The Ghost’s Gravestone

When author Nicola Pierce heard that a fifteen-year-old boy who had died at the shipyard during the making of the Titanic, was lying in an unmarked grave in Belfast City Cemetery, she knew she wanted to tell his story.

Her book Spirit of the Titanic may not be the real-life story of Samuel Scott, but it brings his memory back to life as he is re-imagined as the book’s main character – a ghost trapped onboard Titanic during its fateful first voyage.

Nicola’s book has captured the imagination of children all over the UK and Ireland and now, it seems, it has brought Samuel to the attention of people who feel they can right the wrongs of the past and finally mark Samuel’s grave. On Saturday 30th July 2011, a special ceremony as part of the West Belfast Festival will take place at 12pm at Belfast City Cemetery.

The headstone Samuel has lain without for one hundred and one years will be placed on his grave by DUP MLA Sammy Douglas with Tom Hartley as Chair. Nicola Pierce will then read from the story that has inspired the whole event and which has brought the Titanic to a new generation of young readers.
We are proud to be part of this unique event and look forward to seeing you all there!

Read more in the Irish Independent here.

Breaking News! O’Brien to publish Mary Byrne’s autobiography!

We are delighted to announce that we have secured a deal to publish This is My Life, the autobiography of Irish X Factor star Mary Byrne.

The book, written together with Sunday World showbusiness editor Eddie Rowley, will be published in November. Eddie Rowley is the author of bestselling books on Ronan Keating, Boyzone, Westlife and Daniel O’Donnell.

This Is My Life will chart Mary Byrne’s life from her early years and the first signs of her singing talent, to her time working on a supermarket checkout, to capturing the hearts of millions during her life-changing experience on The X Factor, to her dream concert: performing with Neil Diamond at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

It will include behind-the-scenes stories from her time on The X Factor and will be richly illustrated with previously unpublished photos from Mary’s early life.

Ivan O’Brien, our Managing Director, says: “Mary touched the hearts of everyone who followed her progress on X-Factor. Not only is she a fantastic performer, but her winning personality and can-do attitude are inspiring. We are delighted to bring her full story, in her own words, to her legions of fans everywhere.”

 Eddie Rowley says: “Mary Byrne has a wealth of wonderful stories from her early family life which readers will find engaging, funny and at times very moving. She bares her soul in the book in a very honest fashion as she recounts her struggles along the way. Her great sense of humour shines through, even during the darker stories. It’s a very warm, uplifting life story that every woman will want to read and X Factor fans will love.”

Keep an eye on our website, blog, facebook and twitter sites for updates and details of Mary Byrne publicity and events!

How to really heart books

It’s a good time to be a teenage girl. Well, if you like reading anyway!

Not only are there some amazing novels out just now in the genre Mary Shine Thompson from The Irish Times coined “teen chicklit”, such as The Bad Karma Diaries by Bridget Hourican and The Real Rebecca by Anna Carey, but there is also this brilliant new site for young female fiction fans: GirlsHeartBooks.

All their favourite writers accessible in one place, imagine! The site looks great (interesting tweets already about the absence of pink and great joy about the absence of pink!) and is really easy to use. It’s like a direct line to a gaggle of great writers and we are sure it will be a smash-hit.

O’Brien Press writers Judi Curtin, Anna Carey and Sarah Webb are already on board and the posts, competitions and other lovelies are already coming through, so you’d better go on over and have a look at it, before you miss out on something!

We wish GirlsHeartBooks every success and teen girls everywhere, happy hearting of books!

The Heirs to the Kingdom?

In a piece on Saturday 2nd April, the Irish Independent ensured the country that Jackie Healy-Rae’s declaration that he would possibly be running for President was NOT an April Fool’s joke. He really is considering it. But anyone who has read Heirs to the Kingdom: Kerry’s Political Dynasties by Owen O’Shea could hardly claim to be surprised by this revelation. The Healy-Rae’s have done everything else, why not move in to Áras an Uachtaráin too?

Owen’s book is the first to delve deep into the families dominating politics in Ireland, not just Kerry, and in an article on March 28th, The Irish Times called it a ‘fascinating insight into dynastic politics.’ As the country settles into its new political patchwork after the election, it’s incredible to see how Ireland is still run by family clans. A good thing or a bad thing? You’ll have to decide for yourselves!

Photos: From the Dublin Launch of Heirs to the Kingdom, The O’Brien Press, at the National Library of Ireland. Top: Author Owen O’Shea, Former TD Liz MacManus and publisher, Michael O’Brien. Right: Senator Paul Coghlan, Michael O’Regan of The Irish Times, Niall Madigan formerly of Radio Kerry and friend.

Death on the Hill

The trial of Eamonn Lillis for the murder of Celine Cawley was one of the most-followed in recent memory: author Abigail Rieley talks about the trial and the media circus it generated, as well as about writing her book.

O’Brien Press author is named first ever Laureate na nÓg

Siobhan ParkinsonIrish children’s author Siobhán Parkinson was named the first ever Laureate na nÓg in a ceremony in Dublin yesterday. A new initiative by the Arts Council, with the support of Children’s Books Ireland, the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and Poetry Ireland, the honour was awarded to Siobhán by President Mary McAleese. A multi-award-winning children’s author, Siobhán has published many books for children and her work has been translated into many languages. Among her most popular and award-winning books are Four Kids, Three Cats, Two Cows, One Witch (maybe), which was described by Robert Dunbar as ‘one of the best Irish children’s books we’ve ever had’, Sisters … no way! and Amelia among others. Congratulations to Siobhán from all at The O’Brien Press!

Apples and Oranges: Irish Book of the Decade Award

How can you compare Skulduggery Pleasant to PS, I Love You? Or It’s A Long Way From Penny Apples to Ross O’Carroll-Kelly? The good people at the Irish Book Awards have just announced their shortlist of the top 50 Irish Books of the Decade, and there’s everything there from crime fiction to children’s books via literary fiction and history, biography and popular fiction.

We in O’Brien Press are thrilled that Des Ekin’s wonderful The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates is on the shortlist. The raid in 1631 by Morat Rais and his Algerian pirates on a small Cork village and the kidnapping, or killing, of just about the whole population was the single largest raid on the British Empire: the outrage that this could happen went all the way to the king! Des’s book uncovers this long-forgotten episode and makes it live and breathe, and has been hugely successful.

It’s hard to compare the books to each other given the huge range, but it’s a very good selection of books that no shop should be without, though maybe SO broad that no one person would be interested in the whole lot! It’s good also to see quite a few other Irish-published books on the list, giving the lie to the idea that you have to go to London to publish the very best books.

So go to and vote for your favourite!

We’ve gone all electronic!

It’s been an interesting journey: after months of discussion, development and testing, we have released our first ever electronic product: iPaddy: Irish Slang Guide. When iPhone apps became the big buzz last autumn, it became clear that finally there was a new way that people were willing to pay for content in real numbers: the Information Wants To Be Free movement is all very well, but it doesn’t pay the bills! O’Brien Press decided to jump in and test the water.

We selected our first product by matching the content we have with the market as we saw it: we wanted something entertaining, international and visual and it was not long before we realised that we had the perfect material in The Feckin’ book of Irish slang that’s great craic for cute hoors and bowsies. It is in bite-sized chunks, and the cartoons were just perfect for the small screen on an iPhone. Most importantly, it is genuinely funny.

Normally a publisher would have pretty much total control of a product, apart from physically printing it, so engaging a developer (we went for Plazro Games) to build the application was a new experience. Thankfully, they were great to work with, understood exactly what we were aiming for and had all the skills (3D graphics, 2D graphics, database, coding, marketing) that were required.

The next step was getting voice talent: it was clear that this would only work with great actors to take the humour from the page and make it work on the screen. Morgan Jones and Norma Sheehan are among the best in the game: the recording session was a blast, and they did a great job. Finally, the publication process is very different to anything we had dealt with before: an application is submitted to Apple for their approval before it can be sold: if there are no problems, one day you get a mail to say “ready for sale”, and there you go! No stock to print, hold and distribute either, which is nice.

There’s a microsite at and a promotional video on YouTube.

Of course, the next thing is obsessively tracking the chart position of the app on your iPhone and telling all your friends about it. In the book world the charts come out once a week – the app store seems to update them every couple of mintes. At the last count iPaddy has sold copies in about 20 countries — conquering the world, one iPhone at a time, and just in time for St Patrick’s Day!


And the Oscar goes to …

The Secret of Kells animated feature film (on which the O’Brien books of the same name are based) has been nominated for an Oscar in the prestigious Best Animated Feature Film Category. Fellow nominees include ‘Coraline’, ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, ‘The Princess and the Frog’ and ‘Up’. All five nominees will go on to compete for the top prize at the Oscars in LA on 7th March.

The Secret of Kells picture book, novel and DVD are all available from

Bono finds what he’s looking for at O’Brien Press

Last Saturday’s Sunday Times Magazine cover story, ‘Bono the shades come off’ (21 June 2009) by Chrissy Iley, mentions that Bono always has a few books on the go, we think that one of them in particular is an excellent choice:

“There are books everywhere. He likes to read about three at once. Currently there’s one about a tribe of pirates from the Barbary coast who took 130 Irish people from a town in County Cork and sold them as slaves in Algeria. And he’s reading Richard Dawkins’s A Devil’s Chaplain. An edition of Seamus Heaney is never far away, and beside it is the Koran given to him by Tony Blair.”

The book about ‘a tribe of pirates’ is Des Ekin’s The Stolen Village. I’m not surprised Bono is enjoying it – it’s an amazing book, the true story of the only pirate raid ever recorded on Irish soil. In 1631, pirates from Algiers descended on the little harbour town of Baltimore, west Cork, captured almost all the villagers and carried them away to a life of slavery in North Africa. Only two of them ever returned. It’s a really great read and Des brings the sights and sounds of seventeenth century Algiers, and the fate of the Irish villagers in their unfamiliar surroundings, vividly to life.