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Family secrets and intersecting stories, tinged with psychic prediction and anticipated consequence

The stories within Emerald Place span four generations of a working class Irish family stretching from a baby (Saoirse) cut from the womb of her dead mother in the Dublin tenements of 1909 to a great granddaughter’s (Sinead) return, from a self imposed exile, almost a century later. As Emerald Place commutes forwards and back through the different generations we witness a series of life-changing events that, initially, seem unconnected.

In London, in 2007, Sinead’s daughter, Ella, is unwell and needs a familial donor. Sinead’s husband’s (Laurent) relatives are not compatible, for reasons that will become apparent later. Sinead makes the decision to return to the city of her birth, and to try and seek help from the family that she had run away from sixteen years earlier.

During her early years, we see Saoirse’s life through the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish civil war, living near to many of the major figures of the time. We also see Saoirse as a young woman, and, following her marriage, as a wife and mother. But a happy life is not what is intended for her. In later years we see Saoirse as a recluse, reluctant to go to a party to celebrate a milestone birthday; happy only when telling stories from her past; and, finally, as an elderly woman tormented by ghosts.

The focus on Sinead’s life in London sees her caught up in a life of detachment and drug use. A last-minute solo holiday to Kefalonia to try and sort herself out results in more trauma. A holiday rep comes to Sinead’s aid and urges her to put the events behind her and get on with her life. Back in London Sinead quickly marries Laurent - whom she had previously had a casual relationship with - unaware that she is already pregnant. Years later Ella’s illness, and the non-compatibility of Laurent's family, expose a truth that both Sinead and Laurent had suspected.

Emerald Place presents like an intersecting set of short stories, tinged with psychic prediction and anticipated consequence. Throughout the novel other stories appear that seem to have little to do with the overall narrative; a teenager stumbles through a deserted graveyard; the sexual abuse of an adolescent is suggested; a widow waits wailing on the shore. Emerald Place is both personal and cultural, equally about how the secrets of previous generations appear to haunt subsequent ones, as about the dramatic national changes that Ireland has seen over the past century. Emerald Place is also about the broken psyche of a nation in the aftermath of huge population loss and tragedy - in addition to the loss of its language - and about expressing meaning beyond mere words.

Thank you for your interest and your support.

Stephen has written since he was 5. The cover of his first ‘book’ on animals was bound in the hard cardboard from a washing machine powder container, after a summer visit to Dublin zoo. Stephen has always enjoyed language and words, and the opportunities for communication, understanding and misunderstanding that they provide.

Stephen previously worked as a stylist, maker and writer in the fashion and magazine industries, and then retrained as a mental health nurse and specialist community public health practitioner. He has most recently worked with pregnant women and families with new babies, and these experiences have richly informed the writing of Emerald Place. Stephen is interested in writing about the things that are often hidden within cultures, and about the extreme experiences that we all have which are often the hardest to articulate. Saoirse’s life is based loosely on the stories told to Stephen by his paternal grandmother, as a young adolescent, jotted down but unrecorded until now.

Stephen has also written two plays, the first called HALO PERIL DOLL about the relationships between patients and staff on an acute mental health ward, and MEISA MESSIAH, about the aftermath of the death of a cult leader. Stephen has had poetry, articles and essays published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Stephen has also had academic work published on how the maternal birth experience can potentially affect maternal-infant bonding and attachment. Emerald Place is Stephen’s first novel.

Dublin 1992

Aoife was already sat in the cafe on the seafront when Margaret got there. She looked like she had been crying again and her heavy dark coat was zipped right up with a chunky cream coloured polo-neck just visible underneath. Aoife gave Margaret an almost scornful look as she sat down - almost chiding her with a stony silence for being a few minutes late - while the real undertones of blame and guilt played out as they usually did.

“D’ya want another coffee love?”

Aoife shook her head.

“You don’t mind if I have a quick cuppa - I’ve been running around all day.”

Aoife looked at her watch but said nothing in response. They still had twenty minutes to go to their allotted appointment time. Margaret got up and ordered a cup of tea from the counter. Returning to the table she sat down again after first taking off her already opened coat, still damp from the rain earlier. Margaret sat cradling the cup with her hands and smiled as beneficially as she could in the face of Aoife’s ongoing iciness.

“I hope seeing this lady helps you love - I really do - but I am worried that it might be a bit of a let-down, that she might not say what you want to hear.”

Aoife looked sharply at Margaret and then spoke, “I think it’s worth a shot. Anything is worth a shot, I mean Jesus what else have we had to go on. Nothing! Blanket fucking silence. Don’t know whether she’s dead or what. Could be in a ditch somewhere in the country. I mean how could she do this to us…... the….. fucking bitch!”.

Stephen McGowan commented on this blog post.


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Hi all,

I have added some new exciting pledge levels to my profile including a private styling session, tickets to the launch party in London and a walking tour of Dublin featuring some of the locations from the novel. I have made a new film to promote Emerald Place featuring some of these sites. Please take a look and share with anybody who you think might be interested. Many thanks. https://youtu…

Stephen McGowan commented on this blog post.

Fáilte go dtí mo chaillfidh. (Welcome to my shed)

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Thank you for all your support. I am going to be posting bits and pieces, in the shed here, related to Emerald Place, and decided to kick off with something, timely, about the 1916 Rising. Sláinte!

Go raibh maith agat as do chuid tacaíochta. Tá mé ag dul a bheith ag postáil giotán agus píosaí, sa scioból anseo, a bhaineann le Emerald Place, agus chinn chun tús amach le rud éigin, tráthúil, mar…

Pierre Hollins
Pierre Hollins asked:

hey Stephen, thanks for your pledge, very happy to return the favour, loved your reading. good luck with it all. hope to see you another time. best, Pierre

Stephen McGowan
Stephen McGowan replied:

Hey Pierre, thanks very much. Likewise! Hoping to organise another reading in early May In London and it would be great if you could read at it. Will get back soon with more concrete details. Cheers, Stephen.

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