Serina Hartwell Author of Hidden Answers Five Questions

English author Serina Hartwell's novel Hidden launches a multi-book fantasy saga featuring a family that appears to straddle two worlds - one a suburban or rural Earth community, the other a fantasy realm.
What inspired your novel?

One day I had an urge to have a go at writing something. I just wondered if I could do it, the compulsion really strong. I sat down at an old computer that a friend had given me – a big bulky tower set up in an awkward place – and wrote a couple of pages. I started striking the keys, instantly finding a storyline. The weirdest thing, but it felt natural and comfortable. It got interrupted and I never went back to it.

Soon after, the computer died and that was that. The urge remained, it grew in strength; on a handful of occasions in my life, I’ve had dreams that have been so profound, they have not only stayed with me, but marked a significant point in my life. I now dreamt about writing in this way.

Waiting for the right moment was emotional. The burst of excitement, all the more concentrated by the anticipation, found its opportunity one August day in 2010. Everything fell into place that day; I had some free time with no interruptions, borrowed a family laptop and headed down the garden. I feel the butterflies now, like holding a winning lottery ticket on a windy day. One false move and the whole thing could be a disaster. I opened a Word document and began typing. I wrote the opening chapter of Hidden. I haven’t looked back.

You can check out some of my specific inspirations at my Pinterest.

To be honest, I thought [main protagonist] Bronte was too young for YA at the outset of your first book in the series, Hidden. But look at Mark Twain's fiction - he pitched Tom Sawyer originally as a book for adults, and his publishers said "No, we should pitch it at children." and he's regarded as one of the figureheads of American literature today.

Haha. Those were my sentiments exactly.

Because I knew where I was going with it, I knew that the next book would be a problem if I aimed it too low, plus the story is too complex for younger children. I'm aiming it at the lower end of YA through to adult. I was going to start them off as adults, but knew there was a story leading up to where I intend to start the saga.

I didn't want to miss out. I did consider only briefly visiting their childhood and then moving on to where we start with them in Trapped, but again, the story wouldn't let me.

It turned out to be much bigger than I imagined in the beginning. Once you start, once you open that floodgate, the story will take you to where it wants to go. You should never fight that, because that is part of the process.

Even if it undermines the potential for a big readership?

Have you ever been to the cinema with a child and watched something like The Incredibles or Despicable Me?  As you sit in the audience, watching what is essentially a children's movie, you will look around and see the adults laughing even harder than the kids.

The creator of the movie was clever enough to put enough in for both audiences.
I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga before writing my saga, and found that she provoked feelings in me, emotions that I hadn't felt as a child. I had buried them as redundant.

When I began writing, I had no idea what the story was going to be, or where it was going to take me, because really, this is my journey that I am sharing with the world. I only knew that I was going to do my best to draw on as many emotions as possible, because I personally wanted to relive what I'd just rediscovered.

I wanted to hate and laugh and fall in and out of love again. I wanted to explore the real aspects of bullying, which is something I have to deal with every day as part of my day job [working in a school as a librarian and counsellor addressing children’s social and emotional problems].

Really, I was just being selfish in some respects, because I write and explore what I want to or need to and I suppose this is just my way of sharing complex issues with the world.

The first book is aimed low, and the main theme is love, friendships, being on the cusp of becoming a teenager and stretching those boundaries for all they are worth.

Bullying, discovery and yet still being a child.

I've aimed it as low as being suitable for a 12 year old, and they will identify with and take from it what they need, but for the older end of YA and even adults, they will be taken back, hopefully, like I was, and allowed to explore these emotions again.
My inspiration came from so many places, but this was my motivation.

What about how long it takes for you to write? What’s your process?

On average, I will write three to five thousand words in a single session. If I write less then I'm having a bad writing day.

My record is 7000 ish, in a day, but it was really flowing

The most I've ever written at once was 60,000 in 12 days. That's for my third book, The 
Awakening, by the way.

But then I ran out of holiday, I had to go back to work and lost all that amazing writing energy. It's so precious when it comes.

And what about drafting? How many of those 7000 words are going to be read by your readers?

It comes from the heart. If I don't like it when I'm typing it, then I'll go do something else until I'm in the right frame of mind. I do, however, do many rewrites.

I like to look for shopping lists, and I like to look through all my bad habits. Ha!

I have many and I'm starting to learn what they are now, but that's how I teach myself to write, through trial and error. Through making the adjustments, I find that it becomes learnt and I'm far less likely to make that mistake again, unless it's ingrained and then even a nuclear bomb wouldn't shift that.

You can like or follow Serina on Facebook and Twitter

Serina Hartwell's saga begins with Hidden, and continues with its sequel, called Trapped. Hidden can be found here on Amazon.

Exit Polls for Ireland's General Election GE16

Polling man George Brisk here with the numbers AS THEY HAPPEN:

9.45 a.m. Here is the brisk Breakfast Exit poll or the BREXIT* poll for Ireland's General Election 2016.

9 a.m. There's a quick swing to the left and a brisk shift to the right and a bit-dibby-doo and a skip-to-the-loo.
An bhfuil cead agam dul go dt√≠ an leithreas? 
No. Just keep fecken counting those fecken things!

8.27 a.m. Is there a possibility that a vast coalition of lefties could be formed, like a sort of massive Power Rangers machine with common-sensical social policies and an insistence that the bundhulders are finally burned? Not really, no.

8 a.m. It is starkly clear that those blueshirt bastards might just have to form a government with the soldiers of destiny, emerging from the mists of the Ackalancktic, and the Vicar of Christ him very self standing alongside the lot of them, the self same Papaya Franchesco who studied the Ang-al-azee here in the 70s, as a sea shanty town wails in bewildered pain at the ongoing homelessness.

7 a.m. Inda visits the wrong president to explain to him: "A lot done. More to-do with this election than the last one, and we're up the creek. The outboard moher is kaput! Where's my paddle?"

Inda with God, being awarded his certificate to say "You're outta here, Tee-shock!"
11pm last night: Polling station Masters- and Mistresses-General around the country count their boxes, zip them up, and put the seals on them for the counting next Tuesday and put them into the Eddie Shto-barrrt lurries. 
Why next Tuesday? Coz of the Council matters and, like, you know, the weekend and the Sunday is for the Mass, and Monday you can't really - you can't really start counting things on a Monday. It's bad karma.

10.38pm last night: On a farm near Clones, Kinety Monaghan, a forlorn man stands outside a large shed with a blinking neon sign above it displaying the words LAUGHING STOCK. Inside are hundreds of computer terminals. On the screen of each machine is the face of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, smiling and unchanged since 2005.
It's all on the record!
 The farmer flips a switch, and the screens and the neon sign fade to black.

He despondently but briskly closes up the shed, sniffling into his silk handkerchief.

9pm last night: Voters like visits to polling stations like they like their weather: Brisk.

ALL DAY FRIDAY: And coming in on the Twitter machine, about sixty percent of everyone was voting yesterday except Richard Boyd-Barrett, who briskly put his vote - in protest - into the washing machine in an effort to clean up the political system:

*BREXIT is a cool word invented for breakfast exit polls. Nobody is allowed to use it in any other context.

Crap Jokes Saturday

Now three jokes for Crap Jokes Saturday!

What do you call a bean grown in the hydroponics garden off a molecular gastronomist's kitchen, that's been genetically enhanced to taste like cheese?
An Elemental Emmental Lentil.


A dog walks into a bar. The barman says:

Heya fella. Where's your owner? Huh? Where's your owner? Show me that collar there! That's a good fella. C'mere to me!

The dog was ultimately reunited with his owner, because he'd been responsibly micro-chipped. That's no joke! That's serious!


"Is it illegal to spit, officer?" a drunk man asked an
Irish policeman.
"Well," the policeman said, contemplating the question. "It depends on what you're spitting at."

~This joke is based on a true story

How To Cook Stefan Edberg A L'Orange

You'll never guess who I ran into at an event this morning held by the Irish Tennis Association. That's right - none other than World Champion tennis star Stefan Edberg!

Here's a photo if you don't remember him!

Swedish Stefan was World Number One in the early 1990s. He attended an event in Dublin to talk about his career highs, when he played against the likes of Boris Becker and John McEnroe at Wimbledon!


We're lucky in Dublin because it's a small city, but because it's the Irish capital, we frequently attract big names that larger European cities might not get!

I didn't have a chance to take a photo with Stefan, but he was still in great shape, with nice muscle tone, and he was a funny and charming speaker.

He came out, wearing one of his colorful shirts, to enthusiastic applause. He was trim and lean, and I really liked the shirt he was wearing. 

So today, I'll show you how I intend to cook this Swedish gentleman, who was both kind - and foolish - enough to chat with me in a quiet corner of the conference centre where the event took place. Don't you like the shirt he was wearing? It's super-retro! I've been wearing it since I left the event this afternoon, and I've been getting compliments from everybody! 

Creative cuisine is something I take very seriously. So my idea is to slow-cook Stefan, and during this process, I will both baste and marinade him in an orange sauce.

I'm just testing the oranges now - they're pretty tasty, not too sweet, and they'll be great as a base(line)!

What I plan to do then is to populate the plates on which slices of Stefan will be served, with whole citrus fruits - because the limes, lemons and oranges look a lot like tennis balls. Then I will garnish with parsley and vegetables. 

Robert will then be my father's brother! 

Join me again for more Creative Cuisine! And please support me in my campaign to eat Tom Cruise too!

10 Questions with Author of Dublin Seven Frankie Gaffney

Juliana Scodeler Photography
As he says himself in this Irish Times piece, Frankie Gaffney has an unusual background for a writer of literary fiction, growing up on a council estate before moving to live in the inner city in his teens. His seven-chapter debut novel, Dublin Seven – inspired and influenced by Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man and Joyce’s ‘Linati schema’ for Ulysses, and stream-of-consciousness techniques– is the story of a college drop-out who spends his grant money on cocaine rather than education. He answered ten questions in a phone interview below.

1. What inspired you to start writing? Have you always had a creative urge?

I suppose reading. Me Ma instilled a love of literature in me and read to me when I was really small. I think as a lover of literature that compelled me to write. I knew I’d write a book. When I gave up drawing – I used to draw when I was a kid – and when I gave up drawing I knew I'd write a book. I've just had the creative urge all the time.

Art impresses in a different way. You see people drawing stuff and because it's so immediate, you go “This is amazing!” You can’t just look at a book and think the same. It’s a different medium. So sometimes I wonder if art's a more genuine talent than writing.

2.You say Dublin Seven isn't based ON Dublin 7 (the area of Dublin) but is it based there at all, ie its setting?

No, not necessarily and for me I didn't have anywhere in Dublin 7 in mind. I don’t think Dublin 7 really fits. It could be Cabra, a housing estate in Cabra, where Shane is from, or it’s more likely to be Coolock or Ballymun. Or somewhere on the southside like Ballyfermot.

I am from Dublin 7. I lived around the Stoneybatter area growing up – and it was rough when I was growing up. I felt Stoneybatter and Cabra were too unique and I see the characters as coming from one of the more suburban housing estates.

3.Do you name-check places in Dublin [in the novel], or are there places in the novel based on locations you used to frequent?

Some places I did, and some places I didn't, depending. So the George [a bar on Dublin’s George’s Street] is in it for example. There’s a sign across the road from the George that [Senator] David Norris has a protection order for, a Why go bald? luminous sign from a hair restoration clinic. It's there years and years.
—Why go bald? the sign flashed at him interrogatively is a line in the book.

But if anything was pejorative or dodgy, I would have to reinvent a bit. There was another gay bar called the Pink Pound based on a real pub; it wasn’t called that in real life. I made up that name because I didn’t want a libel writ arriving on my desk.

4.You mentioned in an interview elsewhere that the Gardai [the Irish police] were reluctant to cooperate when you requested use of a summons (for the purposes of fiction). Could you not have mocked one up?

I suppose I wanted to see the format and I didn’t have any to hand, and my friends thankfully didn't have any at the time! There’s a piece of literary collage like that at the end of each chapter. But I found other things to use for each chapter.

5.What is the rationale for such documentation throughout the novel?

Publisher Liberties Press is among Ireland's best independent publishers
Everything in it I try to keep precisely accurate. That’s why I asked the Guards. These pieces contribute something to the novel. I was in a discussion with another publisher who wanted me to remove them, as he felt they took away from the illusion of reality but to me they add to the reality. Things like this are part of our lives and to only refer to them obliquely when working in a textual medium seems strange. So there's a love letter, there’s a newspaper article, there’s a court judgement, things like this. To me I made sure that everything was precisely accurate which is why I asked the Guards [to use a summons]. For the reader it breaks things up much nicely, it puts a feel on the end of each chapter. To me, it works really well. The feedback from everyone else has been that this is one of the strengths of the book and it’s an opportunity to show that you can write in different registers, like legalese or journalistic writing. It's a perfect way to show your range.

6.You've done some research on Roddy Doyle's work, is that right? How do you rate him as a writer?

I did an undergraduate thesis on his representations of Dublin English. Roddy Doyle is a massive influence and inspiration for me, and I would stand over what I said in the thesis. I was very heavily critical of his approach to English. Not that he was inaccurate in the dialect that he portrayed but I took issue with his actual method of representation. So, for example, if he drops a g at the end of the word fucking, he puts an apostrophe in – it’s an apologetic way of representing Dublin English.
An eejit stands beside his bookshelf, holding books that may or may not have inspired novelist Frankie Gaffney. All of the books shown are not first choices, but the eejit's friends believe that he operates a library out of his own home. (Library Photos.)
Another manner of representing deviancies away from Standard English would be compound words. Roddy Doyle doesn’t use compound words. The words Your Man for example means something different to yerman [a Dublin expression], and sounds totally different to yerman. Yerman can't be broken apart. It’s a very different lexical item; it's derived from ‘your man’ but it follows different grammatical rules. It can’t be rendered as two separate words, it's just misleading and showing undue deference towards the standard. These are very finicky and academic points, but Roddy Doyle has to be taken to task if only because he’s so lauded. He’s the standard-bearer and if you’re going to talk to about if you’re going to talk about Dublin English, you have to talk about Roddy Doyle.

I think the Barrytown Trilogy is genius, and Doyle’s genius is underestimated because it’s based in comedy. I think to make someone laugh is harder than to make them cry. It’s regarded as something flippant or unworthy as much attention, but in actual fact the artistic achievement is much higher there. Like, there’s little touches like they call the family dog Larrygogan!

And when the dog is under the table, refusing to come out, barking at Jimmy, and it sounds to Jimmy like the dog’s saying “Get fucked!” from under there.

Things like that – when I read bits like that, I wish I had written them. When a writer makes you jealous like that, you know that he has something special.

7.Who would win in a fight between Dublin Seven’s Shane Laochra and War-of-Independence-era Henry Smart (from Roddy Doyle’s A Star Called Henry, so before he lost his leg)?

I think Henry Smart would win that fight no bother. Because Shane is not really up to the task that he thinks he is. He’s trying to be something he’s not to an extent. But there’s a character called Paddy Lawless. I call him Paddy Lawless because has no moral code, he doesn’t obey the law and he doesn’t obey the law of the street. So Paddy Lawless would have no trouble despatching Henry in a straightener, as we call it.

8.Speaking of straighteners (!) does Shane's hairdresser girlfriend Elizabeth go through a lot with him? Do men - broadly speaking - put women through hell? Is Elizabeth a victim in the novel at all?

I think people – speaking about life rather than literature – people put each other through hell in relationships – both men and women – inadvertently. I think Shane and Elizabeth are young and reckless and stupid.

I don’t think people are necessarily at fault for how much they hurt others. And I think Elizabeth is better able to look after herself than Shane is. And I think Elizabeth is better able to look after Shane than he can too, actually, once you see how it works out between them! 

I think women do better in the novel than men, and I think that’s true in life, even though there’s rampant discrimination in employment and pay.
Sexual politics has changed so much over the last forty years, and institutions like the Church are almost gone, and I think these are really positive things. Communities are collapsing and as Michel Houllebecq has it, society has become "Atomised" - and women have coped a lot better with the decline of the old social order and rise of the individual over groups than men have. Men are much more at risk of depression, suicide, drug addiction, and imprisonment than women are.

9.Is there anything in the narrative to suggest the template approach you took to writing it? Are there oblique references to the Old Bard or to the Prick with the Stick?

Juliana Scodeler Photography
Yeah, there’s lots and lots of little things. Elizabeth is Elizabeth Byrne, after Betty Byrne in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. As a writer of fiction, you’re presented with choice after choice after choice, naming your characters, where are they from, where do they live, all that kind of stuff. So every choice is an opportunity. What Joyce did, he tried to imbue meaning in every choice, and I think that’s possible. You’d wonder if anybody would notice these little things. But people have come back to me and said that they’ve spotted things. There’s little snatches of Shakespeare, even, integrated into the dialogue sometimes, for example, and it fits – it doesn’t jar. I don’t know if people will pick up on it, and maybe it’s a bit self-indulgent.

I dunno. I'd argue that you read a book first – for example – for the plot, then you might return to it for style, or whatever else.

Joyce said that his perfect reader would read his books, and read them again and again and again. There are a few readers who’ve read my novel more than once since its launch in October. There’s a major, major plot detail in Dublin Seven, about who did something, and it seems like it’s not there.

It's very very subtle, but it's definitive in terms of the answering the question.

10.What is the next book about?

Juliana Scodeler Photography
The feedback has been so overwhelmingly positive, and the response from book buyers - two months after publication the publisher had to order a reprint - that there's a lot of demand for another authentic Dublin story. Shakespeare was a businessman with a stake in the Globe Theatre - his work is very much a product of supply and demand, and if it's good enough for the man from Stratford it's good enough for the man from Stoneybatter!

You can follow Frankie Gaffney on Twitter here. Dublin Seven is available at Amazon and elsewhere and is published by Liberties Press.