Wednesday, September 30, 2015

M is for Mist Na Mara

Paula invented a house for her first Irish novel.

Mist Na Mara was the house my hero and heroine jointly inherited in Irish Inheritance, and from the moment I started the novel, I could see it in my mind.

Here’s the heroine’s first view of the front of the house:
Built of grey stone, Mist Na Mara House had a central doorway, flanked on both sides by a pair of long sash windows and, at each end of the frontage, large square bay windows on the ground and upper floors.

I knew roughly where I wanted the house to be situated (i.e. near Clifden in the west of Ireland) but had to ignore the fact that this area only had a few isolated stone cottages, and some modern white bungalows. This was where I wanted my house to be, so I put it there anyway!

And this was the view from the front of the house:
She turned and let her eyes take in the panoramic view. Not only did they overlook the narrow bay and the low green hills on the far shore, but they were high enough to see another stretch of water beyond and some larger hills. On their left were the peaks of the Twelve Bens, and to their right, broken by a few rocky islets, was the vast grey expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

The inside of the house was sharply focused in my mind, too:
Once inside, she stared around, hardly able to take in the elegance of the large hallway with oak wainscoting and polished parquet floor. In the centre stood a rosewood pedestal table on an ornately carved column, and a crystal chandelier sparkled in the sun’s rays through the arched fanlight above the door. On each side of the hallway were two solid oak doors, much broader than modern doorways. Ahead of them, a wide wooden staircase curved upwards, with a brass handrail and wrought iron balusters, and a corridor at the side of the stairs led to the back of the house.

And, of course, there was the bedroom which had been locked for over 70 years, and my hero and heroine were the first to see it, but I won’t post any spoilers here about that!

Originally I called the house Sea Mist House – but then I discovered there was a hotel with that name in Clifden. One of my friends in Dublin came to my rescue, with the half-English, half Irish name of Mist Na Mara – meaning ‘mist of the sea’.

The house also played a part in my second Irish novel, because the heroine of that story, who lived there when it became an arts and drama centre, had every reason not to want to return as a result of tragedy two years earlier.

Mist Na Mara also plays a large part in my current WIP, the third of my Irish novels, and I’m now so familiar with the place, I find it hard sometimes to remember it is not actually a ‘real’ place.

Imagination is definitely a wonderful thing! And one comment by a reviewer was especially pleasing: The description of the old house, Mist Na Mara, was excellent. I walked around the house in my head, I could picture the bedrooms, the kitchen, and even the drive up to it.

It’s great when something you have invented also captures someone else’s imagination.


  1. You're descriptions are always so vivid that I have no difficulty in picturing them in my mind. It's interesting to read that you '"built" your own house to suit the plot.

    1. Thanks, Margaret! Now I just have to buy a plot of land to build it in 'real' life LOL!

  2. I loved that house and the stories you used to create it.

    1. I loved the original house of my imagination, and since the first novel, it's been extended at the back (staff quarters!), and had a conservatory and terrace added at the side. It's as real to me as any 'real' house!

  3. When they make the film, these descriptions will really come to life.