Author Spotlight: Ellie O’Neill
Describe yourself in one word:
What is your background with regard to writing?
Nothing formal, just a desire to write and a stubborn streak to finish what I started.
When did you first begin writing with a view of embarking on a career as a published author?
Probably six or seven years ago, I decided to really go for it. It was a hunch, nothing more, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do what I did, I quit my job in London and moved back in with my parents in Dublin to write full time.
Tell us a little more about Reluctantly Charmed:
It’s a good fun, fast paced book. I’m a little bit (ok a lot bit) celebrity obsessed and I wondered what would happen if you put someone normal into that world, how they would cope with fame, paparazzi and fans, and stalkers. I’m also a superstitious person, I go to fortune tellers, and would never walk under a ladder (just because) I grew up as a lot of Irish people have aware of the myth of the fairies, as these mischievous fellas lurking in the background that have to be kept happy or they’re likely to play a terrible trick on you. I spent time investigating that element of Irish folklore and I married it up with my celebrity obsession and created a very funny, charming little story, that I really hope (cross my fingers and spin around three times) people enjoy.
Reluctantly Charmed is a fantastically fun read focusing on central character, Kate McDaid’s surprising inheritance from a great great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch who died over 130 years ago. In order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, letters that reconnect her with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore and subsequently turn her life upside-down in the most surprising of ways. What research did you undertake in writing about Irish folklore? What aspect of Irish folklore appeals to you most?
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I read a lot of books (shocker – writer in reading scandal!!!) I was living in Ireland while I was writing and so I spoke to a lot of people to hear their stories and get their opinions on fairy lore, which was ridiculously good fun. William Butler Yeats was probably my primary source of inspiration from a literary point of view, I fell in love with his idea of the fairies, his poems and his imagery of Ireland is really breathtaking. Folklore is fun, its very nature as an oral tradition leaves everything in a grey area, there’s a lot of wriggle room for truth and fact, that’s part of the appeal, it’s like old fashioned sci-fi!
What one character trait will most endear Kate to your readers?
Her humour. She has a very cynical dry wit, that should keep readers laughing.
Your personal love journey is in itself a fun and serendipitous tale; can you share with AusRomToday readers the story behind you falling in love and moving to Australia?
HA! Who let the cat out of the bag on that one? That’s funny. Yes, I suppose my romantic and writing life collided and brought me to Australia, even though I said I’d never move to Australia but then along came Joe Murray with a smile that made me melt and that was that. I met Joe at a wedding in London, I’m good friends with his sister. I’d always heard about her brother living in Australia, he’d been out here years but never met him. I fancied him immediately, tall, dark, handsome, smiley. I managed to strike up a conversation, and at about 3 in the morning we kissed. Joe was back in Ireland for a months holidays, and because I was writing, I was on a loose schedule, a schedule I could easily free up for someone so smiley. And so we hung out for that summer month, and had the nicest time, but always at the back of my mind was that this was just a fling, I was not moving to Australia. Joe says now that he fell in love with me that month but obviously being a man he never spoke to me about this. In fact when I dropped him to the airport, we had had no conversations at all about ‘us’. I thought I was saying goodbye, and I was very sad about it, I hoped we’d stay in touch but I figured that was that, I really don’t think I’d fallen in love with him. I could say goodbye. When Joe landed back in Australia, he called all the time, and within a couple of weeks he told me he’d quit his job and booked a flight back to Dublin. I know now that this was a wildly romantic gesture, but at the time because there had been no declaration of love or even a girlfriend request, I genuinely did not know if he was coming home to see me or for his Mums beef stroganoff. This is why dating a man is confusing, they seem to have random conversations in their head! We had a great reunion, and then a few days later set off on the Camino de Santiago. This little exercise was renamed by my sister as ‘Extreme Dating’, the camino is an 800 kilometre walk across northern Spain. It’s not for the faint hearted and it’s also not for lip gloss, hair straighteners, or even shower gel, we hiked with 10 kilo bags on our backs, I was dressed in my mothers hiking trousers, her shoes which were half a size too small and my dads waterproof jacket which was NOT waterproof. On day two Joe was popping my blisters. We were stripped bare of all pretences, we were exhausted, we walked and talked day in day out for a month. I was exposed to my very core, as was he. And we liked what we saw. And by the end of the Camino and a beautiful Christmas in snowy Dublin, I knew I couldn’t say goodbye again. Baton down the hatches Australia I was on my way. Five years later, we are engaged to marry but haven’t made it up the aisle yet, an amazing little red haired baby came along instead. And we’re still talking.
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
I honestly can’t imagine not writing or not trying to write
What’s next for you?
I’m working on my second novel, it’s early days but its coming together well.
Favourite snack whilst writing?
Cheese on toast
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Try not to care about what other people think
What do you find easiest to write? And, the hardest?
I don’t find much about writing easy, maybe dialogue, I find plotting very difficult
Favourite travel experience? It has to be the Camino de Santiago – see above for why!
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Eat steak and drink red wine in Argentina
Milk, dark or white chocolate? Dark
Red, white, bubbly? White
Salty or sweet? Salty
Beach or mountains? Mountains
Give or receive? Receive
About the Author:
Ellie O’Neill took the long way round. She sold spider catchers in Sydney, flipped burgers in Dublin and worked in advertising in London. All the while, she had that niggling feeling, that she had stories to tell. So, at thirty-something, she made the brave leap and moved back in with her parents to get the job done. Swopping the dizzy disco lights of London for their suburban Dublin house, she scribbled away knowing that there was something about Irish fairies she needed to share with the world. Her first novel Reluctantly Charmed was born. Then most unexpectedly Ellie fell madly in love. The only catch, he lived in Australia. True to form she couldn’t ignore the magic and followed her heart to Oz for what was supposed to be a long holiday. Five years later Australia is home to Ellie, her Joe and their fabulous baby (with an Irish name no one can pronounce). They live in Geelong and Ellie is currently working on her second novel.