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The part Kenny show on news talk with Marter private network during current restrictions. Don't ignore your health concerns. Our expert team is ready to help. Now, my next guest has just released her eighth novel in which we followed the relationship between our narrator Rass and her father Patrick, as they embark on a road trip through the state of Oklahoma on a journey that neither one of them will forget. Travel journalist and novelist Michele Walch Jackson, you're very welcome to the programme.


Thank you. Thanks for having me. Now people will hear that voice and say, I know that voice. She's always on the radio and she is do well.


Yes, absolutely. I did my time with Ivan and now I go from being with the lovely Karen cottagey on the hard shoulder. Yeah.


And talking travel also is kind of a mixture because it is a travel book in the sense that we get to see places in the United States that I'm sure are real, even though they are part of the fictional narrative. But we also have a story to go with them. Absolutely.


And, you know, all my books have been set in different destinations because I like to take my readers away somewhere and really get a sense of place. You know, I'm very passionate about travel and I love books that have messages. So I really try to collect all this all this experience I've had over the last eight years as a travel writer and bring that into my my book writing because I hadn't written a novel since 2013. And, you know, with the with the pandemic, it was a great time to sit and take stock of all that I've seen around the world and, you know, particularly places that resonated with me that I felt had a strong message.


Now, the idea of the novel that Patrick Rasas father travels with her and there's a particular reason that Raas invites him along, has her travelling companion on this journalistic assignment.


But there's also a reason why he probably wouldn't get the most out of it that he could because he's almost blind.


He is. He's visually impaired. And, you know, when I was writing Journey to the Heartland, I did draw from people I've met in my life who have inspired me. And there's one particular man. Philip isn't his name. He lives in Malahide. He's very dear friend of mine. And he suffered this condition for the last 20 years. And I'm so inspired by the way he he deals with life and how he carries on such a normal life.


And his use of technology has helped him overcome the, you know, not having sight. And his sense of smell is heightened. Sense of hearing is heightened. And, you know, I decided to give my character's father this condition and journey to the heartland and Sam. And I think it kind of gives another dimension because the characters are then concentration, not just on what they see, but it's also what they feel. They smell what they hear, you know, the sense of place, really.


And Patrick, who would love to see all the detail of the what's left of the old Wild West and the remnants of Cowboy America, the way he can enjoy it visually is simply by taking a picture on an iPad and then using the technology of zooming to be able to enjoy some of the things that he couldn't actually enjoy in real life.


Yeah, I am. I'm teaching here because I did actually take this trip through Oklahoma and the detail and the the places that are described and even some of the people that we met would have been and would have been inspirational. And I was very fortunate to take my father in 2014 on this trip. And, you know, Oklahoma is is a state that is often overlooked. But when it is written about it's of great importance. You've got books like The Grapes of Wrath and The Outsiders set there.


You know, and of course, you've got the great musical Oklahoma, which really is some of this state which which which is full of Native American history and culture. And actually, Oklahoma is a Choctaw word, meaning read people. And they have this festival called the Red Earth Festival there, which is phenomenally similar to our fresh kills. But of course, it's the first nation celebrating and a way of life. And I think as I wrote the book, I started to really see more and more similarities between, you know, the agrarian culture of Ireland and the agrarian culture of America and a way of life that is, unfortunately, dying out.


I mean, this was pre Trump era that I was there, but I could see the warning signals that this was kind of a way of life that was seriously in jeopardy. And indeed, since I've written the book that the farm that I did go and visit and stayed at has closed. And, you know, it's it's more and more difficult for these people to make a life from the land.


So, you know, there was a lot of issues in it as well as though the travel end of things, there is a narrative, personal narrative running through. Raas is split from the husband divorced, has a daughter, leaves the daughter behind, of course, because she's travelling on this journalistic assignment and the chosen person to go along with her is her father. And then there's another character who comes in.


I've read the book from cover to cover, so I'm careful of spoilers. How much do you want to tell us about?


Well, he's. Another Irishman here, another Irish man who happens to be there and just happens to be there by coincidence, and I'm a great believer in no such thing as a coincidence, coincidences happen in our life. Are there opportunities that we take them and this particular character turns up? I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that that he is a man of the cloth. And, you know, there's a touch of the and birds, I suppose, know, running through this.


But absolutely. Yeah, it's about finding Roz has been in a narcissistic relationship. She's still recovering from her divorce as many people feel very damaged and wounded after being through divorce. And then when you meet someone who you completely click with, you resonate with that is on a soulmate level. It's kind of very difficult to to pass this opportunity by. But then, of course, there are all sorts of difficulties that are thrown her way. So, you know, the book is that it's full of dilemmas, but it's also a journey to heart.


And more is is about finding your own heartlands, you know, within yourself. And how, Roz, on this journey, she connects again with her father. So this is the heartland of the father daughter relationship, the heartland of the romantic relationship and the heartland of the place where she's visiting. You know, so is very much a book about the heart. And there is a spiritual dimension, which I would like to think is seen religion, not necessarily in a particular light as such.


But, you know, there is room for spirituality in all of us and a need for spirituality. And we live in a very scientific time not dealing with the pandemic and thinking constantly of science and science, you know, maybe step back a little bit. And we do also need to reconnect with our spiritual selves, which are kind of crying out, I think, at the moment. Well, it's a book that you've galloped through.


There's no doubt it's a it's a page turner. It's also been selected by the the Hope Foundation, you say, as their March Book Club read. How did that come about?


Well, the Hope Foundation is a cork based charity helping street children in Calcutta. And I think it's a wonderful one because it also offers exchanges for Irish schoolchildren to to experience the hardships that people in India live with. And it's a great fundraiser, but they have been really stuck this year because, of course, they can't do that. They can't run those schools at transition and trips. So they have a book club and they've got us book club, which is actually unplugs at the moment.


My book club that's coming up in March is for the Irish Book Club, and it's a special event happening on the 18th of March. It's ten euros to join the event and my book is four ninety nine on Amazon. If you want to just download it as an image or you can get it from Kenis Bookshop in Galway who do free delivery all around the country. And I kind of want to support SMEs at the moment and it's kind of very much a theme in the book.


You know, if you look after local, you look after your local communities, look after your way of life. And I do feel like local bookshops, they've been wonderful. They are selling books out to people. And it's published by the National Press, which is a publishing company I set up. And I hope to be publishing more books this year. And so so it's it's great to get to get the mention of this out there for the Hope Foundation pass for some people.


They can find out more from the novel Traveller Dotcom or Michelle Jackson, Dotti.


Very good. The book, again, is called Journey to the Heartland and its author, Michelle Walsh. Jackson, thank you very much for joining us on the programme today.