25th Trillium Award

On Writing, with Elizabeth Radmore

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Elizabeth Radmore

Growing up in Belfast, Elizabeth Radmore did not have a typical childhood. She left home with her father to look for work, and the two of them had to endure many hardships along the way. Though they often had to do without food and shelter, these difficult times did provide Elizabeth with material for her page-turning YA trilogy, Cushla. The final book, Cushla: Almost Magic, Reflections of a Reformed Gypsy Girl, has just been published with General Store Publishing House. Elizabeth, who now lives in Stittsville, talks to Open Book about the experiences that made her a writer and about Cushla, the character who became stronger than Elizabeth ever expected.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book, Cushla: Almost Magic.

Elizabeth Radmore:

Cushla is the story of a young girl?s coming of age. In the first book of the trilogy, Kathleen, or as her father refers to her, ?Cushla,? has to leave home with her father in search of work. When what little money and food they had was gone, they joined a band of gypsies for survival. Kathleen was an outsider and the gypsy children made her life miserable and she had to learn to stand up for herself which sometimes resulted in defending herself physically. The wife of the gypsy leader, Nora, befriended Kathleen and taught her how to interpret Tarot cards and rune stones. Nora?s influence carries through each book in the trilogy and the last book delves into the mystical influence of the Tarot. In Almost Magic, the last book in the trilogy, she is no longer the gypsy girl she once was, having graduated high school and college. she has a few failed romances and is finally reunited with her one true love.


At what point did you decide that the Cushla's story would become a trilogy?


Cushla became a trilogy when I had written the first book and sent it to an editor. She advised me that the story meandered along too many paths and incorporated too many story lines, so I broke it into two novels and when I sent back to her she again advised me that the second book should be broken once again into another book for the same reason.


How has the character of Cushla developed as the series progressed? Did any of these developments surprise you?


With each novel, Cushla has become a young woman to be reckoned with. Starting off as a victim, she has put the past behind her and turned harsh lessons into character-building circumstances. She surprised me by having the strength to let go of bad relationships and gain power in being alone for a time.


How did your experience travelling with your father in search work in Northern Ireland contribute to your becoming a writer and artist?


Travelling with my father and the harsh life of living with the gypsies never left my mind. I found myself reliving the experience often. Being with my father in such a hostile environment was not always drudgery. He was a funny, loving father and made me feel secure even in the worst of times. The story just had to be told.


What is the best advice you've received as a writer?


The best advice I?ve received as a writer is that if you have a story to tell, get it out of your head and down on paper. If nothing comes of it at least you have an interesting legacy for your family.


Are you part of a writing community, or are you a more solitary writer? Who is your first reader and best editor?


I am a solitary writer. When I get in that writing zone I no longer feel alone. The characters come alive and provide a lot of great conversation and interesting situations. My first editor is my husband, Dave Norton, who provides much constructive criticism and tells me the truth about what he has read.


What are you working on now?


I have started writing a children?s book called Adventure in a Bubble. It is in the first stage right now and needs a lot more work. I am also planning a children?s poetry book. I have accumulated about 30 children?s poems over the years reciting them to my grandchildren. Some are quite funny and children love to laugh.

Elizabeth Radmore was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and emigrated to Canada with her father, mother and two brothers in 1951. As a child in Ireland, she and her father had to leave home in search of work. They tramped the land, often sleeping under bridges at night for shelter, before eventually joining a band of gypsies for survival. This experience formed the basis for her first novel, Cushla: Memoirs of a Reluctant Gypsy Girl. Her second novel, Cushla: Gypsy Spirit, recounts the McKenna family?s eventful voyage across the Atlantic to Canada and the struggles they faced in a new and very different land. It, too, is based on the author?s own experiences. Cushla: Almost Magic, Reflections of a Reformed Gypsy Girl, is the last novel in the Cushla trilogy. Elizabeth?s artistic talents also feature visual work, including oil and acrylic painting, silk scarves and wearable art jewellery. Elizabeth lives in Stittsville, Ontario, with her husband, Dave Norton, her beloved yellow lab, Sophie, and her calico cat, Cali. Her children, Jason Radmore, Natalie Travis and Rachel Radmore, all live close by with families of their own.

For more information about Cushla: Almost Magic, Reflections of a Reformed Gypsy Girl please visit the General Store Publishing House website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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