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21 Jan 2022

Kildare author's debut fantasy novel examines the search for truth

Our Own Correspondent: First book by Celbridge-based writer James Hereward

Kildare author's debut fantasy novel examines the search for truth

James Hereward

A Kildare writer has launched his first book, a fantasy with the search for truth at its story heart.

Celbridge-based James Hereward launched the book, Our Own Correspondent, described also as “speculative fiction” at Castletown House in October.

Over fifty people attended the launch at the Hunting Room, with a keynote speech by Kildare-based author and broadcaster, Eoghan Corry.

Eoghan told the gathering that James’s book opened all sorts of avenues which were not open in more realistic fiction and spoke of James’s “immense talent” in his first book.

Eoghan said the writings of Joyce, Yeats and Seamus Heaney also featured stories which cannot be told without imaginative richness.

He drew comparisons between James with writers like Eoin Colfer, Tolkien and CS Lewis.

Eoghan also spoke about Hereward the Wake, whose name James is using as a writer, who fought against the Norman Conquest of England.

James said the book was inspired by seeing and reading stories about journalists being attacked and killed, including in wartime, and the general hostility they have faced especially in recent years.

It is set in the fantasy kingdom of Larence, where no newspapers exist. Hereward’s reporter protagonist is warned: ‘Be afraid of the man who wants the truth buried’.

James said that the book took two years to write, mainly during the Covid period.

Eoghan Corry noted the book came at a time when two journalists had been awarded a Nobel Peace prize for their journalism work.

James (37) lives in Castletown, Celbridge.

Son of Penny and John Smith, James Hereward (his middle name) Smith, to give him his full name, was formally educated at the Glebe Montessori school and Colaiste Chiarain in Leixlip before studying history and philosophy at Maynooth University and also at Trinity where he did a study of 18th century Presbyterian, George Hill.

Although he never worked as a journalist, James’s historical and philosophical background set him up well to tackle the subject of journalism and truth.

At the launch, Eoghan Corry told the audience that it was the 25th anniversary of Fake News, spoke of his time as a reporter and of being taken for a spy in both Northern Ireland and South Africa.

Speaking of the key protagonist, Erasmus Grey, in Our Own Correspondent, Eoghan said: “I feel at home with this guy because by page ten he is already in the cells.”

In an interview in Celbridge, James said: “A lot of people want to hold journalists to high standards but they are often stuck in a situation where it is almost impossible to be neutral. But you have to have people trying to get the truth out.”

James said Our Own Correspondent is the first book he sent to a publisher. “I tried others before but they were not given to the publisher.”

He is grateful to the advice offered by Conor Kostick, author of The Avatar Chronicles, who helped bring James’s novel to completion at a course at the Irish Writers Centre.

Mr Kostick said: “Erasmus Grey’s struggles resonate with that of journalists around the world today, leaving the reader contemplating truth and justice in an atmosphere of lies.”

Asked who his own favourite writer was, James said: “Probably, Terry Pratchett. In a way I have taken on some of his style.”

While not writing his fiction or playing games, James, who speaks German, does translation work, mainly of academic work from German to English.

A lifelong lover of books and fantasy fiction, he has found his academic background in history and philosophy useful when thinking through the context and ideas behind fiction.

James said he is also a fan of role-playing games, which, he says, “are excellent practice for bringing stories, worlds, and characters to life.”

With his first book finished, James, who has two brothers, Charles, working in IT in New York and Will, working in film and tv production, is now preparing his second, a sequel to Our Own Correspondent.

Our Own Correspondent is published by Cranthorpe Millner Publishers.

It is available from Amazon and The Book Depository, in limited numbers from the Maynooth Bookshop and on Kindle.

The 388 page book is priced at stg £10.99.

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