We’re no strangers to authors who write either on public transit (Brigid Coady, looking at you) or about it (Katey Lovell’s THE BOY ON THE BUS, for example). So we’re super excited that our author Emma Heatherington, whose bestselling novel THE LEGACY OF LUCY HARTE is making waves and wetting cheeks worldwide, has been featured as part of Northern Ireland’s Bus & Train Week! Check out their feature below, and then grab THE LEGACY OF LUCY HARTE to read what all the fuss is about 🙂
Novelist Emma Heatherington has revealed scenes in her latest book were inspired by a rail journey to Dublin on the Enterprise service.
The Donaghmore-born writer, whose book The Legacy of Lucy Harte reached top 10 in the UK Amazon Kindle chart, admits eavesdropping conversations when she’s travelling on public transport – all in the name of research.
“I do get lots of inspiration and ideas from travelling by bus and train,” Emma says.
“In my latest book, The Legacy of Lucy Harte, the main character Maggie takes the train to Dublin and on the train she uses that time to really think and reflect and write down thoughts – she’s making a poignant journey.
“That’s what I love about the train and business travel is that you do have that switch-off time and you can let your mind wander and look out at the world going by or also take inspiration from the conversations that you might overhear and the people that you meet on the train.”
The new book packs a major emotional punch with its tale of Maggie O’Hara, who had her life saved by an organ donation as a teenager and is now in her mid-30s, living in Belfast and finding her world is falling apart. Maggie meets the brother of Lucy Harte, the child whose organ was donated to her, and he gives her Lucy’s diary, which has a bucket list of all the things that she wanted to do in her life — sparking a new journey for Maggie.
Emma says she doesn’t travel much by public transport except when she is going to Dublin, so it can be a bit of a novelty.
“It’s a nice opportunity when you’re on your own to have a bit of headspace and plan your journey without worrying about the traffic or the weather,” she says.
The South Armagh stretch of the route in particular makes an appearance in the book, she says.
“The train goes through a very picturesque area of the Slieve Gullion mountains. It’s quite an iconic location, so I mentioned that, as she passes through there – and of course arriving in Connolly station as described in the book,” she says.
Emma says that while she does eavesdrop on the conversations going on around her, none of them have made it into her books verbatim, at least not consciously.
“It’s more the sense of wonder for someone from a creative world. With that sense of wonder it is very natural to think about where people are going and where they are coming from,” she says.
“I find you meet some interesting people on long journeys. While people don’t communicate as much as they used to, sometimes you get into such interesting conversations. I met a lovely girl from Austria on a tour of Ireland who was doing a tour by rail round all the different villages. I found out she knew my sister just as we were getting off the train! For her to have known my sister really well, it was one of those small world moments… I love that.”
Emma has even had her picture taken with one famous person on the Enterprise service – musician Professor Green.
“He was in First Class and the toilets were out of order in our carriage. So on the way past I recognised him and when I was coming back down through the carriage I just caught his eye and he glanced up and smiled because he knew he had been recognised – and he was lovely,” she said.
“You never know who you are going to meet. It helps that I am a nosy parker and I have my eyes and ears pricked up all the time!”
Emma says she has fond memories of travelling by bus into Dungannon as a teenager and feeling very grown up.
“We had a bit of pocket money to spend and it was a sense of independence that we were allowed to do this. Travelling on the bus was always a bit of an adventure for me and it felt like a big day out,” she says.
She says the reaction to her book, published in January this year, has been massive. It is being translated into German and Dutch.
“I’ve had messages from all over the world. It’s a very poignant topic of organ donation and the importance of time. It’s been a turning point in my career as a writer,” she says.
*Emma has told her story as part of Northern Ireland’s Bus and Train Week. Public Transport is a lifeline for many people in society, with trains and buses connecting people every day. Throughout Bus and Train Week there will be events, special fares and other activities taking place with a number of local authorities, community organisations and business representatives involved. So ‘Get On Board’ Bus and Train Week 2017 and experience the many benefits of public transport. For more information and a full list of special offers visit www.translink.co.uk/busandtrainweek/. Join in the conversation online using #GetOnBoardNI.