Canadian novelist Kayla Herbert has penned a masterful tale of Irish descent, with the young adult writer longlisted in the Adventures in Fiction’s 2018 New Voices competition.
Released on 5th of June 2020, The Book of Moons follows a young sixteen-year-old girl who escapes from an orphanage in Ennis in the 1970s. In a bid to reach her friend in Dublin, Kathy must travers the island of Ireland but soon finds herself within an Irish Traveller encampment. Although fictitious, Book of Moons addresses the life and customs of what Kayla believes to be, an underrepresented group within canonical literature.
Kayla tells The Clare Echo of a lifelong love of prose, the desire to give a voice to minority groups and an unlikely connection to the now obsolete Ennis workhouse.
Originally from North Bay in Canada, Kayla now resides in Leeds. Leading up to receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from McGill University in Montreal, Kayla mentions an interest in books and literature from a tender age, “I always had an interest in writing, it’s something I did from a young age. I even won a provincial competition in year ten. When I was twelve then, I used to send stories to literary agents. I was such an avid reader as a kid. Once I went to University, then things started to become more serious and that’s when I got the idea for this book. I love the concept of following the breadcrumbs that the author leaves for you.”
It was important for Kayla to harness her literary abilities to give voice to the voiceless and looking into the Traveller Community fit neatly with her interest in folklores, re-imagined fairy tales and the culture of storytelling found within the Irish Travelling Community. Kayla’s intention was to shed some light on a group that are not always depicted fairly in literature and offer some due diligence. The magic of story culminated with a vested interest in analysing groups that occupy a similar space but differ with regards to culture was the magic starting point to her research into the Book of Moons.
“Firstly, I don’t have any association with the community. As outlined in my acknowledgements, I did do my best to conduct proper research, it’s definitely a fictionalised version of the Travelling Communities world. What I relied on, were first person accounts of people within the community. There’s one photographer that went to live within the community and documented their lives through photographs. This was in the 1970’s and it was really useful as it gave me a view into their lives at the time. I wasn’t able to find any books on Irish travellers but what I did come across were first person accounts of Scottish Travellers, talking about what it was like to live on the road and the importance of storytelling.”
Fortuitously, Kayla managed to unearth some documentation on the infamous laundries and workhouses of Ireland and some articles led her to an industrial school in Ennis which became the starting point of her novel. Her intention to start Kathy’s journey within an industrial school came from a desire to show what happens to an individual when they are separated from their culture and torn from that link to who you are. The novel then follows that dictum, with young fictional Kathy’s life mirroring that of so many that embodied that existential angst within the real industrial school that once stood within the Clare capital.
On the relatability of the Book of Moons for all lovers of young fiction Kayla confesses, “I really wanted to explore the magic of story on the peripherals of society and what are our talents that we bring to the world. Kathy is not your ordinary heroin, she’s not that confident, she’s not very sure of herself. That’s what makes it really great, it’s about a girl that doesn’t realise she is actually special and has to go through different conflicts and milestones to uncover what her gifts are and to understand herself. I feel like this is a novel that a lot of adolescents can relate to.”
Book of Moons is available online at Amazon or in all major bookshops nationwide.