Sunday, May 8, 2016

Living the Dream

Today, I have a guest post, which is something I don’t believe I have ever done before (because, as we know, it’s all about me). But today, I am pleased to host Catherine Ryan Howard.

I encountered Miss Howard years ago on the ex-pats-with-books-about-being-ex-pats circuit. I bought her books — Moustrapped (about her time at Disney World) and Backpacked (about an ill-advised hiking trip in Central America) — and have been following her career ever since.

You see, Catherine had a dream, a big dream, to publish a novel, and I was keen to see her achieve it. On 5 May, that dream came true, and I couldn’t be more pleased for her.

There will be more on the realisation of that dream at the end of the post, so please read on while Catherine reveals her Impressions of Americans:

As anyone will tell you, there are some big differences between the lands that sit on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, even though both – for the most part – speak the same language. In September 2006 I moved from Cork in the south of Ireland to Orlando in Central Florida, itself on the south-easterly tip of the United States.

The first thing you notice when you start to get to know people is that no one seems to think they’re from the United States. For me, my nationality is quite straightforward: I was born in Ireland, therefore I’m Irish. My heritage is utterly entwined with this, because at no point was any member of my family anywhere else. (Not recently enough for it to matter, anyway.) So I was confused when I’d meet new people who’d been born in the United States but claimed to be Irish – and could even tell me what percentage Irish they were. I’d blink in confusion, thinking Unless it’s 100%...

I realised eventually that, because of the kind of country the United States is (i.e. relatively new, mostly populated by immigrants and their descendants), heritage and nationality are two different things, and equally important to the people who live there. They were just valuing this. Plus, it was nice being from the country everyone else seemed to want to be from, too!

The second thing I noticed was how differently both countries viewed travel.

When you live on a tiny island and you can drive from the top to the bottom of it in a single day without getting up at the crack of dawn or driving all night, you make it your business to get off it as much as possible. Passenger ferries and discount airlines make this possible, transporting you all over Europe and beyond.

The Americans I met just didn’t travel very far outside their country as much as the people I knew back home. When they went on vacation it was to other U.S. destinations, or to Mexico or the Carribbean on cruise ships. But then, who could blame them? There is so much to see and do and explore and appreciate inside the borders of the United States, if I was a citizen I’d probably never leave.

After I got home, I read a book called The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett and Holly C Corbett, which is about three friends who work in magazines in New York, who decide to leave their lives for a year to go travelling. This is a perfectly normal thing in Ireland that most twenty-somethings have done in some fashion. But a huge part of the book was taken up with the girls having to justify their decision to friends and families, who reacted as if they’d announced they were moving to Mars.

Catherine, living the dream, at Disney World.
And speaking of Mars….

My favourite thing about Americans and America, though, is the third thing I noticed: they’re big dreamers and they believe anything is possible. This is the total opposite to the national default position here in Ireland.

Bono (he of U2, our greatest musical export) tells an anecdote that pretty much sums up the Irish attitude towards dreaming, achievement and success. This is a paraphrase, but he says in the States, a guy looks up at the huge mansion on the hill and says, ‘One day, if I work hard enough, that’ll be me.’ The Irish guy looks up at the huge mansion on the hill and says, ‘One day, I’m going to get that b-----d.’

I’m more American in this area of my disposition, and regular trips to Kennedy Space Centre (hugely inspiring) and the Magic Kingdom (to watch Wishes, the night time fireworks display, which reminds you that a dream is a wish your heart makes – and they do come true) only made me worse. (Or better?)

At one point while I was living there, I saw that the ESA were looking for volunteers to simulate an eighteen-month mission to Mars by living in two shipping containers and limiting their contact with the outside world to radio messages played on a 45 minute delay (as would be the case if they really lived on Mars), and I thought applying for it would be a great idea. Then… Nothing. I waited. Something was missing.

After a while, I realised what it was: no one had rolled their eyes and laughed at me, which is exactly what that idea would’ve been met with back home in Cork. Instead, people said, ‘That sounds cool. You should go for it. Why not?’

I loved my time in the States and go back as often as I can, if only for a reminder that big dreams are possible…

And here is the dream realised:

a Standalone crime/thriller, published by Corvus/Atlantic.

Subliminal message: go buy it. Now!

Here’s the blurb:

Did she leave, or was she taken?

The day Adam Dunne's girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads 'I'm sorry - S' sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate - and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before. To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground...

Here’s the preview:
       ...of the first three chapters:

Here’re the Reviews:

“Pacey, suspenseful and intriguing … [A] top class, page turning read. Catherine Ryan Howard is an astonishing new voice in thriller writing.” — Liz Nugent, author of 2014 IBA Crime Novel of the Year Unravelling Oliver

“An exhilarating debut thriller from a hugely talented author. Distress Signals is fast-paced, twisty and an absolute joy to read.” — Mark Edwards, #1 bestselling author of The Magpies and Follow You Home

Here’re the links:


To Amazon com

To Distress Signals the Book

To Catherine's Website

To Twitter: @cathryanhoward

To Instagram: @cathryanhoward

To Facebook:


Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a camp site courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin.


  1. I think at some point the introverts in the UK kicked out all of the extroverts and made them emigrate to Massachusetts and New York State. Neither place has ever been the same.

    1. It's as good a theory as any...

  2. Congrats!
    Yes, I do think it's funny when Americans tell you that they're Irish, Italian etc. Even funnier is when they think they're one thing, and then find out that in fact they have a minuscule amount of that particular heritage and are mostly something completely different. Ancestry dot com even have a commercial here about someone thinking he was German and was in fact mostly Scottish.