Genre: Romantic Fiction
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Date of Publication: March 3, 2015
Number of pages: 223
Word Count: 63,000
Cover Artist: Elaina Lee for the Muse Designs
When twenty-five year old Hailey Crossan leaves her job in Los Angeles’ music business, she takes a trip to the west coast of Ireland where she’s so enchanted, she decides to stay. Walking into the Galway Music Center, she’s offered a job in a budding business alongside three locals, with whom she becomes the best of friends.
Unexpectedly, in what now seems like fate, Hailey meets Liam Hennessey, an astoundingly handsome, regionally famous Irish traditional musician. Liam, who has never been in love before, is so unbalanced at the prospect of love that he won’t come closer, nor completely go away.
In this rich, layered, tug-of-war along the road to love in rural Ireland, Hailey is surrounded by vibrant characters that help her navigate Ireland’s soulful culture and idiosyncratic ways as she tries to decode her growing relationship with the enigmatic Liam.
A whirlwind foray through the west of Ireland, Hailey comes to Ireland as a fish out of water, but soon ingratiates herself to a land with more soul than any place imaginable.
There’s an energy that hangs between strangers even in a crowd. Call it interest, or attraction, or the knowledge of things to come. It is awareness, and I was aware to the exclusion of all activity around me that Liam Hennessey was watching me. He was sitting at the corner of the bar by himself, and because I could feel his gaze upon me like an electrical current, I froze. I did not move an inch because I sensed I didn’t have to, that something would come about with little prompting from me. I don’t know how I knew this, but I was right, it came about within the hour. It began as a series of introductions to people near Liam, and drew itself closer until Liam was introduced to me.
Right before Leigh left, claiming she had to get up early the next day to drive to Cork, Kieran pointed out that the Irish traditional musicians playing in the corner were the father and older brother of the lad sitting at the end of the bar.
“That’s Liam Hennessey at the bar there,” Kieran gestured to my right. “He’s the best box player in Connemara – even in the whole of Ireland, many say. His family is long in Connemara; they’re all players, so. That’s Sean Liam, his da, and his brother Anthony there on the guitar.” Kieran seemed proud to know the facts. He next took my arm and led me straight to Liam.
“I’ve the pleasure of knowing this American here, her name is Hailey,” Kieran announced to Liam.
I had an uneasy feeling. It’s one thing to suspect you’ll cross paths with someone again, and quite another to be fully prepared when it actually happens. For some unknown reason, I kept thinking it was strange to see Liam this far out in the country from Galway, but then again, what did I know? I didn’t know anything about him.
Liam looked at me with large dark eyes and smiled brightly. He was different than I had imagined: he was friendlier, more candid. I assumed because he looked so dark and mysterious, there would be a personality to match. I assumed he would be reserved, aloof, perhaps arrogant in an artistic sort of way. I was paying close attention, and there was none of that about Liam. In seconds, I realized he was a nice guy. I moved a step to my right as an older man approached the bar.
“Would ye give us a hand there,” the man said to Liam, and for the next few minutes, Liam handed pints over his head to a group of men too far from the bar’s edge to grab the glasses themselves. Just then, Kieran said something that set off a chain of events and put the rest of the night in motion.
“Liam, will you watch Hailey for me, I’m off to join the sessiun.” With that, Kieran produced a harmonica from his shirt pocket and walked off to join the musicians in the corner.
I stood at the bar and waited for the next thing to happen. The world seemed to operate in slow motion. All the noise in the room subsided, and the only thing I knew was I was looking directly at Liam Hennessey. I searched his face for imperfections. I had never before seen such beauty in the face of a man. I hoped my thoughts didn’t show on my face. He was so good looking, I wondered why other people in the room weren’t staring at him, then I realized most of Hughes’ patrons knew him and were probably used to the way he looked. I was reticent, unsure of how to speak to Liam, unfamiliar with how provincial he may or may not have been. Words tend to get in the way in moments like this, but they lay in wait just the same.
“You’re an American, yah?” he asked in that way the Irish have of answering their own question. “I’ve been to America,” he said.
“Where in America?” I encouraged.
“Boston, New York, Chicago. My cousins live in Chicago. I even went all the way to Niagara Falls.”
“Believe it or not, I’ve never been to Niagara Falls. What’s it like?”
“Not much, mind you, it’s a nice enough place, but ten minutes after I saw the falls, I was asking where I could get a nice cup of tea.”
“I imagine it would take a lot to be impressed after living here,” I said.
“I’d never want to live anywhere else. Everything you could ever want is here in Connemara.”
And it is, I thought. Connemara has a sense of peace I’ve never felt before.
“Are you long in Ireland?” he asked.
“I live here,” I said. “I live in Inverin.”
“Ah, so you’re just up the road. Me too.”
At 27-years-old, Liam lived with his parents in the house in which he grew up.He was a world-class Irish traditional musician that traveled often to places like Germany, Austria and New Zealand. He was in demand as a player in touring bands because he was a master at playing the button accordion. As such, he was more than a musician: he was the bearer of a torch that represented the history of an old culture. He brought the language of Irish music to regions that otherwise would have never been enlightened.
Being an Irish traditional musician is a feat not easily arrived at. Rather, it is a feat painstakingly achieved. Most of the tunes in a traditional player’s repertoire have been memorized through listening and repeated execution, as opposed to memorization by reading musical scores. Traditional music has been passed down through generational lines, and with Liam’s family, there had been no interruption. His father was a player, and the world in which Liam grew up was one of constant exposure to traditional music as if it were a language. I came to realize much later that Liam’s first language was music, his second language was Irish, and his third was English.
“So, you must be another American looking for their roots, then,” Liam stated.
If that was a question, then it’s a fair one, I thought.
“Actually, I’m working at the Galway Music Center,” I said, then I followed with my poetry aspirations, hoping to impress upon him I was not just passing through.
The first impression I received as I eagerly delved into this book is Claire Fullerton has the heart of a poet. Her prose flowed so sweetly and succinctly that I was never once thrown out of the beautiful narrative which slowly unfolded. She has this innate ability to broach a subject in a way that is truly original in nature.
For example, the main character, Hailey, is wondering about her chance encounter with Liam Hennesey and instead of simply saying, "Hey, must have been fate, dontcha know." She puts it this way.
"I found it interesting that fate had provided the chance encounter. It seemed to me that if we, in our human frailty, didn't have the courage to take care of business, then the powers that be intervened seemingly by chance."
Or this beautiful piece describing musicians.
"There is a secret language musicians speak that does away with the need for articulation because it is intuitive and telepathic at its core...I felt as if I were in an insular bubble, privy to the secret internal mechanisms of a musician's rarified gift..."
As a musician it was interesting to see the perspective of a nonmusician, and to realize that she had hit the nail on the head. There are certain ways I associate, relate, and converse with people who understand music the way I do and who are as enthusiastic about the process as I am. This story touched my heart in a way that no other story has in a very long time.
I felt an added investment in the book due to my Irish ancestry and my total lack of knowledge on the subject. The idiosyncrasies of rural Ireland's culture was something I found fascinating, and how Hailey navigated that as an American was a journey I enjoyed taking. I learned just as much about myself in relation to Ireland as she did. A journey of discovery, really, and I couldn't be happier to have been a part of it.
The dynamics between Liam and Hailey were both exhilarating and frustrating simply because it was obvious he loved her, but he was woefully incapable of letting Hailey see it. I felt just as exasperated with him as she did, but it moved the story forward and added to that element of self-discovery that I felt so drawn towards. I'm not a fan of how it ended, though it couldn't have possibly ended any other way. I am all about closure, and this left so many questions unanswered, but I sincerely hope that means there will be more for Liam and Hailey in the future because I would dive into that story too.
We are gifted with a beautiful piece of poetry at the end that left me feeling a bit choked up. Bad timing for me, considering I had to go pick up my kids from school and transition myself from moved-and-inspired-by-poetry to crazed-mommy-the-cheauffer.
Claire Fullerton wrote a beautiful piece that will pique the interest of anyone fond of Irish history, romance and the intricacies of human relationships.
My rating: Five Cherry Blossoms!
A:I grew up in Memphis, TN, and now live in Malibu, CA.
Tell us your latest news?
A: I have a novel out now called “Dancing to an Irish Reel.” It is literary fiction and set on the western coast of Ireland. The story involves twenty five year old Hailey Crossan, who takes a sabbatical from the LA music business and embarks upon a trip to rural Ireland, where she is unexpectedly offered a job too good to turn down. So, Hailey stays. She has a wonderful job, a great place to live and a handful of colorful friends, but in the course of events, Hailey meets a local Irish musician who is so overwhelmed at the prospect of love, that he won’t come closer nor completely go away! “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is fiction, and depicts what I say is the real way attraction happens, which is to say it is full of the hope and excitement, as well as the doubt and fear involved when one is first coming to know someone. Hailey turns to her friends to help her decipher what’s going on, so “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is a fun, realistic, and (what I think is a) universal story set in an incomparably beautiful land!
When and why did you begin writing?
A: I think I’m like most writers, in that sooner or later we just recognizes where we have an aptitude. I came to writing naturally, through keeping a journal at a young age. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it helped me hone my craft, to articulate succinctly, to tell things in a cadence that makes sense. When I began writing short stories, I knew the act of journaling had been a tutorial. I began writing seriously after I’d had a few publications because the acceptance gave me the motivation and permission to continue.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Once I’d fallen into a rhythm of writing every day for one reason or another. It was as if I turned around to realize that I always have one project or another on my desk. I still write for magazines as well as the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series, and what with promoting two books now as I write a third, there is always something to attend to.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I wanted to tell an engaging page turner that encouraged the reader to ponder the question of past lives. I wanted it to be unpredictable, like a puzzle with plenty of foreshadow, which the reader wouldn’t realize was there until the very end. I was inspired by the hauntingly beautiful area on California’s Monterey Peninsula called Carmel-by-the-Sea. The area is like going back in time, so I wrote a paranormal mystery called “A Portal in Time” and set it in Carmel.
Do you have a specific writing style?
A: My style is to infuse my language with as much lyrical beauty as possible. I am not an edgy writer who keeps things glaringly real! I like to create beauty with the magic of flowing words.
How did you come up with the title?
A: Great question and so glad to answer! With regard to “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” I wanted to depict the push and pull of new love, to portray that it’s rarely a linear path to happily ever after, because I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been thrown into doubt and confusion as they come to know someone on a romantic level! There is always weirdness involved, and most of us are inclined to do a lot of guessing, then run it by our friends to get a clear perspective. Because my book takes place in Ireland, and because the narrator is an outsider, the unexpected relationship she begins with a local musician feels like a game, or a dance. This is why I entitled it “Dancing to an Irish Reel.”
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
A: Definitely! To set this up, in “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” American Hailey Crossan is adventurous and not afraid to dive right into the possibility of love, yet Liam Hennessey, the Irish musician in the story, is riddled with fear, so it holds him back. These opposing energies create the dynamic of the story, which hinges on confusion, second guesses, suspicion, and uncertainty. Yet all the while, there is excitement and the lure of attraction. The message is that how we handle ourselves, as well as the choices we make in particular moments all add up to define our experiences. This is how we learn about ourselves!
How much of the book is realistic?
A: I think every scene and every word is realistic, and here’s the clincher: in “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” the reader is privy to the narrator’s thoughts as she goes from one episode to the next! Hailey may be saying and doing one thing, but the reader gets to hear what she is really thinking! This book isn’t a romantic, happily ever after book, it is the way the road to love really happens more often than not! It is realistic because Hailey, the narrator, is funny, a little sarcastic, has a big heart, and a lot of hope in the goodness of things, yet she is clear headed and nobody’s fool. She knows what’s going on and doesn’t question herself. She just thinks she is a stranger in a strange land and that she’s met someone who is afraid of love.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A: Yes. I spent a year on the western coast of Ireland and put many of my thoughts and impressions in “Dancing to an Irish Reel.”
What books have most influenced your life most?
A: I love “The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy. It points to the premise that the episodes in one’s childhood shape the nature of the individual. Beautiful language, compelling story, brutally honest, and marked with both realism and compassion.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
What book are you reading now?
A: I just started “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
A: I’ve been reading tried and true authors with a track record and a following, so I can’t think of any new authors just now!
What are your current projects?
A: I am 67,000 words into a fiction, family saga set in the Deep South. Plenty of cultural nuances, Southern denial, Southern dysfunction, and a host of eccentric characters. I am joyously promoting “Dancing to an Irish Reel” at the same time!
What would you like any readers to know?
I think all writers have their reason for writing. Most feel it is a calling of sorts, and I am no different. The thing about writing is there is no there to get to, there is only the joy of the path, so to speak, with no specific destination, only the growth process wherein one hopes to get better so that they can become more clear with handing their readers a little something of the human experience. Writing truly is the desire to share, to reach out to others and say, “This is how I find the world we all live in together.”
Claire Fullerton is the author of Paranormal Mystery, A Portal in Time. She is an award winning essayist, a contributor to numerous magazines (including “Southern Writers Magazine) a former newspaper columnist and a four time contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series. She hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA where she is working on her third novel.