AFTER DAD interview with the wonderful Pamela Ballantine for UTV Life
‘Dazzling Debut’ Novel ‘After Dad’ asks if love really can conquer all...
Rave reviews are rolling in for Northern Irish author, Claire Shiells’ dazzling debut novel ‘After Dad’. Following a flurry of initial pre-orders, and sales following the book’s publication in late September, bookstores and online outlets are now busily re-stocking copies ahead of the Christmas rush.
Inspired by her family’s experiences during The Troubles, the debut is an uplifting love story set in modern- day Northern Ireland and Donegal. Tackling the themes of morality, forgiveness, religion and politics, the shadow of the past – and an historic murder by the IRA – loom large at the centre of the story. After Dad skilfully explores the eroding effects this loss has on family, life and love. But it is also a book about hope, reflecting on how the human spirit strives to deal with past trauma to prevent it seeping into the future.
Millie, the victim’s daughter, a spirited, flawed, journalist, retreats to the family home in Co. Tyrone after a decision leaves her gilded London life in ruins. Eventually retreating to the family cottage in Donegal, it is here she meets the enigmatic Finn McFall, a Catholic from west Belfast. A talented artist by day and a beguiling storyteller by night, Finn enthrals Millie with readings from Joyce and Heaney and tales of Irish legends. In this new modern Ireland, Millie believes religion is no longer a barrier for love.
But she soon discovers home is a place still struggling with a fragile peace and simmering sectarianism. When she finds Finn’s past is inextricably linked to her own, she is heartbroken and must decide between love and loyalty. Eventually, Millie has to ask herself the question: can love really conquer all?
After Dad explores love in all its guises: family love, romantic love and maybe the most potent of all - tribal love. It also highlights issues facing modern Ireland today, including reignited sectarianism, Brexit border
tensions and the hidden exploitation of migrant workers.
Ahead of the book’s release, the reviews have been flooding in from media, authors and readers alike:
“A dazzling debut,” Helen McGurk, The News Letter.
“This is an uplifting book, full of hope. I lifted this book and it filled me with joy. ‘These are the type of characters you’d love to have around your kitchen table,” Eve Blair, BBC Radio Ulster.
“Wonderful - a beguiling modern love story full of humour, suspense and a huge amount of heart. The lush setting is a joy and thoughts of Millie & Finn will stay with you for a long time,” author Matson Taylor (The Miseducation of Evie Epsworth, a Richard & Judy Book Club Pick & BBC Radio 2 Book Club Choice).
“After Dad is a beautifully written story of grief, new love and new beginnings,” Bronagh McAteer.
“Broke my heart in places and made me so angry. It’s exactly what you want in a book. I really hope there’s a second book coming, because that cliffhanger!” Pippa Miller.
Claire Shiells grew up in in rural Northern Ireland (Co. Tyrone) during the Troubles, where she had the best of times and the worst of times. She draws from her own lived experience in her debut novel – and in particular the trauma of her father Eric’s murder by the provisional IRA, when she was just 11 years old. ‘After dad’ is a phrase used in her family to describe everything that happened after that tragic and fateful event in April 1977.
Commenting ahead of the book launch, Claire Shiells said: “The book was inspired by my family’s own experiences during the Troubles. I was raised in Co. Tyrone, a beautiful rural area but one seeped in sectarianism; I wanted the book to highlight the chilling contrast between the landscape’s beauty and the violence that took place there.
“I found the experience strangely cathartic. After Dad is a novel, not an autobiography, however many of the incidents, both sad and funny, did happen to me, and my family in real life.”
Claire now lives in Chelsea, London with her husband and daughter Charlotte. Returning home to Northern Ireland regularly, she spent this summer with her family on the north-coast. Formerly a journalist and magazine editor in Northern Ireland, then London, she was inspired to finalise realise her long-held dream of writing a novel after a near-death experience, following complications after endometritis surgery in March 2020, prompting a ‘now or never’ feeling.
Claire said: “After Dad is a book full of characters that have faced adversity throughout their lives, but who also live in hope. At times, I think this manifested hope was what carried me along on my own personal journey. What happened to me as a child in Northern Ireland, and later with my health, have definitely impacted my writing – but in all the right ways. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I am living proof of that.
“Bringing a debut novel into the world and seeing my characters come to life is something I have always dreamed of. I love sharing this story, and these characters with the world and it’s been incredible to get out and meet so many of my readers over the last few months.”
After Dad by Claire Shiells is out now, published by The Book Guild (RRP 9.99). The book can be purchased from all good bookshops and online. Please support your local bookshop, where possible. E-books are available from Apple & Amazon (RRP £4.99).
For further information visit www.ClaireShiells.com. Connect with Claire: on Instagram and Twitter, @claireshiells and on Facebook @Claire Shiells – Writer.
For further information, please contact:
Sinead Doyle, SD Create
Tel: 0791 205 9230, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org