Interview with Alfonso Zapico author of the graphic novel ‘James Joyce, Portrait of a Dubliner’

JamesJoyce-PortraitofaDublinerDid you miss the interview with author and illustrator Alfonso Zapico in the Irish Independent last week? Well don’t worry because we have all the inside information on his fantastic graphic novel James Joyce, Portrait of a Dubliner here! Read on to find out more about his fascinating project!

Alfonso, how did you come up with the idea to create a graphic novel about the life of James Joyce?

There are a lot of reasons I decided to write the book, no one reason alone. It was a test in a way, to see if I could actually do it. I like to try to build a life with all the elements around a character: the scenery, the places, the other characters, and to recreate the atmosphere of the time through my drawings. I suppose it’s similar to making a film, but with paper and ink. It was a very interesting experiment! The other reasons were more philosophical: James Joyce was a pioneer in 20th century literature: he changed people’s view of the world and society, he rejected the big heroic characters and gave prominence to ordinary men and women, real life, the little details of human existence. And the third reason, and maybe the most important one for me, is the rebelliousness of Joyce, his optimism, and the way he overcame so many challenges during his life. Perhaps this is an Irish trait, I think you can see it throughout Irish history.

How was your experience of researching the book and the life of James Joyce?

The most important thing for me was to try to get across to the reader the spirit of Joyce, this great artist and his world, his vision of life. When I was researching the life of James Joyce, two essential books for me were the biography of Joyce by Richard Ellmann and ‘Joyce for Beginners’ by David Norris & Carl Flint. Also, of course, Joyce’s books: in ‘Ulysses’, ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ and ‘Dubliners’, I found lots of small details that helped me to build Joyce’s Dublin.

You also did some research for the book in Dublin, how was that?

I spent many months doing research for the book in Dublin and the experience was fantastic! I didn’t just want to create my drawings from old photos in books. In order to get across the essence of a place, you have to visit that place. I walked the Dublin streets, I saw the colour of the sky, I drank beer in the pubs, I ate fish and chips, I talked to Dubliners. Old photos are all very well, but Dublin is a magical city, and you have to go to the heart of Dublin to try to understand Joyce. Maybe this special atmosphere is not always visible to people who live in Dublin, but for me as a visitor, it was a joy the first time, the second time and every time I return to this wonderful city.

Thanks very much for the chat Alfonso!

Click here for more information on James Joyce, Portrait of a Dubliner

Plus head to where you can get 20% off all our James Joyce books for the month of June!

Happy Bloomsday!

Marketing & PR Internship


book-loveAlways wanted to work with books? Fancy seeing what it’s like to work in a publishing house? Well now is your chance to find out! The O’Brien Press is offering an unpaid marketing and PR internship for our busy autumn season.


This position would be ideally suited to graduates who are seeking to gain experience in publishing, and in the area of marketing and publicity, in particular.

Candidates should be:

  • Highly organised
  • Able to work as part of a team and on their own initiative
  • Able to handle a very busy and time pressurised working environment
  • Proficient in MS Office (Word, Excel) and Outlook. Experience with InDesign and/or social media for business would be a bonus

Further details are available on request.

Please send applications to Ruth Heneghan at Closing date for receipt of applications is 5pm on Wednesday 19th June.

Guest Post: Gary Kirwan’s motivational tips for a healthier you!

Are you feeling that you overindulged this Easter? Do you want to get fitter for the summer? Don’t worry we’re here to help! The inspirational Gary Kirwan author of Winning A Losing Battle has given us his top motivational tips for kick-starting a healthier lifestyle starting today!

How to motivate yourself is something that we all think about. Some spend days, some spend weeks and others will spend months thinking about this, and before you know it, another year has gone by and we are in exactly the same place that we were last year!
Here are some things that I have learnt so far on my weight loss journey; hopefully they might help you to get motivated this year. Remember never give up on yourself and you too can start winning your losing battle! Good luck!

1. Have a plan – and write it down! Start by setting out your goals on a short, medium and long term basis – and write them down – to see your goals in black and white makes them more real. Short term goals should be simple and realistic ones, something easy to get you started, medium term goals might be more challenging, for example, maybe a 5k run, and longer term goals would be on a longer time scale and would require a lot of work but will give you something to aim for, which in turn can help keep you motivated. By breaking down your goals like this, you’ll have a more realistic idea of what it is that you want to achieve, and the more realistic your approach, the better chance you have of reaching those goals.

2. Tell your family and friends. I was very lucky to get so much support from Today FM’s The Ray D’Arcy Show – the show provided me with a platform to talk openly about my journey from 41 stone to a new life. I always felt comfortable talking to Ray as I felt like I knew him after years of listening to his show and I’m grateful to Ray and everyone on the show for giving me a chance to talk about my story. I also had the invaluable support of my family and friends. Don’t be shy about telling people what you want to achieve – talking openly can be very liberating and can shed some of the emotional baggage that we all carry, especially about issues such as weight loss, and whether your goal is losing weight, getting fit or quitting smoking, the support of your friends and family can be a huge help in achieving your goals.

3. Start small. You might be tempted to jump right in and try to achieve everything immediately, but when it comes to exercise and diet, this approach may not be the best, healthiest or, indeed, the safest one. Ask for advice if you’re not sure how to get started. When it comes to exercise, start small, but don’t be afraid to try new things, and get your family or friends involved or join a class – it can help keep you motivated when you’re sharing the experience with other people who have similar goals to you. The same applies to changing your diet – don’t go cold turkey (pardon the Christmas pun). Instead, why not aim to make small lasting changes over a longer period of time; it’s easier and you’re more likely to stick to your goals in the long run.

4. Try it on. If weight loss is your goal, watching the scales can be difficult – instead, why not use clothing as a more realistic barometer of how you are doing? Just pick one item of clothing and try it on every now and then – does it fit better, is it getting looser, where is it looser? When you feel the difference in your clothes, you’ll feel more motivated to keep going.

5. Checking in. Always keep your list of goals handy, it’ll remind why you started this and where you are going.

6. Bad days! Probably the most important thing to realise is that we all have bad days. When you have a bad day, just don’t allow it to become a bad week, month or year or you’ll find yourself back at square one next year – instead, just shrug it off and simply start again. Make this a goal in itself, so that when you do have a bad day, you’ll be less likely to throw in the towel, and you’ll find it easier to stay motivated.

7. Give it a chance. As someone once said, ‘it takes 4 weeks for you to notice your body changing, 8 weeks for your friends to notice and 12 weeks for the world to notice, so don’t quit, give it 12 weeks – give it a chance’.

Winning A Losing Battle, the story of how Gary Kirwan went from 41 stone to a new life, is available now.

All opinions stated in this piece are those of the author. If you think you need to lose weight, ask your doctor or local healthcare professional for advice.

Guest Author Post: Conor Kostick at the Prix Farniente

The Prix Farniente is an annual Belgian based international award for literature for young readers. Unlike most award ceremonies, however, the prizes are given at a full day of high energy events, with a huge input from the young readers. Librarians and teachers build up to the day in a number of ways: there are artworks of the books, reviews; and perhaps the most fun of all, a lot of dressing up. The nominated authors were given their presents (a fabulous chocolate sneaker, packed with with chocolates!) by young readers dressed as characters from their books. Later in the day, teams of four, also dressed up, gave one minute presentations summing up the books before settling down to answer a quiz. The question from Epic was really hard, I wasn’t sure of the answer! (Name two characteristics of the avatar Cindella). There was lots of opportunities to meet young readers and hear their feedback and questions (mainly, ‘when will the sequel be available in French’?). All in all it was a very professional, well-organised event, yet one that was not stuffy or overly formal, but was colourful and passionate about books. I had a wonderful time and I’m delighted that I got the chance to be involved.

If you’d like to find out more about Epic and the rest of Conor’s books click here!

OBP Nominations for Irish Book Awards 2012!

Hello Friends of OBP!

It’s been a while, but after our busiest and best autumn season ever we’re back with a bang and some great news!

Four of our autumn books have been nominated for Irish Book Awards and we’re very excited about it!
Details of all the books are below and if you think you might like to vote for one of them, then please do! But be sure to do it quickly as voting closes at midnight this Sunday 18th November!

Check back here soon for a round-up of our awesome Autumn events and some fantastic Christmas gift ideas! (Check out the website for the special 20% discount on all our books until 14 December!)

And Time Stood Still by Alice Taylor
Shortlisted for the International Education Services Best Irish-Published Book of the Year

Alice Taylor shares her heart and soul, her loves and losses in this intimate book
Alice has known, loved, and lost many people throughout her life. Here she talks about her special people, her memory of what meant so much to her about them. She remembers her husband, father and mother, a beloved sister, her little brother Connie, and many others. She tells how she coped with the emptiness she felt when they died, of the seeming impossibility of moving on with life after such deeply felt loss, when time stood still.

This book is a sharing – it lets the reader in on a story and celebration of life in its intimacy, its small, precious moments. When we experience grief, sharing in someone else’s story can help us more than anything, and in the hands of master storyteller Alice Taylor, we may find our own solace and the space to remember our own special people.

‘thought-provoking’ Evening Echo
‘beautifully illustrated and featuring the finest of prose and poetry’ Southern Star

At War with the Empire by Gerry Hunt
Shortlisted for the International Education Services Best-Irish Published Book of the Year
The Easter Rising of 1916, with its Proclamation of Independence, lit the spark that would eventually blaze into a full-scale War of Independence in Ireland.
Though the 1916 Rising was put down within a week, the harshness of the British response greatly increased support for Sinn Fein, the Republican party. By 1918 disaffectation with British rule was widespread. When Sinn Féin won a majority of seats in the 1918 election they vowed to set up their own Irish parliament. The first Irish parliament, the Dáil, was formed on 21 January 1919. It reaffirmed the 1916 proclamation with the Declaration of Independence, and issued a ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’ that stated that there was ‘an existing state of war between Ireland and England’. On that same day, the first shots were fired in the Irish War of Independence.

This is the story of that war.

‘the War of Independence as you’ve never seen it before’ RTE Guide
‘moves along at a deceptively fast pace and a strong narrative emerges from the force and vividness of its determinedly old-fashioned drawings’ Sunday Times

Leave it to Eva by Judi Curtin
Shortlisted for the Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year Senior

Fun, feisty Eva Gordon always tries to help her friends, but this time she might have a problem that’s too big even for her …
When Eva and her family go to Seacove, she’s looking forward to seeing her friend Kate, but things have gone very wrong for Kate and this time Eva’s not sure if she should help her …

It’s not just Seacove Eva’s visiting – her friend Ruby offers her the chance of a visit to London. And there may be a way the trip with Ruby can help Eva sort things out for everyone …

If you have a problem that needs solving, just leave it to Eva!

‘would heartily recommend both this book and the author’
‘readers young and old will savour this latest instalment’ Sunday Independent Living
‘a thoughtful examination of friendship and loyalty’ Irish Independent

Rebecca’s Rules by Anna Carey
Shortlisted for the Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year Senior

My name is Rebecca Rafferty, and there are so many things wrong with my life right now.

My boyfriend has moved to Canada. Canada!
I have annoyed my best friends Cass and Alice by going on about him all the time.
I’m going to a crazy girl’s ridiculous birthday party and I am not sure why.
Things have got to change. So I’ve made some new rules.

No moping.
No ignoring my friends’ problems.
Find something exciting for me, Cass and Alice to do so our friendship gets back to normal.
Something fun. Something new. Something like joining the school musical …

‘It reminded me of being a teenager, the nice parts! It’s a perfect piece of hilarious loveliness! Gold Star!!!!’ Marian Keyes
‘another slice of real-life heartbreak and joy – and a lot of laughs’ Irish Independent
‘better than Adrian Mole!’

Something Fishy!

In celebration of National Fish & Chips Day today we’ve decided to share with you Edward Hayden’s great recipe to make your very own yummy fish and chips tonight!

Deep Fried Plaice & Chips with Creamed Peas
Serves 4

Fish, chips and mushy peas – though we hate to admit it we all love it! I prefer this method of coating the fish to a thick batter, which can be too heavy – it often seems that there’s more batter than fish. Plaice is a very versatile fish and this is just one way to use it. If you wish, you could use other types of fish, such as John Dory, cod or haddock for this dish. I have also included a method for cooking the perfect chip!

Edward’s Thick-Cut Chips
4 large potatoes (roosters/maris pipers)
Sunflower/vegetable oil for deep frying

Deep Fried Plaice:
4 large fillets of plaice
1 egg
2floz/50ml milk
1oz/25g seasoned flour (plain flour with salt
and pepper)
5oz/150g breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes

Peel the potatoes and cut into thick pieces.
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer. Test it by dropping a piece of bread into the oil; if it’s sufficiently hot the bread will crisp up in 30 seconds.
Once the oil is hot drop the chips into it and cook until they are almost fully cooked. At this stage lift the chips up from the oil, allow the oil to heat back up for 2-3 minutes and carefully drop the chips back into the hot oil for 2-3 minutes until they turn nice and crisp.
Drain well on kitchen paper and store in the oven for a remaining 3-4 minutes whilst you are cooking the fish.

Remove the skin from each fillet of plaice.
Prepare three bowls:
1: Seasoned flour
2: Egg wash mixture: egg and milk whisked together
3: Breadcrumbs with sesame seeds & chilli flakes
Dip the pieces of fish in the flour first to coat, shake off the excess and then transfer to the egg wash mixture, coating completely and finally toss the egg-coated pieces of fish in the breadcrumb mixture.
Using your hand, gently press the breadcrumbs onto the fillets of plaice.
Place on a tray in the fridge to rest while you make your pea purée.

To Cook:
Heat the deep fat fryer with some vegetable/sunflower oil.
Check that the oil is hot enough (see Thick-Cut Chips recipe, above).
Carefully drop the coated fillets of plaice (in batches) into the deep fat fryer.
Deep fry the fish until golden brown. This should take no more than 3-4 minutes.
Drain on some kitchen paper and serve immediately.
Serve the fish with creamed peas and home-made chips.

Creamed Peas:
8oz/225g frozen peas
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
½ medium sized onion, finely diced
4 mushrooms, thinly sliced
4floz/110ml cream
1 tablepoon mint, freshly-chopped
Salt & freshly-ground black pepper

In a large saucepan quickly fry off the onion, garlic and mushrooms until lightly browned.
Add in the frozen peas and allow to cook gently with onion, garlic & mushroom mixture for 3-4 minutes.
Add in cream and cook until the peas have softened and the cream has reduced and thickened slightly (allow no more than 5 minutes).
Mix in the freshly chopped mint at this stage.
Correct the seasoning and serve immediately.

Edward’s Top Tip:
The different elements of this dish all cook in a relatively short period of time so it is worth spending a little extra time preparing all different elements and then cook them all almost simultaneously. Start by cooking the creamed peas and the chips. The fish only takes a few minutes to cook, so this is normally the last item I start on. Trust me, it is well worth the effort!

Taken from p. 64 of Food to Love by Edward Hayden, out now in paperback priced €14.99 click here for more information!

Double Win for Celine Kiernan & Into the Grey at the Children’s Books Ireland Awards!

What an eventful day! Celine Kiernan author of the phenomenal Moorehawke Trilogy, won the CBI Children’s Choice Award for her fabulous novel Into the Grey! Not only that, but she also won the main prize – CBI Book of the Year Award! Celine was up against some very tough competition with the rest of the extremely talented shortlisted nominees – Roddy Doyle, Siobhan Parkinson, Paula Leyden, Mark O’Sullivan, Caitríona Hastings & Andrew Whitson, Oliver Jeffers and Derek Kielty. All of the books that were nominated were powerful & beautiful and some dealt with extremely difficult subject matter in sensitive and imaginative ways.

The ceremony kicked off with the Junior Juries speaking fantastically and enthusiastically about each of the nominated books that they reviewed.
Then the guest speaker Fergus Finlay (Barnardos CEO) spoke about the power of reading, saying that when a child can read confidently the positive effects of this radiate throughout his/her entire life.
All of sudden the big moment was upon us and the winners of the six CBI Awards were announced with Paula Leyden, Mark O’Sullivan, Oliver Jeffers and Siobhan Parkinson all winning special merit awards for their books.

Then we received the double delight of Celine being announced winner of the Children’s Choice Award AND the Book of the Year Award!

On her amazing win Celine had this to say:
‘To have won both the Children’s Choice Award and the Book of the Year Award has simply blown me away. The Children’s Choice Award means so much – children are the most honest of readers and for them to have voted Into the Grey as their winner is the highest compliment I could ever have received. And then, on top of that, to have the recognition of the panel of judges whose vote is based on literary merit as much as enjoyment of the story is quite the icing on the cake.’

Scroll down to read Celine’s guest post on writing Into the Grey or click here

And for more information on Into the Grey and The Moorehawke Trilogy click here or visit

Delivering The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide by David Caren

The notion of ‘from a dad’s perspective’ first set the wheels in motion. I recall when my wife was expecting, and like the majority of most new Irish expectant dads, I was feeling elated but at the same time nervous as to what lay ahead.
Thankfully, I worked in pregnancy book central, a major bookstore, and on the day I found out we were pregnant I (discreetly!) popped over to our ‘sex & pregnancy’ section. I flipped through what was on offer on the shelf for expectant dads, making sure my suspicious behaviour didn’t appear like I needed any help from any of the relationship manuals!

The selection was limited to ‘laddish’ style bloke guides that did nothing to quell the nerves. When I investigated further on the Internet, I discovered amongst the information, heavily pink mothering sites with only a few tips written by good-hearted mums on how best to support your pregnant partner in ‘her’ pregnancy. I suppose it was this factor which made me think ‘but what about poor little old nervous me? Don’t I feature in all of this?’

This triggered my paternal quest to establish an information hub for Irish expectant dads who could visit a website and find articles written by other dads who were either in a similar boat or whose boat had already docked and could tell tales about their travels. was formed shortly after we learned that we were expecting our second daughter. Though I had gathered plenty of material for the site prior to this, it seemed more substantiated now that we were expecting again and that the information featured on the site was relevant to where we were in our own pregnancy.

The idea of The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy & Beyond, was always there really, even prior to launching over three years ago. There still existed a gap on the shelf for a pregnancy title aimed at Irish expectant dads that included information appropriate to the Irish marketplace and more importantly, accounts from other Irish fathers about surviving the pregnancy.
I am very fortunate over the years to have made many friendships through with other Irish fathers. Many of whom have contributed to The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy & Beyond. This fraternity of fathers, though professing not to being writers themselves, were wise enough to insist that their surnames be omitted in the final print run – oh the bravery of Irish dads!

In writing The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy & Beyond, I strived to make the content accessible, fresh and reassuring. When it did call for a more medical approach to certain topics I called on the help of a GP pal (who was an expectant dad at the time too!) to ensure that any terminology appeared in dad-friendly plain speak.

To put expectant dads further at ease, I enlisted the services of a seasoned midwife and lecturer in midwifery who patiently answered all the important questions regarding the delivery including; ‘Where do I stand in the labour ward?’ and ‘What if I feel faint?’…

‘Surviving the first six weeks’ after the birth plays an integral part in the book. Naturally, becoming a dad is probably one of the most important life-changing events to occur in a man’s life. However, in the months leading up to seeing his baby, the dad can often feel side-lined, with the reality of the situation not kicking in until he is cradling his newborn in his arms for the very first time.

Finally, if I could pinpoint the one word that best describes The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy & Beyond it would be reassuring. Reassuring for any expectant dad that whatever he is feeling is perfectly normal, and that through reading this book he will discover that other Irish dads have gone through the same.

The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy (& Beyond) by David Caren is available now in all good bookshops and at

Guest Post by Celine Kiernan on her CBI Book of the Year Nomination!

Into the Grey first grew out of a simple, scary prospect. Imagine sleeping in a strange bunk bed in a strange house. Imagine waking in the middle of the night to realise that there was someone in the bed above– the bed you knew had been empty when you went to sleep. Imagine if that someone began to speak as if they knew you. Would you answer back?

This was the beginning of what became a very complicated story indeed. One in which I not only scared the pants off myself, but also explored the ideas of identity and self awareness and loss. The idea of looking into your own face and not knowing who you are is a theme that runs strongly throughout this story – not knowing who you are without the network of love and support you’re used to, or the possessions that you had decided defined you. Not knowing who you are because you see yourself one way, while history has decided to portray you another. Physically not knowing who you are due to the ravages of time or disease.

And then of course, there is bravery. The bravery of one brother trying to save another. Of one woman battling to maintain the dignity of another. Of an old man standing up to the world’s idea of what he is or has been. And physical bravery, the courage to step up and shout out and cross over into something terrifying so that another person will not suffer the way you have suffered.

I loved these characters, Pat and Dom, Francis and Laurence, James and Cheryl and Olive and Dave. They were absolutely real to me. As was the Skerries of my childhood and that house – the house with the bunk bed, the rust spotted mirror, the tangled garden, the twisted apple trees, the ghosts of wars long fought and still active – all real.

Many thanks to the CBI Book Awards for including it on the shortlist.

The Children’s Books Ireland Book Awards 2012 will take place on May 28th.

Click here for more information on Into the Grey.

O’Brien Press announces the acquisition of Brandon Books at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2011

Here it is folks! Our big announcement at Frankfurt, as seen today in The Bookseller and Book Trade publications…

The O’Brien Press, Ireland’s leading independent publisher, has announced its acquisition of distinguished Irish press Brandon Books, a year after its founder, Steve MacDonogh, died suddenly, leaving Brandon leaderless.

This important deal includes the purchase of the Brandon name and a significant number of their key titles, their contracts and book stock. Brandon Books will continue trading as an imprint of The O’Brien Press as of October 2011.

Publisher and founder of The O’Brien Press, Michael O’Brien, noted that The O’Brien Press looked forward to welcoming many of Brandon’s writers to their new home at The O’Brien Press and commented:

‘Steve was a man of many talents. From a small base in beautiful Kerry, he created an international literary press. He was a lifelong friend and colleague.’

Brandon Books has been a leading imprint in Ireland since 1982, during which time it has established an international reputation for both fiction and non-fiction. It has enjoyed a colourful and often controversial history and its list includes bestselling authors such as Alice Taylor, whose 1995 book, To School Through the Fields, quickly became the biggest-selling book ever published in Ireland.

Looking forward to 2012, Ivan O’Brien, Managing Director of The O’Brien Press, commented:

‘We will be focusing on fiction of literary quality and will actively seek out new original talent, bringing to our Brandon imprint the care, flair and fresh thinking that has helped O’Brien become Ireland’s leading independent publisher. Of course, we will continue to publish established authors like Alice Taylor, Gerry Adams and Sam Millar. Brandon authors will benefit from our worldwide literary agency network and from our in-house design, editorial and production management.’

The O’Brien Press, founded in 1974, is an independent, award-winning book publisher with almost 600 titles in print. With over 500 active translation agreements in 50 territories, O’Brien Press has built a reputation for books of quality and integrity both at home and abroad.

 Visit the Brandon Website to see their excellent list.