The following is a transcript taken from the LIVE members' chat hosted here at TheWildGeese.com on Monday, July 22, 2013 with County Tyrone native (and fellow Wild Geese member), Caroline Doherty de Novoa, left. Now a resident of Bogotá, Colombia, Caroline's first novel, "Dancing with Statues," has just recently been published. In addition to her work as an author, Caroline is a co-founder of Hotel Trail, a business whose mission is "to see thriving hotels and happy guests." Some editing has been applied for clarity.
The Wild Geese: Céad míle fáilte, a chairde! So glad to see each one of you who have stopped by for this evening’s live chat. We’ll now turn things over for the next 30-40 minutes to a Wild Goose who has “flown” all the way to Bogotá, Colombia. Welcome, Caroline!
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Hi everyone, I'm coming to you from my second home here in Bogotá, where it is overcast and threatening to rain. So very different from sunny Ireland today! Looking forward to chatting with you. Feel free to ask me anything at all!
Thomas Besore: I'd like to start by asking what beverage you're enjoying in your profile photograph on the event page.
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: That's a Colombian/Irish coffee that I had here in Bogota this St. Patrick's Day. I was very home sick so I insisted we go to an Irish pub.
Belinda Evangelista: ”Dancing with Statues” -- What a wonderful title. How does this relate to the story?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: There are three reasons for the title:
1. It relates to a romantic moment in the book (one of the few there are) where the main characters dance next to some statues that are inspired by the Statues "Let the Dance Begin" from my hometown
2. Statues are reminders of the past that we dance by in our daily lives - and I liked that image of the past always being there.
3. Finally, Laura and Peter are stuck, frozen, because of events of the past. Miguel and Chrissie, with their passion for life, are the dancers.
Gerry Regan: Caroline, could you tell us a bit about your childhood, and how it has informed both your artistic choices and your life choices? Did you witness political violence? Was your family involved with 'The Troubles' directly?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Gerry, I'm glad to say my family was not touched by the Troubles directly - but my home town of Strabane was often blown to bits, and I hated the us and them culture. So that made me desperate to get out and see the world and live a different experience. It was only with the distance that being away from NI gave me was I able to see the positive aspects of the culture there - which I hope I have captured in the book - like the great sense of fun that the people have there.
Gerry Regan: You lived on the nationalist side of the divide, I gather, Caroline.
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Gerry, that's right. My family are Catholic and largely nationalist in their thinking. I went to Catholic schools all my life so didn't get much chance to spend time with people of different religions.
Joanne: Caroline, which authors most influenced you as a child?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Joanne - as a child/teenager I loved “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I loved the image of the lawyer as someone fighting for justice in an unjust world. As an adult, one of my favourites is Anne Tyler.
Joanne: Mockingbird is truly inspirational, and it is the only novel by Harper Lee.
Rose Maurer: Caroline, I noticed similarities between your own life events and many of those in your book, to what extent is the book autobiographical?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Rose … the book, I hope, feels truthful because it is based in a town very similar to the one I grew up in and the main characters are a teacher and a lawyer - both professions I have worked in. However, I am lucky that many of the tragic events are not things I have experienced personally - particularly the loss of a mother. I identify a great deal with the Colombian character as he is a bit of a fish out of water in Ireland and also a lawyer with a dogged determination for searching out the truth - so it has autobiographical touches. And of course my husband is Colombian there are flashes of our relationship in there.
Rose Maurer: The rhetorical question "Will our history always define us?" compels me to read your novel!
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Thanks Rose - that's the main theme of the book. How can we turn the page both as individuals and as a society when we have gone through so much. Is it by moving on and ignoring the past, or is it by examining the past and seeking somehow to deal with it?
Gerry Regan: That is a provocative question, to be sure.
Jim Curley: Caroline, what are some similarities between Colombia and Ireland that we might not immediately perceive?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Colombia and Ireland have very similar cultures in terms of sense of humour, that ability to laugh at oneself, and also in the importance of family and sense of fun. Also there are parts of Colombia that look just like Ireland! I will post photos after this talk and ask you to spot the difference :)
Tiffany Silverberg: That sounds like a fun game! :)
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Plus, obviously, Ireland and Colombia have both had their conflicts. I read recently that Ireland is being looked at as a blueprint for Colombia and an example it could follow - which makes me proud.
Gerry Regan: And by the way, we do have at least one other member in Colombia, James Goulding.
Joanne: I've heard other writers say that when they begin a novel, the characters sometimes take over and dictate the direction of the plot. Has that been your experience?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Yes, Joanne. That is 100% true in my case - at least for this book. I started with the characters of Laura and her father, Peter. I'm trying to plan out my next book - but I think the characters have their own ideas as to what should happen!
Bit Devine: How long did it take for you to flesh out the idea and turn it into the finished product?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Bit, it took about three years. I worked with two editors and the book changed a lot in the editing process. I was working as a lawyer at the time, so I often wrote at very odd hours. Thankfully my husband watches so much football so he was entertained whilst I was ensconced in my study.
Richard Strathern: Do you think the political atmosphere over the next 20 years will bring great change of attitudes on all parties affective. The recent Belfast marches seem to be a step backward?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Richard, I think we are still a society in transition as the recent marches, flag protests etc have shown. But I am still hopeful. We have come so far in only 15 years.
Belinda Evangelista: Any influence from fellow Strabane man, Flann O Brien
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Belinda … no, I don't think I was influenced by Flann - but it's always a great source of pride to say I am from the same town. The Third Policeman does get a mention in Dancing with Statues in homage to him.
Bit Devine: I know that throughout many South & Central American countries, there was/is a large Irish influence ... is there an Irish community in Bogota?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Bit, there's not a huge Irish community in Bogotá - because of their conflict, there weren't many foreigners for years as people were put off - but every year more and more are coming as the secret is getting out about what a great country it is. I recommend looking up the Dancing Irishman website, and Discovering Ice - two blogs by my fellow Irish in Colombia.
Thomas Besore: Did you take any formal training to help you write your first book? And did you use a software book editing package to assist you in writing and developing the story ... or did you just crank it out on a word processor?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: I took lots of classes in what little spare time I had in London - and I also worked with two editors who really helped me develop as a writer and show me what was and wasn't working. I'm not tech savvy (as Gerry will tell you) so I'm not sure I'd get on well with software. Most of the book was written in a battered old pink notebook and then typed up later!
Thomas Besore: Thanks for being an inspiration for aspiring writers!
Jim Curley: I wonder if ,when the inevitable happens and Catholics gain the majority in the North, they may decide to remain separate from their neighbors to the South.
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Jim, I don't know. What I would like to see is the two communities in NI coming together and recognising that we have a shared culture and many similarities that we can showcase to the world.
Jim Curley: Well put, Caroline. “Let our revenge be the laughter of our children.”
Ryan O’Rourke: To coffee now, Caroline. Do you drink it? And if so, how do you get by with most of the stuff we have here in Ireland after experiencing the coffee culture of Colombia??
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Ryan … I am a tea woman! I was in Ireland in May and you have no idea how much tea I brought back with me! Also, 90% of Colombian coffee is exported. They actually import a lot of cheap coffee and export the good stuff! But if you go to Juan Valdez here you can get a good cup.
Gerry Regan: There's a Juan Valdez Cafe in Manhattan, one of our 'branch offices.'
Belinda Evangelista: LOL, Gerry
Gerry Regan: The coffee is worth writing home about! :-)
Gerry Regan: Caroline, I notice in reading the excerpt you provided that the bombing incident at the center of the plot resulted in 31 dilled and 75 injured. Were you drawing from the Omagh bombing when writing the book?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Gerry, yes, Omagh was very much in my mind when writing - particularly as that was so close to home for me and also it really impacted me because I had just left home that year and we had signed the Good Friday agreement and I really believed things would start to change. I was in a cafe in Rome when I saw someone reading an English newspaper and learned of the Omagh bomb. I burst into tears, for the people who died but also for my home thinking we were going back to that awful time again. Thankfully we managed to continue with the peace process though.
Gerry Regan: It must have been deeply disturbing, for so many and for so many reasons, Omagh. Here are some details and background, BTW.
Belinda Evangelista: Hotel Trail’s mission is to see thriving hotels and happy guests. How do you go about accomplishing this and what is your all time fav hotel?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Belinda … we provide a new kind of guest survey and analysis that gives hotels a true understanding of what guests want and how to make them happy, as for my fav hotel, Tree House Hideaway in India, also Fairmont Copley in Boston - because they have a canine ambassador (a black Lab) who took me for a walk and showed me Boston when I was there on a very boring business trip.
Gerry Regan: Fun!
Ryan O’Rourke: Ha! That's awesome.
Jim Curley: Caroline, how safe is modern-day Colombia?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Bogotá is quite safe - but I have had to make adjustments. In London I'd walk home at 2am and here I'd never do that. Also I never take a taxi on the street I always call one with my iPhone app. But I walk everywhere during the day. I have travelled extensively in Colombia, and you need to have common sense … but it is quite safe, unless you travel to a red zone where the conflict still rages. There is a huge wealth gap here and people can feed their family for a week on the money they get from a stolen phone so I don't condone it but I can understand it.
Rose Maurer: Caroline, how did you and Juan become involved in the hospitality industry?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Rose … we travelled a lot and so have a real passion for hotels. Juan is a consultant by training and his brother ran a five-star hotel in Spain for ten years so our product was a mixture of Juan's analytical skills and Jorge's experience. I bring the voice of the traveller and the communication skills.
Kelly O'Rourke: Caroline, I know it's not been long since "Dancing with Statues" was published, but do you already have your next project in the works?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Kelly, yes my next project is in the planning stages - but my main focus now is publicising “Dancing with Statues.” It's early days but I expect the next book may be set in Madrid - somewhere very close to my heart - and feature an Irish-American woman and a Japanese man - so another one about different cultures!
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Gerry - of course that's true about the beautiful women in NI! All of Ireland in fact :)
Gerry Regan: I see, then Miguel goes on to answer his own question: "Yes, Had some of the most beautiful girls in Europe until the Vikings came and stole all the beautiful ones and shipped them off to Iceland." I'm deflated! :'(
Gerry Regan: Who would you cast as Miguel in the film version, Caroline, and who as Laura? Gael Garcia Bernal? Cate Blanchett?
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: In the film, I have no idea for Laura - a young Gael Bernal. I think I identify more with Miguel than Laura. She's very closed and still (because of what she has been through) - and so at first she is difficult to like - but stick with her.
Thomas Besore: I'll set you up with a speaking engagement in Chicago if you'd like to come visit!
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Thomas … yes please!
James McNamara: Do you feel safe in Belfast? I was there in 2007 for research and vacation, and did not feel very safe for lots of reasons. Or maybe it just felt like I was being constantly questioned.
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: James … I rarely go to Belfast as my hometown is nearer Derry. I have spoken to many VCs from the US in the past few weeks and they all had good things to say about Belfast - which is promising.
The Wild Geese: With that, we'll bring what has been a thoroughly enjoyable discussion to a close. We thank each of our members who stopped in for tonight's live chat, and especially Caroline. Be sure to check out the excerpt of “Dancing with Statues.” We encourage everyone to buy the book, and to tell as friend as well!
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Thank you all so much. That was great fun.
Joanne: Thanks, Caroline.
Rose Maurer: Goodnight all - 'tis nearly midnight in South Africa. :-D
Tiffany Silverberg: Thanks, Caroline!!
Gerry Regan: Links to purchase “Dancing with Statues” are on this page. Bravissimo, all! Till the next one then ...
Bit Devine: Good night all, this was fun!
Caroline Doherty de Novoa: Great meeting you all, and looking forward to staying in touch via The Wild Geese.
The Wild Geese: Have a good night, everyone. Oiche mhaith!
You can read about Caroline and her first book, "Dancing with Statues," here.
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