A Rugby Roar at the End of a Series

Gerard Siggins, author of the Rugby Spirit series and this year’s World Book Day book Rugby Roar, chats about the coming to the end of a series that began as a one book adventure and turned it to something bigger and better!

BOOK SIX of my ‘Rugby Spirit’ series is just out, and it may just be the last of the set. I never planned it as a series – I suppose most first-time novelists don’t have the sort of confidence that your publishers will want to keep publishing them and your readers will keep reading them.

No, Rugby Spirit was a once-off, a combination of a bedtime story my son kept pestering to write down, and a historical itch that needed scratching. I was chuffed that O’Brien Press said they would like to issue it, and even more delighted that they told me immediately to go off and write a sequel.

The first book concerned a boy coming to a new sport and finding advice and fellowship in the ghost of a long-dead rugby player. That character, Brian Hanrahan, was the only person ever to die playing sport in Lansdowne Road. He helps Eoin to get better at rugby, but also helped him to solve a mystery and understand more about the past.

As I sat down to plan Book 2, I tossed around ideas such as keeping it just to Eoin and Brian again, or taking out the supernatural element. But I realised that I could take it on a bit by keeping Eoin and Brian and adding a new ghost to the story. Rugby Warrior brought in Dave Gallaher, an Irish-born player who was the first captain of New Zealand’s All Blacks and who died in World War One.

With a cover line that explained where it was coming from (‘Back in School, Back in Sport, Back in Time’) the book went down well and I had a bona-fide series up and running and ideas for at least two more sequels.

Lots of interesting people played rugby, and that allowed me to build plots around their corner of history while also seeing Eoin make progress in the sport with Brian. The next three came quickly:


  • Rugby Rebel (‘Discovering History, Uncovering Mystery’) featured Kevin Barry, who scored a try for Belvedere College at Lansdowne Road and was executed in the War of Independence.
  • Rugby Flyer (‘Haunting History, Thrilling Tries’) brought in Alex Obolensky, a Russian prince who fled that country during the October Revolution, learned rugby in England and scored two famous tries for his new home, against New Zealand before dying in the Second World War.
  • Rugby Runner (‘Ancient Roots, Modern Boots’) goes back to very birth of the sport and the man at the middle of its creation myth, William Webb Ellis.

Eoin was also working his way through school, all the time growing away from the 9-14 cohort that makes up most of my readers. I had long planned to stop the series at the Junior Cup and Junior Cert, which arrives when boys are around 15-16.

With that end-point in my head, and the first three books each covering a full school year, I was suddenly one year before the Junior Cert and still full of ideas of what I wanted for the series. I managed to stretch Eoin’s year into three books, and even a bonus story beyond that!

For this month sees the publication of Rugby Heroes, the series finale, followed one week later by a special add-on written for World Book Day called Rugby Roar. That’s definitely the shortest retirement in the history of fiction!

It was terribly hard to end the series, and to let go of a cast of characters who had been living in my head for seven years and I had loved working with. But I have other things I want to write about and so, after six and a half books, it’s the end of Eoin’s rugby career.

He’s not gone though, and he’s still up there in my head, enjoying the peace while I torment other new characters. And readers of Rugby Heroes, look carefully – and you might get a clue as to where Eoin will turn up next…

Gerard Siggins, February 2018

The Rugby Spirit series by Gerard Siggins is available here and in all good bookshops! Keep an eye out for Rugby Roar by Gerard Siggins in Bookshops this World Book Day!

We’re Going to…. Chat to Sarah Bowie

Happy 2018 to everyone! To start of the New Year we at OBP chatted to author and illustrator Sarah Bowie about her upcoming picture book We’re Going to the Zoo!

What inspired you to write We’re Going to the Zoo?

I have very clear memories of going to the zoo myself when I was a little girl and I wanted to remember what it was like when you’re seeing these wild and exotic creatures for the first time in real life

What was your process for creating this book?

I started very simply, with a sketchpad and pencil. I tried to bypass my ‘front brain’ by just doodling and writing as quickly as possible. After a while I started to hear a grumpy little voice saying ‘The zoo is BORING!’, which is not what I’d been aiming for at all. However, I just went with it, kept doodling and writing and listening to what she and the other characters were saying. The important thing at the early stage is not to judge, you can always go back and fix things later. So that was how I got the original proposal written. After that I focused on page layout and pacing. It’s usually at this stage that I finalise the writing too. Once that’s nailed down, I focus on the artwork.

What materials do you use when illustrating picture books?

I usually work in traditional media, but this time I decided to work digitally. I used an iPad Pro – you can draw directly onto the screen using an Apple pencil. It made the process a lot quicker, and it helped me to loosen up and be bolder with my drawing. Don’t know if I’d use it again though … we’ll see!

Could you tell us a bit about Kitty and Clara’s relationship?

In many ways they’re typical siblings. Clara, the slightly older one, has decided she’s too grown-up for silly things like drawing and going to the zoo and hanging out with her younger sister. Meanwhile Kitty still enjoys all of those things, and actually misses having her sister around.

Do you like going to the zoo? And did you enjoy going as a child?

Yes I do. It’s good to see that the animals have plenty of space to roam about it, and the fact that it helps conserve endangered species is important too. I loved the zoo as a child, there’s something magical about seeing these beautiful animals for the first time.

What is your favourite animal?

The fruit bats. I actually didn’t discover these until I was a grown-up and they stole my heart the first time I saw them. For starters, they’re surprisingly big, so you can really see their cute furry faces and their little paws. They look like teddy bears with wings to me. And they’re so full of character. I honestly could run away with all the fruit bats.


Which illustration was your favourite to draw?

Drumroll …… The FRUIT BATS!

Was the experience of creating this book different to when you working on Let’s See Ireland?

Yes, in that I was far better prepared psychologically for how difficult it is to make a picture book well. It’s so easy to lose control of things like pacing, and for the drawing to lose its consistency. With Let’s See Ireland I went down a lot of blind alley ways before I got to the end of that book. This one was a bit more straightforward.

What was your favourite picture book growing up?

It was an Omnibus of Fairy Tales. I remember I was too young to read the words, and so I would spend what seemed like hours poring over the pictures, making up my own stories.

What’s your next project?

Currently working on a comic for grown-ups … It may be a while yet before it’s finished

Oh and there’s my daily bus sketches. I’ve started to keep a sketchbook record of the people I see on my bus commute every day. There’s an archive of them here: http://www.sarahbowie.com/sketchbooks-1 and I update them Mon-Fri on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarahbowieillustration/

Sarah Bowie, January 2018

We’re Going to the Zoo by Sarah Bowie will be published in February 2018 and will be available here and in all good bookshops! Sarah Bowie’s first picture book, Let’s See Ireland is available here now and in all good bookshops!

Me and OBP

Our wonderful Publicity and Marketing intern, Aoife Harrison, wrote a blog post about her experience at The O’Brien Press.

Four months seems a relatively short space of time but, even including several Christmas seasons in retail, I think these were among the busiest four months of my life! In preparation for this blog post, I compiled a list of all my personal highlights during my internship and the events, books and general escapades I’d been involved in since I started…it was a long list.

Topping the charts, so to speak, was Culture Night 2017, which was one of my favourite experiences at The O’Brien Press. For Culture Night, The O’Brien Press offered people the unique opportunity to pitch directly to Ireland’s leading children’s publisher. Meet with a staff member at the office for a ten-minute, one-to-one pitch. It was guaranteed to be an exciting and busy night. It helped that I had spent the better part of that morning involved in the launch of Judi Curtin’s 25th book, Stand By Me, a children’s book set partly in the 1960s. The staff of Eason, O’Connell Street, were amazing and incredibly helpful. They didn’t even bat an eyelid when Ruth and I arrived at the store an hour early, laden down with yet more bags (despite the several boxes we’d sent them the day before) and proceeded to decorate their newly renovated shop with strings of paper records, blow-up flower-power guitars and multi-coloured fabric flowers strewn over every available flat surface. The school group, when they arrived, were suitably impressed with our recreation of the book cover on the stage next to Judi and I only got the mildest of funny looks before they decided I must be in costume (I was!)

After tidying the shop (and ourselves) up, we raced back to the office to help with the preparations for O’Brien Press’ Pitch Perfect Culture Night event. The excitement in the air was palpable as staff raced up and down flights of stairs. Soon, before we’d even begun to steady our nerves, though thankfully after we’d taken down the photos of cats in wedding attire (your secret is safe with me Geraldine!), the doorbell rang. It was like Opening Night of a new production, but instead of being the actors huddled in the wings, we were the audience. We just happened to be providing the stage!  Our first guests arrived and the next few hours were a whirl of handshakes, book chats, quick changes, muffled knocks and sheer exhilaration. The night was a huge success and we had so many exciting manuscripts to look forward to reading in the following weeks.

I expected life in the office to settle into a routine after that, but I was slowly learning that the energetic staff at OBP rarely paused to take a breath. One of the most memorable office events was the day we dressed up as inspiring women (or #BoldGirls in anticipation of Children’s Books Ireland’s new campaign) in aid of Trick or Treat for Temple Street. We had long (work-related, of course) discussions about costume possibilities. Amidst Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo and Countess Markievicz, I worried that my anonymous suffragette would be a little lost and lacklustre. I needn’t have worried.

The day started off normally, interrupted by the occasional burst of delighted squeals whenever somebody else revealed their costume. But then we all congregated downstairs for coffee and cake…suddenly I found myself chained to the railings outside the office, shouting ‘VOTES FOR WOMEN’ on the streets of Rathgar. I wasn’t alone though; my fellow suffragette Emma helpfully provided the chain and joined her voice with mine!


To look at our photos, you would think we spent the majority of our time in one fancy dress theme or another since the previous week had seen us dressed in all our glam-est 80s gear for the Red Rover 80s-themed table-quiz book launch. (Red Rover, Red Rover! Games from an Irish Childhood by Kunak McGann is a retro book about the games people played in the 80s – and still play now!) Our trial run of the quiz questions one lunchtime was met by enthusiasm from all, though admittedly with more success for some than for others (Elena still maintains a lack of fair questions – despite being born a decade too late to ever truly excel in 80s trivia!) But the Red Rover launch itself was a roaring success and we thoroughly enjoyed getting in the 80s spirit.

Weeks passed and the staff took more events in our stride. In singles or pairs we trekked around the country accompanying country music star, Philomena Begley, to signings and media events. This in itself caused much excitement as the popular singer always had hordes of fans ready to greet her in every location. But the next big highlight for me was the Irish Book Awards, simply because it gave me an excuse to celebrate some of my favourite OBP books of the season. Both A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea and Stand By Me claimed prizes on the night, though I will always have a special affection for Socks for Mr Wolf too – I think it was the sock I knitted for the Children’s Book Launch that solidified its place in my heart!

The Children’s Book Launch was the first BIG event I tackled with O’Brien Press and I was equal parts anxiety and anticipation. The Children’s Book Launch was a launch for all of the Autumn Children’s Books and was a huge celebration. One of my particular tasks was to come up with book-themed snacks for the guests. It seems a small thing in hindsight, but at the time I desperately wanted these snacks to be perfect! It seemed a simple idea to have a buffet of sweets, one themed for each Autumn book title. But (as I discovered trawling the shops in a panic the evening before), finding chocolate coins in September is more challenging than you’d expect. As is finding a way of representing a ‘mutant river’ that still looks both edible and appetising!  Despite my fears (and mildly escalating panic), the event went off without a hitch and the sweet buffet went down a treat.

I wasn’t exaggerating about the long list I started with and I had to shorten it considerably to include only my favourite things. Though that meant removing the parts where I talked about how welcoming everyone was and how at ease they made me feel from the very beginning; how terrifying my first meeting was (and exhilarating to survive without saying anything too stupid!); how generous everyone was with their time and how willing they were to share their experience and expertise. I learned so much and my time spent here was so worthwhile. So, finally, thank you to everyone at The O’Brien Press – I’ve never met such a hard-working, dedicated bunch of people (with, it has to be said, a flair for costume design)!

Aoife Harrison, December 2017


The Cover Design of The Woodcutter and his Family

Emma Byrne takes us through the fascinating design process that created the eye-catching cover of Frank McGuinness’s upcoming novel.

This is a novel that chronicles James Joyce as he lies on his death bed. A writer’s thoughts on his life, his children’s thoughts on their famous father, and a final story to defy them all.

Given the breadth of James Joyce’s life, and more importantly his work – a bridge, as it were, from an older tradition to a newer one – I felt that a cover inspired by the old technique of letterpress had an intriguing potential.

Letterpress was the normal way of printing text in Europe, from its invention in the mid-15th century by Gutenburg, until the late-19th century.  (The Chinese had invented ceramic moveable type in the 11th century.) Much like our digital revolution and the huge opportunities brought about by social media, Gutenburg’s moveable type changed the dissemination of information forever. Texts were no longer written by specialist scribes for the select few. Words, knowledge and ideas, could be printed and seen by many. It was an invention that brought great power.

I had used a letterpress in college, and as a budding typographer was impressed by the sheer discipline, patience and respect it gave me for letterform. Today, anyone can type an essay on their phone, if they wish, but creating something in letterpress is a game of control and endurance. Fitting letters – wood or metal type – into a chase (a metal frame) is sometimes like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. So, we use furniture (metal, wood or resin spacing tools) various em-spaced leading in different lengths –to fit the letters into the chase.

Wood type is cut and this fact tied in nicely with the title of Frank McGuinness’s second novel, The Woodcutter and His Family. I mocked up a cover approach using images of wooden type that I found online. Again, thinking about how Joyce’s work continues to connect us to an older literary tradition, I mixed a serif and a sans serif typeface. For me, the serif represents a traditional letterform and the sans serif evokes a modernist typeface. I wanted the title to fill the entire cover, so it meant breaking the word ‘woodcutter’ over three lines.


I presented the cover draft and my approach was liked by The O’Brien Press team, especially the sales team. Most importantly for us, the author himself loved the resonance that the image creates. This was progress; my next thought was when the danger loomed … I wondered if I could recreate this cover approach using only letterpress!

I contacted the National Print Museum and, to our delight, the museum’s education officer, Gretta Halpin, loved the idea too. We arranged for us to visit the museum early one morning to recreate the cover with wooden letterform, and the artisan compositor Mary Plunkett was to be our printer for the day.

The first thing to do was look for type. I noticed (with great relief) that there was plenty of wooden type. The museum had several drawers or ‘cabinets’ of wooden Caslon (a serifed font) and Frutiger (a sans serif font).

The next step was to pull out the type case of our chosen letterforms and see how they might work together.

Once we had the type together in galleys we began the slow task of fitting it to the chase. The challenge here was fitting the two fonts together. This process alone took about two hours. With the type finally placed snugly in the chase, the furniture was held in place by tightening a quoin key or a locking device.

The type was now ‘set’ (hence the term ‘typesetting’) and we then prepared the paper by cutting it to size and brought it to the Vandercook press.





Before Mary inked up the press, she ran a sheet of paper through it to see how the type might sit, that is, where it would land on the page.

A few adjustments later and the press was inked and ready for the first proof!

This way we could see the position of the type, and see if anything needed nudging or moving.

After a few further adjustments, we started the run.

And so the print that appears on the book cover, under the dust jacket was born. The image on the dust jacket shows the serif and sans serif wooden type set in their chase. Something that might take 10 minutes on a computer had taken us a number of hours. These disciplined and patient hours, immersed in the letterpress process, have given me a new appreciation of letterform, and its many iterations.



With thanks to Arts Council Ireland,  Mary Plunkett and the National Print Museum.

Emma Byrne, August 2017

The Woodcutter and his Family by Frank McGuinness will be published in September 2017 and will available here and in all good bookshops!

It’s All About the Socks for Mr Wolf

Tatyana Feeney, author and illustrator of the wonderful picture book Socks for Mr Wolf, shares her story about where this quirky character came from and shows us the awesomeness of socks!

Poor Mr. Wolf, he is so often mistaken for a fox! And although ‘socks’ and ‘fox’ rhyme, Mr Wolf was always going to be a wolf even before he had his lovely socks …

My stories usually start with a character. I like to draw the character and think about a story that might develop around them. I had been drawing a wolf character for a while; he actually started life when I was a student at art college, and I was always hoping that he would have a story, but there was never one that seemed exactly right.

I liked the idea of the wolf being a friendly character, rather than the typical ‘big, bad wolf’, but I wasn’t able to think of something that seemed like a great, original story for him.

So, I put him aside and started thinking about other stories.


I am originally from North Carolina, where the weather is usually pretty warm, so the Irish climate was a bit of a shock. My parents, my Dad in particular, worried that I would be cold here, so every year at Christmas he sent me a pair of wool socks.

The first socks he sent were pretty normal looking, but then he found socks that were warm, woolly, soft AND colourful! My Dad is colour blind, so sometimes the socks he sent weren’t ones I would have picked for myself, but I always loved them because he had gone to the trouble to choose them.

But, because I really liked the socks, over time and with lots of wear, they started to get holes and I was at a loss about what to do. I have very basic darning skills, so my repair jobs weren’t very satisfactory – even though I watched a few You Tube videos on the subject and Googled ‘sock repair’.

So my socks weren’t too fixable, but then I looked at my wolf and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe his long legs needed socks and that maybe his socks also got a hole.

Lucky for him, he is better at knitting than I am!

And that’s how his story was born. Now that the book is out in the world I am really enjoying creating new socks for him to wear on various occasions – so far he has had breast cancer awareness socks, spooky socks and Halloween socks and many, many amazing socks of all kinds created by the school children I have visited during Bookfest.

I am really looking forward to the socks that come next…


Tatyana Feeney, November 2017

Socks for Mr Wolf, is available here and in all good bookshops!

Red Rover, Red Rover!

“England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Inside, Outside, Donkeys’ Tails!” Kunak McGann, author of Red Rover, Red Rover! Games From an Irish Childhood, shares her memories of playing games as a child with her family and neighbours!

The idea for a book of childhood games has been percolating in my mind for years. Every time I had one of those ‘Remember when…?’ conversations with friends or family, I thought to myself, I really must get a move on. So it was with much excitement and no small relief that Red Rover, Red Rover – Games from an Irish Childhood has become a reality.

I grew up in Drogheda, on an estate of about forty houses, and with families of four or five children not uncommon back in the heady days of the 1980s, playmates were never in short supply. I was lucky enough to have four of the best in the form of brothers and a sister. One thing you need to know about my family is that, like most 80s kids, we were particularly snappy dressers and had fabulous haircuts (with the photographic evidence to prove it). The other is that we were nearly always up for a game of something or other.

One of our favourites was Kerbs – there was a period of a few years where the irregular thump of the ball off a kerb was to be heard most days, up and down our road. I was never really gifted with the skill set required for that game, but that never stopped me. My brothers proved more skilful, although I did eventually make up for my lack of natural ability with sheer volume of practice. My abiding memories of Kerbs, though, will always be either waiting patiently as my opponent hit kerb after kerb after kerb (how long could they keep going??), or the sheer joy on my younger brother’s face when he tried the high-scoring backward, over-the-head throw yet again and actually managed to hit the kerb. I’m pretty sure that he would have consistently scored higher if he just threw normally each time, but I was always delighted with his high-stakes gambling approach to the game.

Another surefire favourite was Elastics. Like skipping, while definitely more favoured by the girls on the street than the boys, it was by no means a unisex game. All it took was a good length of elastic, some accurate jumping, and knowledge of an appropriate song – our go-to was ‘England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Inside, Outside, Donkeys’ Tails’. We started with the elastics at ankle height, then up to knees, then thighs, bums – and on to waists, under-arms and necks for when we were feeling particularly dare-devilish. It was often easier jumping in stocking feet (without buckles or laces to catch on the elastic), and my mother will happily remind me that I ruined many a pair of socks that way. And back then, socks and sandals was a perfectly acceptable look (I swear) – so holey socks really were a problem.

And then there was that day when everyone seemed to be out on the street at the same time, kicking around and looking for something to do, and someone suggested Red Rover or Bulldog, or Rounders or a mammoth game of Forty Forty (Tip the Can). And it didn’t matter that some kids were thirteen years old and others were only five or six – hordes of us would spend the afternoon tearing about the place breaking chains, or getting home runs, or tipping the can and saving all. And when we all started getting called in for dinner, despite the hunger we went back home reluctantly, knowing that there wouldn’t be another day quite like this. Not for a while at least.

For me, Red Rover, Red Rover is a salute to those rose-tinted days, a reminder of simpler times. And it’s a thank you to all of those playmates – whether they were fellow Relievo team members, or What Time Is It, Mr Wolf? competitors, or companion Hopscotchers. I hope that they can look back and say ‘Hey, my fashion sense may have been an assault on the eyes, but at least I know for sure that we had the best fun’. I know I can, and I know my brothers and sister can. On both counts.

Kunak McGann, October 2017

Red Rover, Red Rover! is available here and in all good bookshops!

Alan Nolan on Sam Hannigan’s Woof Week

Author and illustrator Alan Nolan chats about writing, illustrating and the inspiration for Sam Hannigan’s Woof Week!

Sam Hannigan began life in one of my battered sketchbooks as a sketch of a young girl with freckles, playing an oversized guitar and wearing a cowboy hat. As with most of my characters, she came into my head in the middle of the night, cowboy hat and all, and I scrambled at the side of my bed for a sketchpad and a pencil to get her down on paper before she pulled up the bedroom window blind and escaped. As usual, to avoid waking my wife, this was drawn almost completely in the dark – when I woke up in the morning I had to make sense of the manic, spidery scribble, which I’d jammed into my shoe so I’d remember I’d done it in the first place.

Beside the sketch I had written ‘Brianna Buckley, plays guitar, eats dog biscuits, best friend is a boy, bully brother, parents country music fans = Dolly and Kenny, big dog, brain swap’.

I pitched the idea to The O’Brien Press. They loved the character of Brianna Buckley, but didn’t much like the name Brianna. They also thought the storyline – with Brianna as an X-Factor-like contestant brain-swapping with a dog and competing in the TV programme against her parents, Derek and Dodo, whilst trying to save (a) her house from being repossessed and (b) an international Russian supermodel and an emperor penguin from the clutches of a gangster called Terry the Thump ­– was a little convoluted and not overly child-friendly. ‘Think about who you are writing for,’ said Ivan. ‘Are you writing for children or for yourself?’

Aha! I thought. He’s completely right. But the child I wanted to write for was the child I was when I was ten. So the main character in the book became Sam Hannigan. She’s an animal lover (just like the ten-year-old me), who lives in a ramshackle house with a crackers-crazy granny (also just like the ten-year-old me). Actually, my granny, Lizzie-Bun, wasn’t that bad; she was only lightly loopy. It was her mother, Nanny Gigg, who was the certifiable one, and I ended up working some of Gigg’s true-life fruitcake antics into the story. When I was ten, and wasn’t busy reading comics or Roald Dahl or Agaton Sax adventures or Tintin books, I’d spend hours imagining what it would be like to suddenly and without warning be turned into a dog – to arrive into class one morning ignoring the stares and cat-calls of my classmates; to answer the teacher with a woof instead of an anseo when she called the roll. To aid my imagination, I’d spend hours walking around the house and scrubby garden on all fours. I’d sneak dog biscuits out from under the sink, and then, at dinner times, demand that my granny put my spuds and fish fingers in a bowl on the lino-covered floor. So I suppose I’ve been preparing to tell the story of Sam Hannigan, the human dog, for my whole life.

The revised storyline, once I started listening to my inner, female, ginger ten-year-old self, flowed quite easily. Brianna Buckley became Sam Hannigan, named after my beloved Third Class school teacher Miss Hannigan, who read Anne Holm’s I Am David aloud in class and made all of the thirty-two hardy boys under her care cry. Sam’s BFF became Ajay Patel and her arch-enemy became ‘Jolly’ Roger Fitzmaurice, the dog biscuit king. Much simpler.

To maintain style continuity with my other books, Fintan’s Fifteen and Conor’s Caveman, I added several pages of comic strip. These illustrated pages help to break up the text, as well as adding background and an extra narrative voice, which I find enhances the storytelling. Plus, I’m a huge comic nerd. For story continuity, I set the story of Woof Week in Clobberstown, the same fictional suburb of Dublin 24 that features in Conor’s Caveman. On the prompting of one of my lovely editors at The O’Brien Press, Nicola Reddy, Conor’s Caveman himself, Ogg, makes a cameo appearance. (Aoife Walsh, my other editor, also made some sterling observations!)


As I not only write, but also illustrate and design the books myself, a new book can be a mammoth task. But working on this book really was a labour of love: I love the town of Clobberstown, and I love the Nolan family stories that have now become Hannigan family stories too. But most of all, I love the chirpy, feisty, fearless figment of my imagination, Sam Hannigan. I hope you enjoy her story, and I can’t wait to take her on more adventures.

Alan Nolan, September 2017

Sam Hannigan’s Woof Week is available here and in all good bookshops!



On the Road with Sarah Through Ireland’s Ancient East

Rep on the Road

Our sales representative, Sarah Cassidy, tells us all about being on the road, exploring Ireland on a daily basis and Ireland’s Ancient East.

The job of being a sales representative for The O’Brien Press involves visiting bookshops and other retail outlets throughout Ireland. One day you can be in Belfast and the next Galway or Waterford. It is a great perk of the job to be able to visit every corner of the country, particularly when the sun is shining, the sky is clear and Ireland’s breathtaking scenery is at its best. Some days the Atlantic Ocean is so blue I think about pulling the car over and going for a paddle but I soon remember I’m in Ireland and the likelihood of my poor toes being frozen off is quite high! Instead I grab my lunch from the car, perch on a nearby stonewall and listen to the sound of the rolling waves as I munch on my ham sandwich. Feeling energised by Ireland’s natural beauty (or the bucket of coffee I picked up at Barack Obama Plaza), it is back to the car and on the road again to the next customer.

The Rock of Cashel

It is not just Ireland’s coastal roads that offer beautiful scenery; the countryside and rolling hills that are often dotted with the ruins of castles and monasteries can be so vibrant and green in spring and summer, riotous with russet and gold tones in autumn and captivating coated in early morning frost in the depths of winter. This year in particular, the O’Brien Press reps gained a new appreciation for the countryside and the sights that can be found on the eastside of our beautiful island. We have been selling Carsten Krieger’s fifth book with The O’Brien Press, Ireland’s Ancient East. Filled with fantastic photographs and captions from this talented photographer, Ireland’s Ancient East is the perfect book to guide you around the east side of the country. Linking the Stone Age period with Saint Patrick, the Vikings with the Normans, Ireland’s eastern counties are abundant with monuments and relics that bring to life the stories of our ancestors. Whether you are an armchair traveller or looking to get out and explore the delights of our ancient east, this book is a great place to start! We put it to the test as we took to the roads to sell our autumn list.


Ireland’s Ancient East spans the area outside of Dublin and east of the River Shannon, extending from Carlingford in County Louth to County Cavan and south to Cork City, including East County Cork and East County Limerick and across to Rosslare Harbour. There is so much to see and do! We started in Meath at the UNESCO World Heriatage Site, Brú na Bóinne (meaning the ‘palace’ or the ‘mansion’ of the Boyne). This is the site of Newgrange, a passage tomb found in the Boyne Valley area. Built around 3200 BC this phenomenal structure is older than both Stonehenge in England and the pyramids of Giza in Egypt! Newgrange is a large circular mound, 85 metres in diameter and 13.5 metres high. The mound is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are engraved with megalithic carvings. Inside is a 19 metre stone passageway, chambers and a roof-box. It is here that Newgrange reveals itself to be more than your average megalithic tomb. Every year on the winter solstice as the sun rises over the tomb, the beam of light travels through the roof-box, illuminating the chamber within for 17 minutes. The visitor centre holds an annual lottery for tickets as only a limited number of people can actually enter the passage tomb and witness what our ancestors created almost 5,000 years ago. So if you do visit make sure to get your name in the draw!

Trim Castle

From here we travelled on to the heritage town of Trim which is alive with history. Close to the River Boyne it is surrounded by rich, fertile land that provided an ideal location for a medieval settlement. Trim Castle on the outskirts of the town is one of the finest examples of a Norman castle in Ireland. You might recognise it: Trim Castle and its surroundings featured heavily in the movie Braveheart (‘They may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom!’). Sloping down from the castle gate is a winding path leading down to the town and what would have been a busy medieval market place. Although little evidence of shops or taverns remains in Trim, street names indicate that such establishments did exist. Take Fishamble Street, for example. This street name survived as such up until the 18th century. Likewise Cornmarket Street suggests an area where corn was sold. From Trim we headed south towards the garden of Ireland, County Wicklow. This gorgeous county is a haven for day-trippers from Dublin and meandering Sunday drivers for a reason. There are so many glorious sights: the majestic Powerscourt waterfall where you can picnic on a sunny day, the valley of Glendalough and St Kevin’s monastery, the many walkways, hills and mountains calling out for a climb and, of course, the gorgeous beaches, seaside towns and locally made ice-cream!


The Wicklow Mountains

We headed on to the medieval town of Kilkenny with its cobblestone streets and magnificently preserved 12th-century castle but the skies opened up and the rain poured down meaning the camera never made it out! The same happened in Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city founded by Viking raiders in AD 914. Waterford is the largest settlement in Ireland to retain its original Norse- or Viking-derived place name, Vaderfiord, meaning ‘haven from the windswept sea’. It wasn’t quite the haven we hoped for but beautiful none the less!

Brittas Beach

This is only a fraction of what is out there to discover on Ireland’s Ancient East. Carsten’s gorgeous photos have given us ideas about where we would like to explore next. It was great to take some time and become tourists in our own country, appreciating the beauty and stories right on our doorstep. We would encourage you to get out there and embrace Ireland’s Ancient East! It has a lot to offer with plenty of history, nature, locally produced food, photo opportunities and, of course, bookshops! Or you could always just pick up a copy of the book and go touring in your mind…

Sarah Cassidy, July 2017

Thank you to our sales reps Sarah and Brenda for the photographs.

Ireland’s Ancient East is available here and in all good bookshops!

Marketing & Publicity Internship

Irish publishing house The O’Brien Press is seeking a Marketing & Publicity Intern.

The position involves providing administrative assistance to the department across all areas of marketing, publicity and events and offers the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experience in marketing & publicity as well as other aspects of the publishing environment.

The successful candidate will be energetic, enthusiastic, highly organised and will be able to work well on their own and as part of a team. They will be able to work well under pressure. They will be proficient in MS Office (Word, Excel) and Outlook. Experience with InDesign and/or an interest in social media would be a bonus. This position would be ideally suited to graduates who are seeking to gain experience in publishing, and in the area of marketing and publicity, in particular.

This is a paid internship starting in July, finishing in November 2017, 5 days a week.

Please apply with CV to The O’Brien Press at publicity@obrien.ie

Closing date for receipt of applications is 5pm on Friday 23rd June 2017.

A Week of Blooming Wisdom

Jamie O’Connell, editor and selector of Best-Loved Joyce, guides us through a week of Joycean quotes in the lead up to Bloomsday. Jamie also chats about James Joyce and what Bloomsday means to him.

A Week of Blooming Wisdom

All moanday, tearsday, wailsday, thumpday, frightday, shatterday…

Finnegans Wake

To celebrate the Bloomsday Festival that runs over the coming days (Bloomsday being Friday 16th), I’ve taken some quotes from Best-Loved Joyce that have inspired me, and I hope they inspire you. Using Joyce’s iconic days of the week in Finnegans Wake, here are seven(ish!) of my favourite Joyce quotes, which showcase some of his profound insights:


I want to see everyone… all creeds and classes… having a comfortable tidysized income… I call that patriotism.



The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What is beautiful is another question.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


If Socrates leave his house today he will find the sage seated on his doorstep. If Judas go forth tonight it is to Judas his steps will tend. Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-law, but always meeting ourselves



One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.

‘The Dead’, Dubliners


She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed

‘A Mother’, Dubliners


To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher


What is it about James Joyce that you love? Is it the man himself or his work or both?

For me, Joyce is the epitome of the Oscar Wilde quote, ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’. Many of the personal choices he made in his life would not have been choices I would’ve made; in fact, some of them were extremely destructive (he put his poor wife Nora Barnacle, along with other members of his family, through the wringer!). However, he had great integrity and vision when it came to his art. Out of the ‘lumps of earth’ (as he called it) he created work of great beauty and integrity, unflinching in it’s descriptions of human nature. His commitment and courage when it came to his craft/art is a inspiration for any writer.

If you could meet James Joyce today what would you ask him?

You took the ‘road less traveled’. What gave you the courage to do this?

What is your favourite James Joyce book or piece of literature?

My favourite work has shifted throughout the years. It is as Marcel Proust says (I paraphrase): we don’t read books, we read ourselves. As someone who was brought up in an extremely religious environment, in my twenties I could see myself in the struggles of Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Of course, Dubliners was the most accessible of his work – it’s a cliché, I know, but ‘The Dead’ is definitely a favourite! Right now, I think Ulysses is my favourite work – it’s the work that I found the most wisdom and riches in when I was compiling Best-Loved Joyce.

Do you think Bloomsday is an important celebration and if so, why?

I think anything that highlights great literature can only be a good thing. Studies have repeatedly show that people who read regularly have higher levels of empathy and, in a world where it seems like empathy is vanishing and being replaced by fear of ‘the other’, literary festivals like Bloomsday, which encourage people to pick up a book, are not simply ‘entertainment’ or a form of ‘distraction’, they are part of the movement that keeps human nature from being drawn towards it’s more dangerous instincts.

Do you celebrate Bloomsday every year and if so what do you do?

For the last couple of years, while working on this text, I’ve had a ‘Bloomsday’ experience on a regular basis! This year I’m actually delighted to be giving a talk on Bloomsday (Friday 16th June) in Rathgar on ‘How Joyce can Change Your Life.’ (giving my event a little plug there!). Ten years ago, I avoided Joyce like the plague – now I have great admiration for him as a fan – I’m no academic. I’d like to contribute to the Bloomsday celebrations by offering people like myself, non-academics, a chance to understand some of the beauty and wisdom of Joyce’s work.

Jamie O’Connell, June 2017

Best-Loved Joyce is a beautiful and accessible introduction to the writings of James Joyce. Short, entertaining quotes from his major works: Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, with more from his poetry & letters, and some family anecdotes handed down to grand-nephew Bob Joyce.
Best-Loved Joyce was published in May 2017 and is available here and in all good bookshops!
To celebrate Bloomsday we are offering 20% discount on all James Joyce related titles if you buy online at www.obrien.ie until Friday 23rd June –  Blooming Marvellous!