A CLONAKILTY author has just launched a new podcast series focusing on children’s books, and is looking forward to her first novel being published next year.
Susan Cahill, who lives in North London, has embarked on the series called Storyshaped with fellow Irish children’s author Sinead O’Hart.
‘The podcast is a mixture of conversations between Sinead and I about some of the books that influenced us and interviews with well-known children’s authors (many of them Irish) about the stories that shaped their lives and work,’ said Susan.
The West Cork woman was an Associate Professor of Irish literature for seven years in the School of Irish Studies, Concordia University in Montreal where she taught everything from Irish children’s literature to Joyce’s Ulysses.
‘But some curious characters and a watery world started knocking around in my head and I just had to give them some attention. So I moved to London and wrote my first novel, The World Between the Rain,’ she said.
The podcast series was prompted after Susan recently rediscovered English writer Alan Garner, whose most recent book, Treacle Walker, is longlisted for the Booker.
‘His early books were children’s books and when I read Elidor, published in 1965, I knew I needed to talk to someone about my new obsession. So I texted my friend, fellow children’s author, Sinéad O’Hart, who I did my PhD with in UCD many moons ago. After realising that we’d read and loved all the same books as children, I said “we should do a podcast together.” And a wild two weeks later, we released our first episode, on Alan Garner’s Elidor. It’s just been an absolute joy,’ she said.
Storyshaped is all about children’s books and the stories that shape us and the ways they form the stories we shape, she explains.
‘It’s for anyone who loves children’s books – children and grown-up children alike. Some episodes are deep dives into children’s books that Sinéad and I loved when we were young and others are interviews with well-known children’s authors (many of them Irish) about the stories that influenced them. We’ve had some wonderful wide-ranging conversations taking in everything from Asterix to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And what we’ve discovered is everyone is uniquely ‘Storyshaped’ and full of bookish magic. While some found their inspiration in libraries built into the side of castles (shout out to the old Macroom Library), others found their magic in nature. Some of our guests so far have included Olivia Hope, Eve McDonnell, and Paul Coomey (fellow Corkonian) and we’ve some very exciting folk lined up to chat to us –Vashti Hardy and SF Said, both winners of the Blue Peter Book Awards, among other awards.’
It’s a busy time for Susan whose book The World Between the Rain will be published this time next year.
‘It’s a magical fantasy adventure aimed at eight-12 year olds (or anyone with magic in their hearts) and is set in a rainy West Cork and a watery Otherworld. When the novel opens it’s nearly Halloween, Marina Rafferty’s 13th birthday, also the 13th birthday of her two cousins, Ada and Seri. It should be a day of celebration but their parents won’t wake up. Not even the doctors can shake them out of sleep. The girls are packed off to West Cork to stay with their estranged grandmother. She’s not at all what they were expecting. She’s on first name terms with a raven, for a start and she seems to have the ability to step between the rain. In the dead of night a woman with hair like a storm visits, speaking of another world and a secret society sworn to protect something called the Draoi, which is in mortal danger. The girls will be drawn into an ancient battle and find powers within them they never thought possible.’
Susan hopes anyone who loves stories and children’s books even a bit as much as Sinéad and herself will listen to and enjoy the podcast. ‘We’re having such a great time making it – expect lots of laughter!’ she said.
Susan said it’s been her lifelong dream to be a children’s author.
‘I can’t quite believe that I’ll have a real book on bookshelves next year.
‘I’m also so excited to bring my love of West Cork’s landscape, weather, and magic to a children’s story.
‘The thought of seeing it on the shelves of Kerr’s Bookshop or Clonakilty Library is just thrilling!’