Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Christmas Carol

I've just finished my annual reading of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Yes, as always, I wept for Tiny Tim. I love this story. It is beautifully written, the characters are wonderful - indeed mythic! - and the tale always puts me in the Christmas spirit. The illustration on the left is from the first edition, by artist John Leech. I'd love to see a copy of that work. Meanwhile, I am slowly but surely getting sorted for the day. The ham has been ordered as my sister does the turkey; the tree is up, being the real thing and quite lovely; and Finn has made delicious egg nog while I've made mulled apple punch. There are still cards to be written and presents to be bought - upcoming trips to Dublin and Powerscourt House will clinch the latter - and then I can put my feet up, ready to enjoy the big day. May I wish you all a very happy Christmas and Yuletide season.

Friday, August 01, 2014


Went to see this amazing play the other night at the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire. It is based on the terrible story of the young woman who was fatally raped and beaten on a bus in Delhi some years back. A story that shocked the world. At first I didn't want to go. Strange, perhaps, given that I've dealt with similarly painful issues in People of the Great Journey. But books are not as immediate as theatre and you can always close them when they get too hard to handle. You're stuck in your seat in a theatre. No exit. I'm glad I got up the courage to go. It's a stunning piece of human rights activism and art. Compelling. Distressing. Beautiful at times.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cill Rialaig Artist Retreat

Not long back from a week-long residency in an artist's retreat in County Kerry called Cill Rialaig. The brain-child of the amazing Noelle Campbell Sharpe, it is a restored famine village - all stone houses! - overlooking beautiful Ballinskelligs Bay. All around us, mountain and field with sheep, before us a stretch of blue water dotted with islands. Ahhhhhh. I got to work on my latest novel The Magdalene, a book I started 25 years ago and have finally returned to! It is incredibly complicated and I needed to lay down plot time-lines and character chronologies while wrestling the structure into shape. Done and dusted! As the summer solstice occurred while I was there, I got a decent bonfire going and called out the other residents to enjoy it. Made several wonderful new friends, a Finnish visual artist Sirpa Pyykko, an American poet Jodie Hollander and an American visual artist Kathy Kissik. We've all agreed to meet up again, possibly in a retreat somewhere in Finland. If you pop over to my regular blog you'll see a few pics of nearby Skellig Michael, a place that was on my bucket list and I finally got to see. All in all, a brilliant week that also included jumping into the pristine, freezing-cold, glorious sea.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Bray Arts Club

I've been invited to give a "show and tell" at the wonderful Bray Arts Club on the seafront in my hometown of Bray. As most of the members of this club are artists themselves - painters, musicians, sculptors, actors, playwrights, novelists and the like - I'll be drawing aside the curtain to show how the wizard worked away on her dials and cranks. I'll present a Powerpoint with images of the mansions that inspired Dunesfort House (all Scottish houses, some now in ruins) and landscapes of the Outer Hebrides and images of the Callanish Stones. I'll also bring my original workbook from the trip that I took to northern Scotland with my dear departed friend Dr Nena Hardie (who makes a cameo appearance in the first and last chapters); the huge sheets of paper that helped me plot the structure of seven days and nights; and the photographs of people who resemble my characters. Looking forward to the night and to hearing the other presenters as well. Got a little chuckle when I saw that the poster called me "Olwen Melling." Life imitates art. Here's the link to the Bray Arts site:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Grand Maitreya Project

The next time I go to Mongolia, I will be visiting this giant statue and stupa site. Reminiscent of the Ancient Wonders of the World, it will no doubt be an international pilgrimage and tourist destination. But there's even more to this incredibly ambitious non-profit project. It hopes to appeal especially to youth and future generations and will focus on ecology, science and the arts, reflecting the nature of Maitreya, the Buddha of the future. No surprise that the statue was designed by Zanabazar, the 17th century spiritual head of Mongolia, who was a genius in many areas including language - he invented soyombo, the Mongolian native script - medicine, astronomy, and the arts. In the latter case, he cast beautiful bronze statues and was also an accomplished painter. I saw a lot of his work in museums in Mongolia. He's an inspirational example of how one can cross spirituality with art and science and his vision certainly lives on in the Grand Maitreya Project.

Friday, April 25, 2014


Here's the link to my interview on WAYN Radio, the student radio station of Wayn State University, Detroit. You get to listen to some beautiful Hindi tunes before I chat away about books, writing, life, the universe and everything: And then you hear some lively songs from the Irish-Canadian group The Irish Rovers and a tune from the American Celtic group Gaelic Storm. Radhika, the interviewer, read my books in her teens and never forgot me. I love my readers!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Little Story About My Cat

I mentioned on my other blog that my little cat Emma died on St Patrick's Day and that I would write about her when I was ready. As it turns out, my publishers were interested in the story - sad but also magical - and they have put it up on their Heal Your Life website. (Also on their HealYourLife Facebook page where it got hundreds of likes and comments.) You go to and wait for it to appear in the Featured Articles section at the top. Eventually it will take its place below. I'm still grieving that she is gone. It's worse at night when I think to call her in and she isn't there. Impermanence. One of the hardest facts of life. (Credit: ANGEL (R) Cards (c) 1981, 2006 Drake & Tyler)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

US College Radio Interview!

Out of the blue, I was contacted by Radhika of the student-run radio station of Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. She's a fan of the Chronicles of Faerie and asked if she could interview me about those books and also my new work, People of the Great Journey. I said fine and we had a great chat. The interview airs today on at 7:10 pm eastern standard time, 4:10 pm pacific time, and 12:10 am (just past midnight) in Ireland and the UK. Radhika's programme is a mix of international music and book reviews and, of course, occasional interviews. There will be a podcast later on in the week. I'll post the link to that when it's up. Listening to the station yesterday, I really enjoyed it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Oratorio Terezin

Here is one of the magical synchronicities that enrich my life from time to time: I recently received an email from a Canadian reader who said she had read my fairy books as a child - The Light-Bearer's Daughter being her favourite. Grown now, a young woman, she bought People of the Great Journey. When she came to the part of the book which includes the story of Terezin, or Theresienstadt as it was also called, she was astonished. You see, as a child she took part in the Oratorio Terezin, a heart-breaking and exquisite opera involving a full orchestra, children's and adult choirs, and soloists. They sang pieces from the Bible alongside poems written by the children imprisoned in Terezin, most of whom died in Auschwitz: of 15,000 children, only 100 survived. This Oratorio was created by Ruth Fazal, a Canadian composer. You can read all about it and order CDs and DVDs at this website: What my reader could hardly believe was that she had read my books as a child and also took part in the Oratorio, and then was brought back to Terezin when she read my adult work. What was amazing for me was that I had not heard of the Oratorio and was stunned by the beauty of the music and the poetry. If (no, when) this book goes to film, I will make certain the director is aware of Ms Fazal's work.

Monday, March 03, 2014

People's Book Prize

My publishers just informed me that I am up for the People's Book Prize in the UK. There are no judges other than readers! It's very simple. You got to this website then register and vote. I was on the first page the last time I checked. This is not a scam or a harvest-your-email effort. The first patron was Beryl Bainbridge and the current patron is Frederick Forsyth. The mission statement is to promote literacy and introduce authors newly published in the UK.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Inspiration from the Aoife Doyle Band

I'm working on a film script at the moment and, as with any creative project, I get my inspiration from everything around me. Was at JJ Smith's last week in Dublin, the Thursday night jazz club upstairs, and was bowled over by this young singer and her band. Changed the title of my script to Farewell, Angelina (Bob Dylan cover) and hope to have that song as the theme song, along with the Aoife Doyle Band singing it! Even envisaged a club scene where they could appear, singing the song, while also moving the plot along ...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

RTE Podcast

My interview on RTE's Talking Books is now up in podcast form. Here's the long link: And here's an alternate route: go to, click on PODCASTS in the title menu, then search TALKING BOOKS in the filter menu. I'm Chapter Twenty-Four, dated February 17. You'll see a photo of the great JRR Tolkien. Nice to be in such esteemed company. The programme covers my new book and a new book about him.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

RTE Talking Books Interview

I'll be interviewed on RTE's Talking Books programme tomorrow morning, February 16 (my daughter's birthday!) at 7:00-8:00 am. Go to Newstalk 106-108 FM on your dial in Ireland or listen on the web at The interviewer is the fascinating Susan Cahill who has made documentaries on South America. She has also written some fine spiritual pieces. Just do a search for her and you'll find her work. A podcast of the interview will be available later in the week for those of you still snoozing on a Sunday morning.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Fountain

When I saw the trailer for The Tree of Life I thought I would love it; thought it might be the visual poem of the book I was writing at the time, People of the Great Journey. But no. Though the film was evidently the autobiography of the film-maker placed within the greater question of the meaning of life, I felt it just didn't get there. Left me cold and sometimes bored, definitely not inspired. Now here, an older film, much closer to my vision! And I'm astonished that any of the reviews I read of The Tree of Life didn't refer to The Fountain, a far more exquisite depiction of the same theme: the microscosmic/macrocosmic reality of life. The stunning Zen psychonaut sequences could be used for some of the Breathwork sessions described in my tale. Amazing that I never saw this before nor heard of it and found it entirely by chance (hah!) when I searched for a sci fi film to watch.    

Monday, January 20, 2014

Positive Life

Nice little "My Favourite Things" piece in the online magazine of Positive Life (Ireland). Here's the link: I'm there on the front page. Or if you want to go directly to the piece here is the longer link: Positive Life is a very attractive publication with high-end photography and well-written articles and interviews. This edition includes an excellent interview with Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Spirit & Destiny

Here's an article about my relationship with my Tibetan lama teacher, printed in a UK magazine called Spirit & Destiny, available next month. They interviewed me over the telephone and then wrote up the answers. While I have to say the words put in Panchen Otrul Rinpoche's mouth are not his and not how he speaks, the gist of the piece is true. Journalism can be a strange filter for reality some times. Like literary criticism, it is subjective and says as much - and sometimes more - about the one who's writing the piece than the one about whom it is written. That said, the intention was good, the tone is true, and the photos and layout are terrific. So I am happy with it and appreciate the coverage.

Sunday, January 05, 2014


Here's a cutey-patootie pic of one of my artist sisters, YM Whelan, beside a very pertinent message about artists of all kinds. Those of you who read The Book of Dreams might recognise one of Dana's mad aunties. As one of my reviewers remarked, it's great to know such anarchic characters might be real! As well as being an artist herself, Yvonne has her own gallery in Toronto - YUMART - situated on the 2nd floor of 101 Spadina Ave (southeast corner of Adelaide and Spadina). A new exhibition of 21 Canadian contemporary Canadian artists, emerging to senior, is now up, January 4-25.