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People: Author Martina Devlin's special relationships

By Kerry McKittrick

The successful writer is originally from Omagh and lives in Dublin with her husband, David Murphy. Martina will be speaking about her latest novel, The House Where It Happened, at the Out To Lunch Festival in Belfast’s Black Box next Friday.

My husband, David

David and I met when we both worked for the Irish Independent newspaper in the late 1990s in Dublin. I worked a lot of late shifts as it meant I could write novels during the day, so David and I would share a taxi home as we lived quite close to each other.

We got married in May 2012 at Niagara Falls. We were over visiting family and went into the town hall to discover you could get a marriage licence, with a 24-hour cooling-off period. David had done a bit of research about it but otherwise it was a spur of the moment thing for me. I bought a little snow globe of the falls while I was there so it now sits in my study to remind me of the day.

David now works as the business editor for RTE and because of how serious he has to appear on screen, people don't realise how funny he is. We gifted each other a little kitten before Christmas. He's called Chekhov and we wonder what on earth we talked about before he arrived because it's now all about the cat.

My best friends

I have a couple of writer friends who live close by. There's Sarah Webb, a children's writer who I collaborated with on a short story book for charity about 14 years ago. There's also Lia Mills, who wrote a set of memoirs and who I met on the book circuit. They both live near to me and, as writing can be quite solitary, it's nice to meet for a coffee or a walk.

My oldest friend, Imelda Reynolds, is a lawyer now. We met on our first day at University College, Dublin. I only stuck with the law course for a year, but Imelda carried on with it.

My parents, Frank and Bridie

My parents have both passed away now, but my father was a bus driver and my mother worked in the home. She was from a village in Limerick and her sister married a man from Omagh. My mother came up to stay with her and that's when she met my father.

Both of my parents were around when I was working as a journalist and my mother only passed away a couple of years ago so she also saw me as a novelist. She was very supportive of what I did.

I'm one of seven children, there are five boys as well as me and my sister. All of the boys have drifted back to Omagh and my sister lives in London. We're still a very close family and I try to get back to Omagh as often as I can.

Who I go to for advice

I always go to my husband David or to my sister Tonya - there's only a year between us so we're very close. It all depends on what the advice is about.

My celebrity crush, Hugh O’Neill

I'm more into brilliant minds than actors or singers. I know the Irish chieftain and Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O'Neill, lived more than 400 years ago, but I always thought he was a man of vision.

My mentor, Paula Campbell

Paula is my publisher from Poolbeg and I find it very interesting talking to her about books.

Her perspective is very different as she looks at the finished product instead of the creative process. I also find it inspirational how she runs a small publishing house.

Fantasy dinner party

My first guests would be the Bronte family, including the father. I visited their house last year and I love the story of the family.

Next, I would love to ask Mary Dunbar, who inspired my current book. She accused eight women of witchcraft in Islandmagee in 1711 and I would love to pin her down and ask if she made it up.

I would also ask the captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith.

I want to know what his last thoughts were as he went down with the ship.

I know he made no effort to save himself.

Finally, I would ask James Joyce - I live very close to the Joyce Tower in Dublin where he set the opening chapter of Ulysses, and spent a year volunteering there.

  • Martina Devlin will deliver a talk on her book, The House Where It Happened, about the Islandmagee Witch Trials of 1711, at the Black Box, Belfast, on Friday, January 16. For details, visit

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