Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Dancing to an Irish Reel" by Claire Fullerton

Dancing to an Irish Reel
by Claire Fullerton

Dancing to an Irish Reel is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Twenty five year old Hailey Crossan takes a trip to Ireland during a sabbatical from her job in the LA record business. While there, she’s offered a job too good to turn down, so she stays.
Although Hailey works in Galway, she lives in the countryside of Connemara, a rural area famous for its Irish traditional music. When Hailey meets local musician, Liam Hennessey, a confusing relationship begins, which Hailey thinks is the result of differing cultures, for Liam is married to the music, and so unbalanced at the prospect of love, he won't come closer nor completely go away.
And so begins the dance of attraction that Hailey struggles to decipher. Thankfully, a handful of vibrant local friends come to her aid, and Hailey learns to love a land and its people, both with more charm than she ever imagined.

Book Video

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.

Praise for the Book
"At the heart of Dancing to an Irish Reel is the potential for new love, and the reader is lured along its uncertain development by being privy to exactly what Hailey is thinking as Liam Hennessey sends out mixed signals in his awkward courtship. I found myself laughing out loud at the dynamic’s accuracy in this realistic portrayal of an attraction that keeps the narrator guessing and has no guarantee. But Dancing to an Irish Reel is also a lyrically written story. Its language is fluid and beautifully descriptive with laser sharp intelligence and pacing without any gaps. It reads like a celebration of hope, youth, friendship, and discovery as the narrator confidentially shares her longing to connect and her awestruck appreciation for all that is Irish. From the portrayal of the landscape to the character of Ireland's people, it is an outsider’s travelogue experienced through the heart and a rollicking good time all at once!" ~ Ellen Comeskey
"This delightful novel reads more like a memoir than a work of fiction. In truth, it is a love song to the landscape, people, culture, and language of western Ireland. The author has perfectly captured the complex, and sometimes confusing, subtlety of the Irish people in the cadences and patterns of their language. The characters are well-drawn, quirky, and unique. [...] The carefully crafted descriptions of the settings, both natural and man-made, are so vivid you feel as if you’re sitting in the village pubs listening to traditional Irish music along with the characters. If you’ve ever been to Ireland, reading Dancing to an Irish Reel will take you back in a heartbeat; if you haven’t yet had that pleasure, this book serves as a tantalizing appetizer." ~ Alison Henderson
"Once in awhile, a book comes along that lures you to remember what it’s like to be adventurous, free, and at the cusp of self-discovery. Claire Fullerton is a skilled and passionate writer who beautifully marries the culture and elements of Ireland with a romantic story that intimately connects us to the lead character, Hailey Crossan. [...] It is an impassioned, uplifting read that set my own dreams on fire!" ~ Sandra Peckinpah
"Claire Fullerton's writing style is clear and succinct. She develops her story of a young L.A. music professional finding her feet in Galway City and Connemara. She captures the uniquely Irish atmosphere and psyche to perfection. A really good read, I enjoyed the story. I also enjoyed the small touches like waving good mornin' to the Bus Eirean drivers on the country roads around Galway City. The other reviewers have dealt with the minutiae of the love entanglement quite adequately. A page turner without doubt." ~ Andy Waters

Guest Post by the Author
My Inspiration for Writing Dancing to an Irish Reel
I spent ten days on the west coast of Ireland last October. It was during that slip of time where the days grow dark by seven P.M. as the season inches towards winter. It was temperate weather in that tourist off-season, for Ireland is subject to the North Atlantic Drift which keeps the air on a surprising even keel save for the unpredictable episodes of rain which can appear without warning to add a hint of dramatic effect that rarely lasts long. What I like about Ireland’s west coast is that it is basically untouched, especially in the area known as the Gaeltacht, which refers to the predominately Irish speaking area of Ireland where the old ways are still kept.

Circle of Stones behind a church, Kinvara, Ireland: A good example of many of the mystical symbols found throughout the west of Ireland

Once upon a time, I spent a year living in the rural region of Inverin while I worked thirteen miles down the coast in Galway. Inverin is a land separated into geometric prisms by grey-stone walls leading down to the rock encrusted shores of the Atlantic on one side of the coast road and bog-land that stretches out forever on the other. Between the time I arrived in Ireland and the time I left, I managed to ingratiate myself into the rhythm of a land that has more soul and character than any place I’d ever imagined.

Dungaire Castle, Kinvara, Ireland: Built in 1520, this castle sits on the shores of Galway Bay, the setting for Dancing to an Irish Reel

So, I took the experience and wrote a novel about a single American female who leaves the record business in Los Angeles and relocates to rural Ireland where she meets an Irish traditional musician who won’t come closer nor completely go away. The novel was released on 31 March 2015 and is entitled, Dancing to an Irish Reel. I went out of my way not to patronize anything about Ireland, particularly its people. I wanted to refrain from bringing an American frame of reference to the book because I felt it had been done before and somehow cheated what I wanted to be the point of the story, which concerns the ambiguity of a budding love relationship with its attendant excitement, hope and doubt. On the one hand, this story could have happened anywhere (I know of very few people who haven’t been thrown into confusion as they navigate the minefield of new found attraction) but because this story takes place in Ireland, I had the opportunity to highlight a setting in possession of unfathomable beauty with a history of cultural nuances worth the singing of deep praise.

The Cliffs of Moher, Clare, Ireland: Across Galway Bay from Hailey Crossan's home in rural Ireland

I am very excited and have a curious mixture of humility and pride at the thought of sharing this novel. It may sound trite to say it’s my love letter to Ireland but in many ways, it is. In writing Dancing to an Irish Reel, I did what all writers do: tell about how they find the world through the vehicle of one painstakingly crafted, poignant case in point.

The Claddagh, Galway, Ireland: Setting of the Galway Music Centre in Dancing to an Irish Reel

About the Author
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, Tennessee. and now lives in Malibu, California, where she is working on her third novel.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton.