In my various author profiles I claim Irish blood & a Welsh heart. The latter is possibly more relevant than the former. I’ve never lived in Ireland & the last time I set foot in my mother’s homeland (my father’s heritage is half Irish) I was a little girl. Wales on the other hand has been my home for decades. I live here from choice & I love it. I love the people, my home town, the landscape & the language (even though my command of it is abysmal.) It pleases me to say, ‘I’m from Wales.’
Needless to say, the scenery, culture & folklore of my adopted home informed my writing. In terms of place, when I began seriously making up stories, I wrote about what I knew. Welsh villages & their often idiosyncratic inhabitants, the surroundings & a history shaped as much by mythology as fact. I wrote my Welsh books from my Welsh heart & dreamed of being a ‘Welsh writer’ – at least by association.
Being published by a Welsh women’s press was the realisation of that dream.
I’m proud to be published in Wales; to be called a Welsh writer & to have people ask me about the genesis of & settings for my stories. Along with many other writers living in Wales & published by a number of brilliant presses, I feel very strongly that we & our publishers are constantly fighting to be visible. Our books (fiction in particular) are often sidelined in Welsh shops as ‘of Welsh interest’ strongly & erroneously suggesting they are written exclusively in the Welsh language. They’re tucked away in this niche category rather than being displayed in ‘general fiction’ alongside the rest of the best of contemporary fiction currently flooding the market.
As authors (alongside our publishers) we’re doing our best to change the perception of Welsh fiction as particular or anachronistic. Where our books happen to be written is deeply important; being Welsh matters but it doesn’t make our books exclusionary, inaccessible, odd or of no interest because somehow, a largely London-centric publishing industry has decided, ‘no one’s interested in Wales.’
And the bookshops have to take some of the responsibility. Good books alone do not sell themselves. This is as mythical a perception as my dragon bones & ghosts! In Wales we struggle to promote our books. And it’s promotion above all that ensures visibility. However good a book is, without promotion no one will know about it. The big chain retail book outlets need to be kinder to us. Give us window space, inclusive shelf space, table top space & above all – the right to be seen as viable & as good as the rest! Their till receipts might cause them to be pleasantly surprised.
HONNO is a Welsh word meaning ‘that one (feminine) who is elsewhere‘ & it’s lovely & evocative.
But Honno authors & Welsh authors generally ought to be everywhere. I will never stop being proud to be a ‘Welsh writer’ albeit it one with Irish blood. (After all, we’re all Celts!) And I’ll bang on about being a proud Welsh writer until the dragons return to Wales!