Wednesday, August 7, 2013

There's Good and Bad in All Walks of Life. A Guest Post About Ignorance, Suspicion, and Travellers Beneath Irish Skies

Credit goes to Corbis Images
Please welcome the new Choc Lit Publishing team, Isabella Connor (pen-name of Val Olteanu and Liv Thomas), as they talk about Irish Travellers, the prejudice against them, and writing Beneath an Irish Sky, their new book.

I'd like to note...I did not know the difference between Gypsies and Travellers until Liv told me. Gypsies are descended from Romanies and may also be Jewish. Travellers are Irish. There is a difference, many actually. 

Travellers are a very close society. It isn't easy to find someone who will open up to you, and initially, we did use a lot of poetic licence in order to get the story underway.

Libraries were the first port of call, before we turned to the internet. Google was useful, as were Facebook and Twitter, and we were able to verify a lot of things thanks to a couple of very helpful Travellers, who were quite fascinated - and surprised - that we'd written a book with an Irish Traveller as the main protagonist. One actually said, "You're brave." That wasn't something we'd thought at the time, but the more we delved into the subject, the more we realised that feelings really can run very deep. We were told at one point, by a professional writer, that our book would anger people who'd had problems with Travellers, and could we not change it.

Well, as shocked as we were, that idea was never an option. There's no doubt that there are issues between Travellers and the settled community, but how much of that is down to ignorance and suspicion - from both sides? We can all get uptight about the damage and the mess left behind when Travellers leave a site - but the truth is, there's filth and damage everywhere, not just from Travellers. Of course, they're not totally innocent, but nor are they, as a community, as black as they're painted. It's an old cliche, but there really is good and bad in all walks of life.

Talking to Travellers, has been an eye-opener. We won't pretend to be experts - we're not, by a long way. Our knowledge is still very limited. We know what we needed to know for the book, and we may have made mistakes in which case, we will plead poetic licence! What we do know is that the subject has become very dear to our hearts and there's so much more we want to learn. This old culture is fascinating, but in danger of being suffocated by modern day pressures instead of being allowed to flourish. Both Travellers and the settled community can learn from each other, but both need understanding and respect.

All we can say is, our limited experience with the Travelling community has been a positive one, and we feel richer for it. There's far more to them than Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

Beneath an Irish Sky

Jack Stewart thought he'd put the past behind him. On the surface, he has everything success, money, a big house and he is never short of an attractive woman by his side, but a tragic road accident shatters Jack's world.

Raised as an Irish Traveller, Luke Kiernan hasn't had it easy, and when he wakes in a Dublin hospital to find the man he's hated since childhood at his bedside, he's hungry for revenge.Two very different worlds collide, bringing new dangers, exposing past deceits, and unearthing dark family secrets buried long ago. But from tragedy springs the promise of a fresh start with two women who are intent on helping Jack and Luke mend their lives.

Can new love heal old wounds, or are some scars there for good?

About the Authors:
Liv Thomas lives in England. Val Olteanu lives in Canada. They met on a Tolkien fan forum and decided to write a novel together. Despite living some 4,700 miles apart (and with an 8-hour time difference), they succeeded in producing their debut novel, ‘Beneath an Irish Sky,’ which is now available as eBook and paperback. They write under the pen-name of Isabella Connor and are already deep into co-authoring their second novel.


  1. Tara, thanks so much for hosting us on your lovely blog. We appreciate the opportunity.

    Liv x

  2. I have always liked stories of Irish Travelers and Romanian Gypsies, so this might be a good read for me.