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(UPDATE!!  Martina Devlin’s latest novel The House Where It Happened will be published in September 2014. Sounds very exciting – about REAL witchcraft – who doesn’t like that??

The House Where It Happened is inspired by a true but little-known story about the last conviction for witchcraft in Ireland. In 1711, in a remote corner of Antrim, eight women from the Ulster-Scots community were accused of being witches by a pretty young newcomer. A group trial followed, causing a sensation. What happened was Ireland’s version of the notorious Salem Witch Trials. Martina Devlin has fictionalised a compelling episode from history, transforming it into a spine-chilling tale. Her novel will be published by Ward River Press, a new Poolbeg imprint.)

HDYGT: (taps microphone) Testing, testing…is this on?

Martina Devlin: A loud speaker? Don’t you think we’ll disturb the other people in the park…

HDYGT: (puts hand over microphone) Shhhh – I’m starting your introduction.

Martina Devlin: (smiles apologetically at annoyed picnickers) You never told me this was going to be live–

HDYGT: (blaring announcer voice) Don’t let her elegant form and soft spoken manner fool you, folks! For courageous, tell-it-like-it-is writing, my next Guest Star is your woman.  She’s an award winning journalist, and weekly columnist for the Irish Independent and the Sunday World Magazine, who started writing fiction when she won the prestigous Hennessy Literary Award for her very first short story.

Martina Devlin: (hands over ears at microphone squeel) 

HDYGT: She has been shortlisted twice for the Irish Book Awards, her novel Venus Reborn was nominated for the Sunday Independent-Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year award, and her most recent book, Banksters—co-written with her partner, David Murphy, RTE’s business editor—was a 2009 No. 1 bestseller.

Martina Devlin: (quietly unplugs loudspeaker)

HDYGT: (thumps mic) Hey, what happened? This thing isn’t working.

Martina Devlin: Oh?

HDYGT: Darn, and this tape was going to launch my big career as a news announcer.

Martina Devlin: (Bites lip) Really?

HDYGT: Just pretend the mic’s on. (shoves dead mic in Martina’s face) Welcome to How did You Get There, Martina. Please describe in your own words what you do for a living.

Martina Devlin: Oh…er…I’m a storyteller. I write stories for a living. This involves different types of writing, ranging from books to newspaper columns, but fundamentally I string sentences together. Along with my weekly newspaper columns, I’ve written seven books, a combination of fiction and non-fiction.

HDYGT: Do you have a favourite?

Martina Devlin: My favourite is Ship of Dreams, about the Titanic. It was inspired by a family story: my grandmother’s uncle eloped on the Titanic and went down with the ship.

HDYGT: You hear that, folks? A real-life romantic tragedy; an insider’s story on what REALLY happened on the Titanic!

Martina Devlin: Actually – it’s fiction, based on a real person. I wanted to reclaim him for the family, so I put him in a novel.

HDYGT: The Titanic was fiction? Dagnabbit – Just like the moon landing!

Martina Devlin: No, the Titanic was real—just like the moon landing—and so was my Great-Great uncle. But writing fiction gives you great freedom to reshape material.

HDYGT: (suspiciously) Reshape material?

Martina Devlin: You mean you don’t know the difference between historical novels and non-fiction?

HDYGT: (assumes thinking position) Oooh! Haha! Now I get it, why didn’t you say so?

Martina Devlin: I DID say so!

HDYGT: (puts hand over dead mic) Please keep your voice down – people are starting to stare.

Martina Devlin: I don’t think they’re staring at me.

HDYGT: (fluffs hair) That’s very flattering, Martina, but you are the award winning writer here. So how long have you been writing?

Martina Devlin: I’ve been a published author for nine years and a journalist for more than 20. I’m currently working on another historical novel about witchcraft.

HDYGT: Witchcraft is REAL?

Martina Devlin: No… A novel by definition is Fiction.

HDYGT: Wait just a minute – that’s not what you said about the Titanic!

Martina Devlin: You seem to have a hard time distinguishing between reality and fiction.

HDYGT: (baffled by last statement, but moves on) What do you like most about your writing?

Martina Devlin: That I can work from home, that I can choose when to work, that I don’t have to interact with other people if I choose not to – I can sit at my laptop and tap away. These are also the characteristics I dislike most about my work.

HDYGT: What do you feel makes you particularly suited to being a writer?

Martina Devlin: I have lots of strong opinions so being a newspaper columnist is a gift for me. As regards to writing books, I love language, which is probably a bit of a disadvantage.

HDYGT: You heard it, folks! Loving language is a disadvantage for writers!

Martina Devlin: No, not really, I just meant—

HDYGT: And I’m the one who has a hard time distinguishing between real and not really??

Martina Devlin: (doesn’t even try to respond to this)

HDYGT: Is this love of language—real or fictitious—something you developed on the job or is it—really or fictitiously—innate?

Martina Devlin: Both. You can learn how to improve your writing skills but you can’t fake it if you have none at all.

HDYGT: (crest fallen) Really?

Martina Devlin: Afraid so…

HDYGT: Where did you work immediately before the Irish Independent?

Martina Devlin: Since college I’ve always earned a living from some kind of writing. I think through my fingertips. Weird but true.

HDYGT: Leading directly to being a columnist?

Martina Devlin: You don’t have to be a journalist to become a newspaper columnist but it helps.

HDYGT: Any other interesting jobs stand out in your past?

Martina Devlin: I sold ice cream as a schoolgirl – my all-time favourite job because people smiled at me all the time.  And I could eat as much ice cream as I liked when the supervisor was looking the other way.

HDYGT: Excellent!

Martina Devlin: When I was 18 I worked as an office junior in London for a music agency, the summer before college. The money was about £40 a week, a fortune then – at least to me. I spent it all on clothes every week and didn’t save a penny, I’m glad to say. Old heads on young shoulders are downright unnatural.

HDYGT: (still dreaming of ice cream) I prefer all natural, too.

Martina Devlin: Crusty rockers were always wandering in but I rarely recognised them because I was in my Bowie phase. I met Alice Cooper, who gave me a funny handshake where he tickled my palm. To my horror, the other office girls told me this was sexually provocative, so I hid in the Ladies room the next time he pitched up. He was always in full makeup. What girl could compete with that?

HDYGT: (wonders what kind of ice cream Alice Cooper in full make-up would eat)   Rocky Road, I’d say.

Martina Devlin: Maybe a bit rocky, but my brush with the music biz cured me of any thoughts of ever trying to become a rock chick. So I guess it taught me I had to find a job and pay my own way. I’d make that a mandatory life lesson for any woman – I despair of girls who regard men as meal tickets.

HDYGT: Moving to the very recent past, 2009 was an exciting year for you. You had a No. 1 Best Seller with Banksters, about the Irish banking collapse, which you co-wrote with your partner, David Murphy, who’s also an award winning journalist.

Martina Devlin: And we’re still on speaking terms. Imagine! Match that, Bernstein and Woodward.

HDYGT: Not only that, you were the 2009 writer in residence at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco.

Martina Devlin: I spent all my free time there studying yachts. Some of them had 24-carat gold portholes, more staff than Buckingham Palace per square foot, and were equipped with palm trees, beaches and swimming pools on deck.

HDYGT: That’s so glamorous, it has to be fiction.

Martina Devlin: No, it’s all real. Yet their owners might only use them a few times a year. Naturally I was outraged  by such excess. But I was also vexed that nobody ever invited me on board – I would have liked to nurse my outrage from a waterside vantage point.

HDYGT: I’d like to thank you so much, Martina Devlin, for a REALLY interesting interview. And as always – Thank You For Playing!!!

(walking out of park)

HDYGT: So how’d I do? You think I’ll make it big as a news announcer?

Martina Devlin: No.

HDYGT: Ha! I know you’re kidding – really, tell me the truth.

Martina Devlin: I did.

HDYGT: Such a kidder! Come on, for real this time…

Copyright HDYGT 2010

(Originally posted Feb 14, 2010)