Catherine Doyle's ancestral home of Arranmore Island

Catherine Doyle“A voice inside me told me to go.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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The Ryan Tubridy Show is on the road this week, travelling all along The Wild Atlantic Way. The team kicked off their odyssey in Donegal Town this morning with a two-hour special. One of the guests Ryan welcomed aboard ‘the chip-van’ (his affectionate nickname for the Radio 1 Roadcaster) was award-winning author Catherine Doyle.

Catherine grew up in Galway, but her connection to Arranmore Island in Co. Donegal is at the heart of her family history and her present-day success. Her children’s novel, The Storm Keeper’s Island, and its soon to be published sequel, The Lost Tide Warriors, were both inspired by the island as well as the sea-faring tales of her ancestors.

A couple of years ago, Catherine was at a bit of a loose end in terms of her writing. She told Ryan that having completed a trilogy of Young Adult novels, she was in desperate need of inspiration.

“I was looking for something to write about. I was at a crossroads in my life, I didn’t know if I would keep writing and then this invitation arrived from my cousin Caroline who lives on Arranmore… a voice inside me told me to go.”

Arriving on Arranmore to teach creative writing for a week, Catherine felt different the moment she stepped off the ferry.

“Coming back as an adult I think I saw it through different eyes. I was suddenly more interested in my own history and where I came from, who were my people.”

Catherine’s grandparents were born, grew up and fell in love on Arranmore. As a young couple they emigrated to Chicago, returning to Ireland many years later with four children. They struggled to adjust to island life on their return and moved to Galway where they, and Catherine, live today. Primarily a children’s book, Catherine maintains there’s so much of her grandparents in The Storm Keeper’s Island, that it’s allowed her to connect with them in a new way.

“So much of their story is interwoven with the magical and the adventure side of it that I think it’s already a love letter to them. It’s already part of who they are.”

The grandfather character in Catherine’s book has Alzheimer’s disease, Ryan wondered whether her grandfather was also dealing with the illness.

“About the time that I went to Arranmore initially, my grandfather was starting to enter the initial stages of memory loss which made the idea of this island that holds its people and their stories long after they’re gone, even more important to me and so that was the inspiration behind the book, to write a grandfather who has Alzheimer’s but isn’t defined by it.”

It seems as though the story resonated with an audience far beyond the shores of Arranmore. A bestseller, The Storm Keeper’s Island won countless awards and has been translated into 16 languages to date. As Catherine prepares for the release of its sequel The Lost Tide Warriors, the island remains a source of inspiration.

“I’ve to write three more books set on Arranmore island, so I’m going to go and mine for more stories.”

The Lost Tide Warriors published by Bloomsbury, is set for release in July.

You can listen to Ryan and Catherine’s conversation in full on The Ryan Tubridy Show here.

 

© The Listener 2019

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