PW: Your novel, Ireland, focuses on one of Ireland's last itinerant storytellers. Was there ever such a thing, and if so are they all gone?

Frank Delaney: They are all gone. There was indeed such a figure, and not only in Ireland. The idea of the itinerant storyteller has been a fixture in vernacular cultures all over the world. They still exist in places like China along the Burmese border. I believe they still exist in Peru. In Ireland, they had a long and great history going right back to the pre-Christian courts of the kings in Ireland. So the figure of somebody who went from house to house or palace to palace telling stories for his living was a prominent one and was an actual fact in Ireland in my lifetime.

What makes a good storyteller?

A good storyteller in the physical sense is somebody who writes the story with his entire being. He engages the audience with his entire presence and persona. In the novel, I describe how the storyteller uses every part of himself as a prop—his pipe, his hat, his hands, his eyes, everything—to engage with the audience."

The novel is filled with Irish legends and fairy tales. Where did you get these stories?

They have been a part of the blood coursing through my veins since I was born, I guess. My family has been in roughly the same 30- or 40-mile radius of country for a traceable 1,500 to 1,600 years, and you are bound to get some of that to seep into your blood off the land, so to speak. But I have always been interested in vernacular traditions, no matter what country it comes from and I have always been interested in stories.

The book also deals a lot with Irish history. Are you concerned people won't be able to know what's fact and what's fiction?

No, because… all history is a version. What I am looking at here is a kind of emotional history. The thing I most wanted to convey was what Irish history felt like in the heart, as distinct from the record kept in the head…. I enjoy the mix of fact and imagination, which I presume is the essence of novel writing anyway.

You are an Irishman living in New York City. How did that impact writing a book about Ireland?

Distance I suppose in my case lends enchantment to the view, as they say.

Did it help you reconnect, seeing as though you live in the States now?

Hugely. We never leave the places we come from; they are always in our mind. There are places in the heart all the time, and I was forced to go back in my imagination to the places I come from. And I was very grateful for the fact that the book reopened a whole lot of things for me and made me fall in love all over again with the places and the things I had loved ever since I was a child.

Might the book inspire people to visit Ireland?

Oh it would be lovely if it did. I love the idea of being a literary tourist…. It would be lovely one day to bump into somebody in a small village in the west of Ireland with my book under their arm looking for somewhere I described in the novel. That would be a true compliment.