There was an impressive turnout for the launch of Arigna author, Brian Leyden’s latest book which was held in Castlecoote Lodge last Friday evening. Those in attendance were treated to a reading from the novel, titled ‘Summer of ‘63’, while footage shot by Senator Terry Leyden of that summer was played on the TV in the replica Dáil Bar.
Brian Leyden’s latest novel tells the story of Leo Rossiter, an asthmatic teenager in the grip of first love during a summer which featured visits from John F. Kennedy and The Beatles.
The book is a nostalgic trip back to 1960s Ireland with plenty of humour and the thrilling pursuit of a killer thrown into the mix.
Brian is an award-winning author and his other works include Departures, Sweet Old World and The Home Place.
Introducing Brian to a warm welcome, Senator Terry Leyden, who counts the author as a cousin, described him as “a very talented writer” before recounting some of the memories he had of Brian’s family and his own summer of 1963.
Brian thanked those in attendance for coming and later said: “We need to collect up what people say and think, and their wit. If we don’t gather it up it will be lost forever.” Brian described this as a motivating factor in his own writing career. He then read passages from ‘Summer of ‘63’ to the very attentive audience.
Speaking to Brian during the evening, he described the enjoyment he experienced in travelling with new books.
He said: “It’s great to get out on the road and meet your readers and to read to them. It’s not enough to have the book written, you have to have an audience in mind. They’ll tell you if it’s any good!” (Laughs).
Brian described the difficulties that come with being a full-time writer but also the opportunities to give something back to fellow writers, saying that he had hosted creative writing workshops and lectured on the subject.
He said: “It’s a very hard slog. It’s like being a musician nowadays where you have to go out and perform for your audience and sell the merchandise. But, as another writer from not too far from here, John McGahern, once said: ‘Nobody asked you to do it!’
“You’re very grateful when you do get a crowd to turn out like this and working with a group like Lepus Print is also very helpful. I’m also a big supporter of family-owned and independent bookshops – they really promote local writers.”
Brian has worked in the reading room in Carrick-on-Shannon and described the “nurturing” he and other writers receive from such venues. He is fully aware that shelf life is short for a new book and that writers are under pressure to keep producing, to keep writing. He welcomes touring and nights like last Friday and describes it as “going back to the coffee shops and boutique readings.”
As we spoke, his book proved popular with his audience and it wasn’t long before those that had been on the table beside us had been purchased with Brian in increasing demand as he signed each one. He did, however, leave me with some words of wisdom, “from one writer to another,” he said. “The trick is not just to write…but to keep writing!”