Interview with Author Grace Tierney

Could you tell us about yourself?

Hi Amelia, I’m an Irish writer who’s been exploring the strange stories behind English words since 2009 on my Wordfoolery blog. I love discovering history behind words. This week, for example, I wrote about anecdote which comes from a scandalous book written by a Roman historian who exposed the truth about his emperor. The book was hidden for centuries in the Vatican library.

I’ve published four books about the history of words -“Words the Vikings Gave Us” (the English words we use daily which we stole from Old Norse), “Words The Sea Gave Us” (English nautical words, phrases, and sailors’ yarns), “Modern Words with Old Roots” (the ancient history of 50 modern words from avatar to zarf), and “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” (soldiers, inventors, stars, and villains who gave their names to English). I also talk about words on the radio and mentor writers each November during National Novel Writing Month (see NaNoWriMo about this free writing challenge).

When I’m not writing you’ll find me reading (I love fantasy, mysteries, and history), growing my own vegetables, or hiking up a hill.

What made you write your books?

They grew naturally from my blog. I wanted the space to explore word histories in more detail and share the stories I found with a wider audience. Having learned English, Irish, French, and German at school I’ve always had a fascination with words and the interconnections between languages.

How many hours a day do you write?

As any writer will tell you, there’s writing and then there’s the paperwork, but I put in about four hours daily. Sometimes it’s eaten up by interviews, guesting on podcasts (which I love doing), research, and marketing my books. Other times it’s all writing, with a little twitter on the side. You can find me there.

What is your writing process like?

I start with my giant word list. These are words I’ve had suggested, found in old dictionaries, stumbled across online or in novels, movies, etc. I group them in categories and when I have enough candidate words for a book I list them alphabetically, research them, and write them up.

Some will lack a good story (and are scrapped), others amaze me. Topics and themes emerge to group words into chapters, and soon enough I have a first draft.

Editing includes fact-checking, careful spelling (I need to refer to Latin, Greek, Norse, Old Dutch, German, and many more to explain a word’s evolution into English), and of course ensuring the book has a coherent story to it. History has to engage and entertain the reader.

How did you publish your first book?

Although my work has featured in traditionally published anthologies, magazines, ezines, etc I decided I wanted to have full creative control of my word books. I self-published with KDP, Kindle, and Kobo in ebook and paperback formats. This took a little tech know-how and hiring help for proof-reading and the cover designs.

What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I never stop researching words! I’m building a collection of useful reference books, thrive with language resources online, and scurry around libraries when possible. I take about two years before starting a book. As a result I am often researching one, promoting another, and writing or editing a third in the same year.

How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

My ideal readers love words and are interested in the stories of people in history rather than dates of battles. We can all adore a word like serendipity but my books are for the people who like knowing the Sri Lankan folklore behind it, or that the Bluetooth symbol on our phones are the runes for a Viking king who united two countries and had a rotten tooth, or that Maria Montessori had to do her cadaver dissection training at night, alone, because she was the only female in her medicine course. I want my readers to read a page, put the book down and say “wow, I never knew that. That’s fascinating.”

Where can people who are interested in your book, buy it?

“Words the Vikings Gave Us”, “Words The Sea Gave Us”, “Modern Words with Old Roots” (ebook only), and “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” are available mostly via online bookshops.

All the details for various countries are available at

I also sell signed paperback copies via my blog because people like to give them as gifts (use the same link).

Are you working on anything at present that you’d like to share?

I’m currently correcting my proof copy of “Words Christmas Gave Us” about the influence of Greeks, Romans, Vikings, Tudors, Dickens, and of course Santa Claus on worldwide traditions, merry music, decorations, and feasts. I learned so much while writing it and I’m aiming to release it in August 2023.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I shouldn’t but I do. So far they’ve all been positive and it’s wonderful to see my books read around the world from Ireland to Australia and Canada to South Korea. I save the good ones to encourage me on tough writing days.

Is there something more you want to tell us?

As a long time library user I’m a reading ambassador for my local library service and publish weekly episodes of “The Librarian’s Secret Diary”, the humourous adventures of a young librarian in a small village library in Ireland, on the reading subscription site Channillo. It’s like Netflix for books. You can find the serial at and read the first chapter for free. I’ve always written both fiction and nonfiction. I love disappearing into my fictional library each week.

Grace Tierney Media Links


Buy Her Books At




One thought on “Interview with Author Grace Tierney

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s