friend, Emma, and Ireland!

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Ireland
by Violetta Vane

Heidi and I write some pretty research-intensive stuff, and one reason is because we enjoy the research process in and of itself. Another reason is that we’re passionate about settings. I like reading and writing stories with vivid settings; the characters seem more real to me, their stories more exciting. So when we decided to write a story set in Ireland, I was absolutely thrilled. Colorful Ireland! And then I thought, wait a second, what do I really know about Ireland? Despite my fanatical devotion to the Father Ted comedy series (or perhaps because of it), the answer was... I don’t know very much at all.

Luckily, Heidi knows more about Ireland. Her husband is Irish, and she often chats with her Irish in-laws. She’s visited Ireland, and she’s studied a bit of the history of Ireland in college. But even if you fancy yourself an expert (which Heidi doesn’t; more like an enthusiast really), there’s nothing better than getting the thoughts and opinions of a local. For that, we turned to Emma, a Dublin native and good friend, who acted as a beta-reader and Irish-picker. In case you’re wondering, “picker” refers to a person who is an expert on a given subject (usually a local of whatever place you’re writing about) who can advise you on language and cultural nit-picks and help make your piece as authentic as possible. 

We did a lot of research on our own. We already knew that our “sidewalk” is their “pavement,” our “pavement” is their “tarmac,” and nobody says “Begorrah!” They do say “feck,” but it’s not an exact substitution for the other f-word. Still, without Emma, we would have included quite a few unfortunate errors. Some were big and some of them were little, but all of them were important. For example, we described a fence at an abandoned warehouse, and the jagged top of the fence had some plastic bags caught on it. This would be a common sight in the US or Canada, but Emma reminded us that Ireland is pretty strict about making people pay for plastic bags, and as a result that’s simply not something that’d be seen. So we took it right out.

As a treat for you all, we’re lending Emma out (so to speak) by asking her a few questions about Ireland, in case you’d someday like to write something set there yourself.

So without further ado... Emma!

What’s the most embarrassing book you’ve ever read set in Ireland?

Um, unfortunately, so very many to choose from!  Naming no names, to protect the guilty, but nearly any book that tries to write about the Travelling community gets it wrong. In most cases, when it’s not cringe-inducing, it’s either horrifically embarrassing or just plain offensive.

I can forgive a lot for writers that have nostalgia tinted glasses on when they write about Ireland, but creating a bucolic ideal and trying to sell it as how Ireland is now really irritates me. Ireland has moved with the times, honest! And, if you’re going with that idealised version of Ireland and slap a dodgy and uncomfortably written sex scene in the middle of it, I reserve the right to be traumatised for life.

Is there a stereotype you particularly hate?

Paddy Irishman. Just, no.

And to burst a few illusions, redheads? Are not that common.

Is there a stereotype that makes you laugh uncontrollably?

Paddy Irishman, especially one with an “Oirish” accent.  Mainly, because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry.  Or the one that assumes that every Irish person knows every other Irish person.  Trust me, there are people in this country I’ve never met, and never will.  It’s a small country, yes, but many people fit in.

What’s your favorite book set in Ireland, by anyone?

Here is where my inner sprog shows! It would probably be Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.  Yes, it’s a children’s book (or, young adult if you need to be picky), yes, it has plot twists you can see a mile off, yes, it’s at the heart of it a silly caper, but it still has a warm space in my heart.  Somehow it manages to catch something about the greed at the beginning of the Celtic Tiger and overlay it with a slightly other-worldly view of the Irish country that is a little bit lyrical, a little bit melancholy and whole dose of humour poured on top. The nostalgia that I get from reading it doesn’t hurt either.

What’s your favorite thing about being Irish/living in Ireland?

The banter – Irish people love words, or maybe just the sound of our own voices.  Everybody’s got to get the last word in, it’s practically a national pastime. We whine, tease, mock, wind up and pout.  Keeping up with it is fun!

What are one or two things books/movies/people in general always get wrong about Ireland?

The accent and the dialogue.  Nothing will throw me out quicker than a badly acted accent, or dialogue that doesn’t run properly.  Possibly, the fact that most representations of Ireland in various media seem to be between ten to twenty years behind the time.  Yes, some things in Ireland are timeless, but we do have the internet and coffee.

What’s one sort of innocuous thing about Ireland that, when people include it, it makes the story feel real/authentic? 

The smell of chipper-chips. It bites and tempts and jumps straight to the ‘feed me now’ section of the brain.  If you can get that on paper, I will adore you forever!  Or, more importantly, dialogue.  Hiberno-English has a pace and feel that is different to straightforward English. Mainly, this has to do with the remains of Irish (Gaeilge) structure that has managed to embed its way into our modern language. Also, a very magpie like approach to words helps, even if it ends up with a slightly out of kilter end product.  Sallow in Ireland is a good thing, the rest of the world needs to catch up.   

Stage Irish accents never get this pacing and rhythm or word usage in place, and worse than the miserable attempts at pronunciation, they never get the flow right.  It hurts both ear and soul!

What’s your number one piece of advice for people who want to write about Ireland?

Visit!  Hop on a bus, try listen in on conversation (public transport is awesome that way!), or slouch round a pub, Irish people banter nearly continuously, and it’s a great way to pick up the way Irish people approach language. Seriously, once you’ve got an Irish person waffling, we can go on about nothing at length, so make sure you’re comfortable. Or, if you’re still in the pub and wondering what to do, work on a hangover, and cure it with a well applied Smarties Sunday. But nobody can complain about that, yes?

Thanks, Emma!

So there you have it, Ireland enthusiasts! Support Irish tourism and claim it as a work expense. Or I suppose you could watch an Irish tv show or movie or documentary, in a pinch. Just make sure it’s not Gerard Butler inPS: I Love You, alright?


The Druid Stone is available now from Carina PressAmazon, or ARe. Other retailers are listed on the book's website,, which also has links to the rest of the blog tour, with chances to win free copies.


Sean never asked to be an O'Hara, and he didn't ask to be cursed by one either. 
After inheriting a hexed druid stone from his great-grandfather, Sean starts reliving another man's torture and death...every single night. And only one person can help. 
Cormac Kelly runs a paranormal investigation business and doesn't have time to deal with misinformed tourists like Sean. But Sean has real magic in his pocket, and even though Cormac is a descendant of legendary druids, he soon finds himself out of his depth...and not because Sean's the first man he's felt anything for in a long time. 
The pair develop an unexpected and intensely sexual bond, but are threatened at every turn when Sean's case attracts the unwelcome attention of the mad sidhe lords of ancient Ireland. When Sean and Cormac are thrust backward in time to Ireland's violent history—and their own dark pasts—they must work together to escape the curse and save their fragile relationship.

Connect with Heidi 

Connect with Violetta


  1. This was an awesome guest post! I feel bad for the Ireland native who has to contend with fiction that includes Ireland that hasn't been properly researched.

    And Kudos to the authors for taking the initiative and seeking out someone who could advise them on Ireland, the traditions, customs, and language. It seems that that will go a long way in making their story more authentic.

    I love Emma's Ireland advice. In the past year I've fallen in love with that movie Leap Year, but now I'm wondering how accurate a portrayal it was of Ireland and it's people.

  2. We did our best, but I'm groaning right now because I realized we did actually include a couple wrong references to "blocks" and "sidewalks," even in the final version. Not Emma's fault! They just slipped us—we might have thought they were in a different POV.

    I haven't seen Leap Year, but the reviewer from the Irish Times really really really REALLY didn't like it... 0_0

    Thank you very much for commenting, and I'm glad you enjoyed the post!


Blogger likes to eat comments, so I suggest copying it before hitting "publish" just in case it doesn't go through the first time. This is a pain, I know, but it's the only solution/prevision I can think of, and it will save you the frustration of losing a comment. Also, thanks for visiting!

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