Meet The Artist: Aileen Bartlett

Aileen Bartlett is an author and boys’ secondary school teacher from Belfast. Her first novel “Buckle My Shoe” is a true story set in Belfast during World War 1 and was published in July 2016 on Kindle, soon to be available in paperback.

Aileen, 40, is also working on a book of recipes which accompanies “Buckle My Shoe”. It is based on tried and tested family recipes and recipes that characters Cassie and Alice would have used during World War I.

She has recently finished writing a play set in Belfast and is currently working on her second novel. Aileen also writes short stories and flash fiction which she hope to publish in a collection soon.

Get To Know More About Aileen:

How did you get started in the industry?
“I started working on “Buckle My Shoe” a few years ago and during the early stages I planned a short novella with about ten chapters. I spoke to family members and gathered bits and pieces of information that had been passed down through the years. The story was sketchy in places and it was really like fitting the pieces of a jigsaw together.

thumbnail_picture-1“In late 2013, after a lot of searching, I discovered that Alexander Brennan, my great grandfather had served with the Inniskilling Fusiliers and this sent me to the Inniskilling Museum to find more information. I got some information about where his regiment had trained and fought during the war. Without giving away too much of the story, I found quite a bit more.

“Having decided to incorporate newspaper clippings from the time I spent quite a bit of time in the Newspaper Library in Belfast scouring through microfiche reels of The Belfast Morning News and Irish News and The News Letter. Researching the newspapers gave me a real sense of the time. I also carried out some research in PRONI, which was absolutely fantastic and I made some great discoveries about the family there too. My research took me all over Belfast from St George’s Market to Queen’s University and Botanic; and from the Poor House at Clifton Street to Milltown Cemetery.

“Even though I have lived my whole life in Belfast, I was trying to look at it through the eyes of Cassie and Alice. I finished writing “Buckle My Shoe” in the summer of 2015 and while I considered self-publishing at the beginning, I thought I’d try the traditional publishing route for a few months. This is a very long, drawn-out process and this is a story I wanted to share, so I decided to self-publish through Kindle.”

What genre/style do you create in?
“Buckle My Shoe’ is a truly heart-warming story of a Belfast family changed forever by the events of the First World War. The novel gives readers a glimpse into the past, which focuses on the unbreakable relationship between Alice and Cassie, two young sisters at the outbreak of World War 1.

“Based on real-life events and vast genealogical and historical research into the author’s own family, “Buckle My Shoe” follows Alice and Cassie through the most difficult period of their lives. “Buckle My Shoe” takes a Belfast child’s-eye-view of the First World War, the Easter Rising, the Somme and growing up in a busy industrial city. Complete with funny incidents, uplifting dialogue and wonderfully authentic prose, “Buckle My Shoe” is a perfect novel for fans of historical novels, coming of age tales and new Irish fiction.”

thumbnail_Aileen Bartlett for Culture NI

Tell us a little about your personal life, are you married, kids, hobbies etc?
“In the novel and in real life, my Granny Cassie always wanted to own her own bakery. She started working part-time in a local bakery when she was in her late sixties and she loved every minute of it. She would have helped out with the baking and worked on the counter in the shop too.

“A few years ago, I did a cake decorating course and family and friends started asking me to bake cakes for them. Last year, I started a part-time home bakery and decided to call it Cassie’s Cake Room after my granny. I like to think that she finally got her own bakery. See more:

“I also make brooch bouquets, teddy bears and other crafty gifts and started a Alice’s Curiosity Shop – you can find this on Facebook. See more:”

PLUG !! What would you like us to tell people about?
“Buckle My Shoe was recently featured on Culture NI:

“Buckle My Shoe is available on Kindle here and will soon be available in to pre-order paperback from Amazon.

If you had to describe your work to someone who has never heard of you what would you say?
“I think it’s important to share these stories and preserve them for future generations. I uncovered a fair bit of the story through my research and I wonder how much more will never be found. I think we take things for granted and we are spoilt with modern technology.

“I believe it is important to remember and celebrate the strong, courageous people who went before us and made us who we are today. This was a challenging period in our history and through all the difficulty Belfast survived. I like to think that Belfast is a main character in the novel; a reliable friend you can count on and the place I love to call home.”

Anything else you want to tell people about yourself or your work?
“My younger brother, Declan designed the cover for the book (pictured above). He’s a Technology teacher and lives in Somerset. Declan designed the logo for Cassie’s Cake Room and I asked Declan to design the cover for “Buckle My Shoe” because he’s a great artist.”

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About the Author

Abby Williams
Belfast based author/writer specialising in entertainment, mental health and human interest.