The publication of An Irish Country Yuletide marks the end of an era. After bringing much joy to readers with his bestselling Irish Country series, author Patrick Taylor has announced his retirement. Today we celebrate and honor Pat’s work.
A few words from our Chairman, Tom Doherty:
I’ve loved Patrick Taylor’s books, particularly his New York Times bestselling series of the Irish Country; they pull me in, wrap me up and carry me along, so completely involved. I’m sorry there will be no new ones but glad of those I have to read again.
I’ve felt Pat a friend I saw far too seldom; he on the west coast of Canada, me on the east coast of the United States. We’ve had some great lunches and dinners in the past, and I hope we’ll have more during his retirement. I wish Pat all the best.
Pat’s editor at Forge, Kristin Sevick, sat down with Pat to talk more about his experience bringing the Irish Country books to life.
Kristin Sevick: Pat, I know this is a difficult question, but who is your favorite character in the series, and why?
Patrick Taylor: That’s like asking a mother of ten—and they were not uncommon in Ireland in the early sixties—“Who is your favourite child?” If I must pick it has to be Kinky Kincaid. Why? Because Doctor Fingal O’Reilly, who must solve every problem with which he is presented, be able to crush all opposition, and who on the surface appears to be an ogre, can be squashed by a single glance or a vocal inflection from this rock-of-ages strong yet deeply caring woman. And as a man it has been a challenge to draw a credible woman. I like to think I have succeeded.
KS: And do you have any favorite moments in the series?
PT: That’s an easier question. My favourite moments are when the background to the action is the pastoral Ireland where I grew up. As a young man Strangford Lough was my personal idea of heaven, so when O’Reilly goes wildfowling there with Arthur Guinness or just walking with Kitty and his brother Lars, I’m taking myself to a place I have always loved. And I have a soft spot for the scene at the Lughnasa Fair in County Cork where a sixteen-year-old Maureen O’Hanlon is falling in love with Paudeen Kincaid. I am not a lyrical writer, but I am quite pleased with this sentence. “As if using sparkling hands just beneath its surface, the distant sea caught moonbeams, and polished them before release them shimmering from the calm waters.”
KS: That’s such a beautiful line, and I’ve always loved your descriptions of Ireland. How much of your own experience has appeared in the series?
PT: I wish I could remember the author, and I am paraphrasing, who remarked, “Writing fiction is the art of sifting through the slag heaps of your memory to find the occasional gold nugget.” The medical scenes are all accurate because I have experienced them all. And of course, I have taken many of the humorous episodes from my own life or those of my doctor friends.
KS: Did you ever envision the series taking off in such a big way – and lasting so many books?
PT: I envisioned An Irish Country Doctor as one of a kind when first published by a Canadian house in 2004. When I was contacted by Natalia Aponte of Forge and told they wanted to acquire the rights I came as close to needing CPR as I ever have. And a two-book contract? I thought that would be the end of it. Now, 15 books and a novella later, I still don’t really believe it. I have to be one of the luckiest authors of the last 20 years
KS: I know firsthand just how delightful your fans are. They are so wonderful, and so many have taken the time to write you such lovely notes! Do you have any favorite stories about your fans?
PT: You are right, they are delightful. Sometimes, when the muse falters, knowing I am going to disappoint my loyal readers is the spur to give her a nudge. I don’t have any favourite individual fan-mail stories, but I do have a special category. I am an old physician and when, as often happens, I get a letter telling me that my work has helped the author or a loved one to weather an illness or a difficult time in their lives, I do feel very gratified.
KS: Is there anywhere your fans can still travel to get the Ballybucklebo experience?
PT: Even though Dorothy and I went back to live in Ireland from late 2007 to early 2010, I’m sorry to say times have changed very much in the fifty plus years since the series began. By all means please do visit Ulster. The scenery is still much the same, the people are still open, welcoming to strangers, and still possessed of a wicked sense of humour, but if I may quote L.P. Hartley, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
KS: As we bid a fond farewell to the Irish Country series, is there anything you would like to say to your loyal readers?
PT: To all my loyal readers, I would like to say it has given me enormous pleasure to have created this successful series, and much of that pleasure and all of the success has come from you. I can only thank you most sincerely for your support and apologise for not being able to find another fresh episode within me.
Please enjoy Yuletide and wish me well in my retirement.
With my best wishes to you all,
KS: Thank you so much, Pat! Not only for spending this time with me today, but for your charming stories that have warmed so many hearts over the years. It’s been a privilege to have played a part in the publication of these books, and I join Tom Doherty and your many fans by wishing you the very best in your retirement.
Order Copy of An Irish Country Yuletide—available now!