Local author publishes book about life in Ireland

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Toni “Antoinette” Berthelotte  publishes her first novel, “Fiona of Kinsale: A Tale of Irish Love, Battles and Secrets.” Courtesy photo

Local author Toni “Antoinette” Berthelotte has created a novel about life in Ireland in the 1600s. Her work is getting rave reviews both online and on area social media sites.

Berthelotte, a 10-year resident of Garner Valley, is involved with the TM Water Board, the Idyllwild Garden Club, P.E.O., Garner Valley Book Club and the Writer’s Group in Idyllwild. She loves to write and also support other authors, she said.

“This is my first novel,” she said. “I successfully self-published a business book for back of room sales many years ago.”

But instead of business techniques, “Fiona of Kinsale: A Tale of Irish Love, Battles and Secrets” is 192 pages of her adventures and descriptions of places and people from Ireland.

“Fiona Gearaghty’s future seemed assured during the summer of 1601,” according to the novel’s introduction. “She was still in the bosom of her loving and prosperous family, in a picturesque, protected fishing and trading village on the southern Irish Coast. She had several choices of whom to wed, but no hurry to do so.

“England now ruled and controlled most of Ireland, except for the lands in the wild north. but there was little change in the lives of the citizens of Kinsale because of it. The failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588 was but a distant memory. All of this was to change in the fall as the Spaniard’s last Armada, through the capriciousness of winds and weather, put Kinsale in the middle of this historic battle for a free Ireland.

“With upheaval and deprivation as a backdrop, Fiona’s safe future is cruelly torn from her and she is forced to find a new path while hiding a black secret from those she loved,” according to the book’s introduction.

Berthelotte said her inspiration came from her family.

“My grandmother came from Galway and I finally got to visit the ‘Old Sod’ three years ago. For some reason, I really connected with the lovely village of Kinsale on the south-western coast. This story, or at least a kernel of it, popped into my head as our tour bus left and I just knew I had to write it,” she said.

Berthelotte spent the first six months researching how people lived in the 17th century and about the battle that took place in 1601.

“Then I had to convince myself to actually start writing,” she admitted. “The beginning was difficult because I was so used to business writing, which is basically a comprehensive collection of information, whereas novels are 90% imagination. As I got to know my characters better, the easier it was to write about them.”

She reveled in the joy of finding just the right word or phrase to express her thoughts.

Her writing was sporadic over the last two and a half years, but she said the down periods were helpful because she could read what she had already written with a fresh eye. Inspiration came in waves.

“I have a note taped to my computer that says, ‘Show up to work, every day, even if for only a half-hour.’  I can’t say I always did that, but there were some days I did, and other times I was up at 3 a. m. and writing like a mad-woman,” Berthelotte said.

“Some writers swear by outlines, others prefer the seat-of-the-pants method. I admit, I’m a SOP writer, but kept many notes about facts and characters,” Berthelotte said. “Believe me, by the time you’re 150 pages into the story, you can forget the eye-color of a character, or who was related to whom, in what way. Any writer should have one, or more, faithful beta readers to help you see the story as a new reader would. They see the errors, the sentences that don’t make sense and rough transitions. The difficulty is that the author knows in their head what they are saying, but the reader needs to see that on paper.  The key is to write, rewrite and re-rewrite as many times as it takes.”

Finally, she said the manuscript was ready.

“There are few feelings as good as when you place that final period at the end of your book. It’s like giving birth with a longer gestation period but less pain. That is when the really tough part starts, finding an agent or publisher,” she said.

After months of dozens of query letters, a first-time author realized it was going to be a long and drawn out process. If she felt her book was the next great American novel or the next Harry Potter, she said she might have hung in there. She said did get plenty of interest from companies who wanted to print the book for a large fee.

“I wasn’t willing to pay that much just to have my ego stroked,” she said. “However, I did find KP Publishing, who works in conjunction with Amazon, and it was a great and fee-free decision. As far as the book cover goes, they even have a self-help option for that. I could have used a photo of my own, paid a company to design it or used KDP’s photo gallery, which I did. I was in complete control of the verbiage, fonts and placement.”

The reviews are in, and sales are ongoing and brisk, Berthelotte said.

“This is a must read! I couldn’t put it down! A beautiful story which engulfs you. I felt the emotion, the struggles, and the joys of the characters. Highly recommended.” one reviewer said.

Another one wrote, “Great book. Loved the story as well as the details of life in Ireland in the 1600s. Would love to see more from this author.”

It is apparent that the fans will want a sequel, and Berthelotte said she might consider it.

To order her book, “Fiona of Kinsale: A Tale of Irish Love, Battles and Secrets,” visit www.amazon.es/Fiona-Kinsale-Battles-Secrets-English-ebook/dp/B07X2V17F7.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.