Bestselling author hoping self-publishing pays off on tale of love in 1916

Despite selling 300,000 books, Mary Ryan had to self-publish the English version of her latest novel, writes Colette Sheridan

Bestselling author hoping self-publishing pays off on tale of love in 1916

AUTHOR and retired solicitor Mary Ryan is making her comeback to publishing with her 11th novel, Under the Wild Sky. Despite her first novel, Whispers in the Wind (published by Attic Press), having been a No 1 bestseller back in 1990, and having sold a healthy 300,000 copies of her novels around the world, Ryan didn’t succeed in getting a publishing deal for her latest book with her London publisher.

“I think they didn’t really like the historical element to it and they thought it was too Irish,” says Ryan. “It’s also romantic and has some social commentary in it. Perhaps that’s a difficult fit for a publisher. But my German publishers took it immediately and published it in German.”

Ryan decided to self-publish her novel in English. It’s set during the 1916 Rising, and is about a young couple forced to cross political and religious divides.

“When I wrote the book, I wasn’t particularly thinking of the centenary of the Rising. But because it’s germane to that period, I wanted to get it out on the web. I wasn’t expecting any great thing from the print end of it. But I want to give it life at this point in time. I was able to do it on Amazon. I hired a professional copy-editor and proof-reader.”

The book industry has changed hugely since Ryan started writing. “It’s a sea change. I wonder where it will go. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s like the great change that took place in photography. Kodak didn’t really get on top of the digital end of things. Only time will tell how publishing goes. I’m told I should have a blog and a Facebook page so I’ll try tackling that. What people like to see online are loads of reviews so hopefully, some will come.”

Ryan has a BA degree in English and started her career teaching in England. When she returned to Dublin, she worked in public relations in RTÉ where she met her late husband, John Hederman. “There was the marriage bar so I was basically out on my ear. I decided to go back to college and study law. I also wrote short stories and had them published in magazines such as Woman’s Way.”

After qualifying as a solicitor, Ryan became a partner in a law firm. “But there was the nagging thing about writing. It’s a bit like wanting to use the other side of the brain, knowing there’s more to life. Writing explains life to you. I started doing it kind of for cerebral entertainment.”

Ryan combined writing with the day job and rearing two children. “But there’s only so many hours in the day. The law had to take a back seat. I decided to give it up. I don’t really miss it apart from the satisfaction you get in wrapping up problems. I did a lot of conveyance and probate work and some civil litigation.”

When her husband was diagnosed with cancer, leading to a long illness, Ryan stopped writing to look after him. “He died nine years ago. I started writing again sporadically.”

Now Ryan is writing all the time and has another novel that is almost complete. It’s a psychological suspense story. She is also taking an extra-mural course at Trinity College on early Christian Ireland. Fascinated by the Brehon laws of the era when women were not chattels, unlike their position in feudal Europe, Ryan would “adore to set a novel in that period. That’s really why I’m doing the course.”

Clearly, Ryan is always thinking ahead, using both sides of her brain.

Under the Wild Sky is published by Erris Books at €12.95 in Eason and Dubray Books. It is also available via Amazon or as an ebook

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