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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Paddy Donnelly, THE VANISHING LAKE

Meara's Grandad lives by the mysterious lake of Loughareema. Some days it’s full and shimmering, and some days it's completely empty! Grandad has plenty of stories about why it vanishes. Is it mermaids? Narwhals? Giants? Meara doesn't believe any of these stories, but with a little imagination she may eventually discover the ‘real’ reason . . .

Max's Boat Pick:


By Paddy Donnelly

Publisher: O'Brien Press (May 30, 2022)

Thanks for popping by, Paddy! I'm thrilled to call Ireland home and am in awe of its wondrous landscape. In your author's note, you mention growing up near the actual Loughareema, which disappears and reappears every so often. Was this story idea bubbling inside you all this time? Were there different ways you had tried to approach the story before landing on the characters of Meara and her Granddad? PD: "I hadn't thought about Loughareema (the real Vanishing Lake) in a long time. I guess when you grow up with something like that on your doorstep then you take it for granted. But now having lived away from Ireland for many years, I get a renewed sense of wonder when I go back home to visit and see these magical things which Ireland has in abundance. I'd love to write a few more stories about interesting places and phenomena from Ireland, so maybe down the line there could be more books based in reality.

When creating this particular story I started with a lake which would mysteriously vanish and reappear, and then plopped a child character (Meara) in there. Naturally she would be curious why the lake was vanishing, and went in search of the answer. I had her grandad live at the lake, so that there was a character to bounce. Meara is very much rooted in the real world and only believes what she can see and explain, while her grandad is full of fantastical stories of mermaids and giants. This enabled me to keep creating wilder and wilder tales from grandad, which keeps those pages turning."

Interior spreads from The Vanishing Lake:

In your process, do the illustrations or the words come first? "It's different if it's for my own stories, or if I'm illustrating another author's story. If someone else has written the words, then they've been refined and refined before it gets to me. When it comes to creating my own author illustrated stories, I tend to have both the images and words appearing in my head at once. Sometimes I just start with one image of something I want to illustrate, and then I try to work out a sketchy beginning, middle and end. Once I have that, then I can start writing some words. And usually the writing process gives me ideas on things to change in the illustrations, and vice versa. It’s a messy process!"

Who are some of your favorite Irish picture book creators? "There are so many beautiful books coming out of Ireland at the moment, it's very hard to choose! I'm a huge fan of Steve McCarthy's work, but especially his recent picture book, The Wilderness. It's an adventurous tale about the The Vasylenko family, but especially litle October who prefers the warm and safe comfort of the inside world. Steve's illustrations are stunning. Be Wild, Little One by Olivia Hope and Daniel Egnéus is a beautiful picture book which highlights the beauty of nature.

I also really love Girls Who Slay Monsters by Ellen Ryan and Shona Shirley Macdonald. It explores the strong female characters of Ireland's ancient myths and legends."


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