Recently I came across a local Cork Writer, Aedin Johnston, who has written a book about a topic very close to her heart, entitled Finding James.
Her Granduncle, James O’ Connor was a Cork man who was called to the Colours in August 1914. He nearly made it to the end of the war but died on the battle fields of France in 1918. His family did not know why he joined the British Army or where he was buried. Through research Aedin followed his journey once he left Ireland to when he finally died.
Finding James is an emotional journey which uses one man’s details to understand the lives these soldiers led and to pay tribute to their sacrifice.
I am delighted to hand over to Aedin here at Swirl and Thread today with a wonderful guest-post entitled :
‘My Path to Self-Publication’
‘I have always adored curling up with a book and living in its world.
Similarly I have always loved writing and playing with words. Many of my unfinished short stories lay hidden on my laptop. I have written a diary since the age of thirteen which is hilarious to read back over. I have also published articles in the local newspapers but I never believed I would write a book…..
I had grown up knowing that I had a relation called James O’ Connor, in the British army. I was intrigued by James because I couldn’t understand how he had joined the British army when the majority of his family were republican.
In 2006 I began researching my granduncle, James O’ Connor who fought and died in the First World War. We knew nothing about his military life or where he was buried. We didn’t even have a photo of him. It was like time was rubbing him out of history. So my journey began.
I researched and made notes of the information I found. I decided to write it down for my sons so that his story would not be forgotten. Then in the middle of my research I got Cancer. I heard those dreaded words and my world stood still. It took a year of surgery and hospital visits to put the nightmare behind me.
When the whirlwind had passed and the dust settled James remained and I was determined to finish his story. I met the famous Cork historian, Gerry White and he encouraged me to write James’s story but also to include mine in it. I was reluctant to do so but I am glad now that I did.
“Finding James” grew organically as I pieced together James’s story and wove mine into its fabric. All I needed now was a publisher.
I started to send my manuscript off to different publishers. They would keep it for what seemed like eternity and then my reply would eventually come….”Dear Aedin we really liked your story…BUT”. It was the same reaction every time, they liked my style of writing, they liked the story but they felt it wouldn’t have a wide enough audience. Two publishers in particular were interested in it but it wouldn’t make enough money for them.
For me it was never about the money, “Finding James” was a labour of love.
In 2015 my father, Tom Twomey, passed away. He had been told about his uncle James by his mother and in turn passed the mantle of remembering him to his children. His death made me realise that time moves on and we are not here for a long time. In his memory, I decided to take the plunge and self-publish but I didn’t know how to go about it.
I had been told that I could get it printed cheaper if I went abroad to do it but I decided I wanted to keep the printing within Ireland.
After a bit of research, I found a company in Cork called Lettertec. They made the process very easy. I wanted to keep the costs down so I did most of the graphic design myself. They sent me a template to copy and paste my manuscript into. My husband Philip and son Darren helped me design the cover. Lettertec organised the ISBN number. There was a bit of emailing back and forth making sure that there were no spelling errors and the photographs were positioned properly. It took a few weeks but we got there.
When you self- publish you have to be prepared to work at it.
It is lovely to finally get your manuscript into book form after the hard slog. But this is when the work really begins. You have to write press releases, contact all the local radio stations and newspapers to announce the launch. You have to organize a launch. More importantly you have to contact local book shops to stock your “new baby”.
My experience of self- publishing has been very positive.
I like the idea that I have complete control over “Finding James”. I am not dealing with a publishing house that are taking most of the profits and telling me how my book should be sold.
Not only is it the story of one Irish man during the war but it could be any Irish soldiers struggle.
It also outlines my life while researching James. It is not a history book but many people said that they learned things about history that they never knew and that the human story within captivated and inspired them. I’m just glad I persevered and self-published.
Now his story will live on down through the generations.’
About my Guest:
Aedín Johnston was born in Cork and continues to live there with her husband Philip and her three grown up sons Darren, Ian and Robert. She has a BA in English Literature and Psychology as well as a postgraduate diploma in education.
She has published articles in local Cork newspapers and also compiled and edited a cook book called ‘Kiss to Cook’, in aid of Breast cancer.