Limerick native Pat Greene has just published his first book titled "Letters from an Irish Hearth."
From Kilteely, Co Limerick, Greene has lived in Brooklyn, New York since 1990. His book is a collection of 32 short stories about birth, death, marriage, and love, the events that mark all human lives. Yet they are particularly Irish stories, set in various locations around rural Ireland, and from a time now past.
Capturing what would otherwise be lost, such as now out-of-fashion customs and turns of phrase, Greene's stories bring to life a quaint old world where people still write letters, wait for a call at the village phone box, come over unannounced for tea, or just sit with each other in times of tragedy.
Pat was back in Ireland, and I had the opportunity to meet him at Ballinlough Bridge near Kilteely, a favourite place from his childhood. I asked him what inspired him to write a book. "For as long as I’ve been able to talk, I have been a storyteller. And while telling stories always came very natural to me, the act of writing stories totally caught me by surprise.
"Out of nowhere, I won a story writing competition in school, and it all began from there. My first real serious foray into writing came about in the form of pen-pal letters that I sent out around the world. Some of those letters were more than twenty pages long, and many of them were special stories all on their own.
"I wanted so desperately to grow up and write stories that would make anyone who read them feel happy. Back then, I was a feel-good writer without being aware of it. It took me another fifty years to discover that such a genre existed in writing. Even though I had this immense desire to grow up and write, something inside me kept telling me that my stories would have to wait—I would have to live a great part of my life first."
I went on to ask Pat about his childhood and where he grew up. "I grew up in the very quiet and far-flung rural corners of East County Limerick.
"It was always my dream to leave there and go live and work in New York. New York was next to an impossible dream for a poor lad like me back then.
"I quit school at 13 and soon afterward, I set out from home, eventually finding my way to Thurles in County Tipperary, where I worked as a barman in a hotel. I worked in the hospitality business for a number of years before heading over to London in my early 20s.
"But no matter where I went, I took my stories with me, and I always found that my stories helped me to create deeper and more meaningful connections with people.
"I’m not entirely sure when I stopped writing letters. But eventually, I found my way to New York, along with my wife and our one-year-old son. While I also worked in the hospitality business here in New York, it wasn’t long before I got myself a construction Union book, and eventually, I was working 80 to 100 hours a week in the very hectic New York City construction industry.
"I missed working behind the bar. That was my connection to people, and it was always where I could find an audience for my stories.
"Along with the letter writing, the stories eventually stopped too, and I got on with my life. I was living my life quite contentedly for the next 25 years or so, until one evening at work during downtime I decided to write a letter to a very good friend who was going through a difficult moment in her life. After she read the letter, she convinced me to get back to my writing."
I was interested to know more about how his stories evolved so I probed him further on this. "The stories just come to me. To this day, I still don’t have a writing routine like most other writers do. Neither, do I sit there for hours hoping that words will appear in front of me. The stories come to me as whispers and they can either wake me gently out of my sleep at night, or they can come to me while riding on a bus or a train. I write my stories from start to finish, right there in that one moment.
"Most of my readers get very annoyed at me for not finishing my stories, but I always tell them, that moments are better left in their own time.
"I like to think that each person that reads them takes something unique for themselves from my stories. I prefer for my stories to have a life that continues after you read them.
"‘Letters From an Irish Hearth’ are the fictional stories that tell my own life best. Each character within these stories, found their way here to me, from that treasured childhood that still lives on inside me.
"As a writer, nothing gives me greater pleasure than knowing that my stories can still make people cry, that good cry. My stories make me cry, and so it means the world to me that I have not lost that deeper connection to other people’s souls. I’m not sorry that ‘Letters From An Irish Hearth’ will more than likely make you cry. In fact I’ll be very disappointed if you don’t cry. These are indeed stories of the heart, (from the hearth) and they have stayed with me for nearly 60yrs.
"It’s all just like yesterday…"
Pat Greene's 'Letters from an Irish Hearth' is available on Amazon.
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