Uncategorized

An NFReads Interview With Author Brendan Gerad O’Brien

 

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

* I’m Brendan Gerad O’Brien.

I was born in Tralee, Ireland and now live in Newport, South Wales, United Kingdom.

As a child I spent his summer holidays in Listowel, Co Kerry where my uncle Moss Scanlon had a Harness Maker’s shop. It was a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters, and it was there that my love of storytelling was kindled by the likes of John B. Keane and Bryan MacMahon, who often wandered in for a chat and bit of jovial banter.

The numerous short stories I’ve written are based on those characters and have been published in various anthologies and eMags over the years.

I’ve self-published twenty of them in a collection called Dreamin’ Dreams

Dark September is my first novel, a thriller set in Wales during WW2.

Gallows Field is my second thriller and is also set in WW2, only this time in Ireland.

A Pale Moon Was Rising is a follow up thriller involving Eamon Foley once again.

Footsteps is my latest thriller, this time set in 1960 Ireland.

What are the stories behind your books?

* I’ve been writing short stories for as long as I can remember. I won my first competition when I was eight years old. I was so excited I ran all the way home. The Fun Fair was coming to Tralee – our little town on the West coast of Ireland – and apart from Duffy’s Circus which came in September, this was the highlight of our year. Our English teacher asked us to write an essay about it, and I won the prize – a book of ten tickets for the fair.

So writing was in my blood from a very young age. I loved essays and English literature.

But I left school at fourteen and went to work in hotels in Killarney. And I got caught up in the buzz of the tourist industry – remember this was the 60s and the Beatles were creating a music revolution and swamping the youth with hopes and dreams of a wonderful future. So I felt no great urgency to write. I dreamed of being a writer. I wanted to be a writer. But somehow life just got in the way.

I joined the Royal Navy at eighteen and was sent to the Far East where I spent the first three years between Singapore and Hong Kong. And again I was having so much fun I didn’t get to write anything, although there were loads of stories bursting to get out.

It was only when I got married and the children came along that I made any serious attempt to put pen to paper. The result was Dark September, an alternative history novel set in Newport during WW2.

I loved writing it – I always write in longhand – but I hated typing it. I’d be clattering away into the early hours on an old Olivetti typewriter and getting on everyone’s nerves. Amazingly, I found an agent but she insisted on some major changes so I spent a year re-writing it.

Unfortunately my agent died and it took ages to find another one. And he demanded even more changes. It became too much for Jennifer and the kids so my manuscript hibernated in the attic for a few years.

Then Jennifer bought me a computer for Christmas – with Spellcheck!

This time finding an agent proved impossibility – they only represent people who’re famous for just being famous.

In the meantime – while my book was languishing in limbo – I discovered writing short stories is amazingly therapeutic. I get a great buzz from taking an idea and developing it, often watching it evolve into something completely different from how it started out. And I realized too that great ideas are all around us. Little gems are waiting to be harvested everywhere we look. I found myself listening to what people are saying, and the way they say it.

For instance, the Irish are famous for their colourful and exaggerated vocabulary. We’ll use a dozen words when one would do. So I build on that and set all my short stories in Ireland. The names are changed, of course, because I don’t earn enough to survive a lawsuit. I’ve written hundreds of stories, most of which are still stuffed in drawers somewhere. But I did manage to get most published over the years in anthologies, e-zines and magazines.

I published Dreamin’ Dreams as an eBook and in paperback through Amazon KDP. It contains twenty of the stories I’m most proud of. They’re all based on real people who passed through my life at some time or other. Enhanced, of course. And sometimes exaggerated out of all proportion.

The title comes from something my father said years ago when I got poor grades at school. ‘What do you expect?’ he said to my mother. ‘He never does any studying. He just sits there, dreamin’ dreams.’

What inspired your creativity?

* The idea for Dark September came when I was on exercise in the Brecon Beacons with the Royal Navy. I wondered what it would be like running for your life through such terrain from someone who wants to do you an injury.

Then I saw disturbing footage of Nazis disposing of people with special needs and I felt tremendous sympathy for their families. How would I react if I was in that position and Germany invaded the UK? Where would I take my child? Being Irish I felt it would be natural to gravitate to Ireland, which was neutral during WW2.

Of course once I started writing the story it took on a life of its own. Characters reacted in ways I never intended. Decent characters turned into monsters half way through a chapter, even a sentence. It was exciting and disturbing at the same time, and I enjoyed of writing it.

My favourite character is Danny O’Shea – vulnerable, naïve, basically honest but thrown into a situation he has to face into or go under.

One concern I did have was making Cerys and Bethan Frost direct descendants of the famous John Frost, a real character in Welsh history. They started out as beautiful, kind and loving girls but got corrupted by love and promised riches. But so far I haven’t had any negative feedback on that, although some people thought the sudden sex and violence should have been flagged up.

How do you deal with creative block?

* I usually have an idea about what I want to say before I start, then I just write. I read it again a few days later and edit it until I’m satisfied. Sometimes I have several chapters on the go at the same time. Then when I read them back I’ll make adjustments as to where the story is going. Half the fun is surprising myself at how the story takes on a life of its own.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

* Unrealistic plots show disrespect for the reader. Lack of consistency in the behaviour of a character as well as poorly thought out dialogue. But the worst sin is a lazy conclusion to the story, especially if a sneaky clue is dropped in at the last minute to justify lazy plotting. They’re all the things that I hate in a book.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

* Probably the hardest part of writing a book. I would suggest getting a book designer to do the cover for you if you can afford it. It needs to reflect the essence of the book because whether we agree or not, most readers DO judge a book by its cover. So it needs to make an immediate impact.

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

* I can’t pretend I’m not wounded by a bad review. It’s a human failing. I’ve had eleven great five-star reviews for a book then out of the blue I get a one-star that’s more a character assignation than constructive feedback. It ruins my day – but just the one day. Then I read all the good reviews again and accept that it’s just one person’s opinion. And you can’t please everyone …

How has your creation process improved over time?

* My creation process has settled into a comfortable pattern. Once I’ve got the basic outline of a story clear in my head I always write the first draft in longhand in a lined school jotter. Then after I’ve typed it all into my laptop I print it off and edit it again. And again! Until it looks like a book I would like to read myself.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

*The best thing is seeing the story evolve and take shape. The worst thing is getting half way through the book and realising it has evolved so much the first few chapters no longer make sense. The most surprising thing is how the characters actually take over the story and dictate which direction it should take …

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

*I think the first draft of a story is always for my own satisfaction. I play with it and enjoy the excitement of not knowing how it will eventually pan out. Once it’s done and I’m satisfied with how it looks I will then tweak it until it compares with the kind of story I like to read. I read a lot and have a clear idea of what I like and don’t like, and if it falls into that category then I’ll let it loose on the public.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

* I think emotions are crucial to any story. The very essence of a good novel is a healthy sprinkling of fear, love, hate, jealousy and all the emotions in between. But if the writer can’t conjure up these feelings in themselves then how can they inject them into a fictitious character?

Do you have any creativity tricks?

* Not really. If I’m honest I find new stories in everything I read or watch on TV. If I watch a good thriller it will trigger a new idea in my mind. The same with a good book – I’ll come away with a great plot of my own. The trick, I suppose, is to write it down quickly before it evaporates like fog in the morning sun.

What are your plans for future books?

* Gallows Field and A Pale Moon Was Rising features Guard Eamon Foley and have a thread going through them that needs a conclusion. I’ve started on the third in the series but so far it’s hit a bit of a buffer. But I’ll plod on.

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

* Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners bought me a pint of Guinness back in 1969.

* I canoed down the length of Malaysia over one weekend and got so sunburnt I was hospitalised.

* I played rugby in Japan with an ex-international over 40s team who beat us 44/0. And it was live on TV.

* Bob Hope autographed my shirt in Tokyo, but I was so inebriated I put it in the wash and forgot about it until the other guys were showing theirs off. By the time I recovered my shirt the signature looked like a dirty stain.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

And thank you, Tony for including me in NFReads.com

 

Uncategorized

Interview With Author Frederick Ben Rodgers

Introduction

I was born in Belfast N.I on 15th January 1939 delivered at home by Dr Frederick Smith, for whom I was named. We lived in one of the thousands of 1860 era tiny slum like terrace houses typical of the city. I lost my mother the same year on Boxing Day, we had been at war with Germany for four months.

Please introduce yourself and the story behind your books!

My story spans the first fifteen years of my life. Of being adopted by my eldest sister and her husband, and taken to live in England. Growing up through the war years, and later attending a total of fifteen different schools. To finally returning to my family in Belfast and regain my family name of Rodgers. Finding myself a stranger with my father, brothers and sisters. At the age of fifteen I joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman. To offer more details would to give away the purpose of my book “Lily & Me.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

It was many years later I felt the inspiration and need to record my story. In 2000 I was attending a legion Remembrance Day dinner, there were several speeches talking about the Second World War and the Korean War. There was no mention of the First World War, when my turn to speak came, I felt the need to address that, my father had served in France from 1916-19. However, I knew so little of my family history I could only make brief mention. This was I believe the moment when a seed began to grow in me to learn more about my own history.

How do you deal with creative block?

I have authored three books, two memoirs and one fiction. I can’t say I have really suffered a period when I couldn’t write. Of course I’ve had many times when I just didn’t feel like writing.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Other than missing words lacking comas etc and probably poor grammar I don’t recall any big errors, but remember I attended fifteen schools.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I really don’t have anything to offer, in both my memoirs I kept the title and covers simple.

How has your creation process improved over time?

I think like most things we do, the more practice the better we become. I look back on my first book and sometimes think I could have explained some parts better etc.

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

I think we all feel a little hurt when receiving a critical revue. I have been fortunate in this area having to date only received positive revues. Oh, a few people have mentioned my incorrect use of sentences etc. But I don’t dwell on it.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

Clearly for me the best was learning about my family and my past. You must understand I was removed from my home and siblings. In my early years I greatly lacked the sense of belonging, of being a part of a loving family. This was probably the worse part, learning of what I had missed. Most surprising was my journey of research and writing my first book. It was a most exciting time and so revealing, it gave me a real sense of myself.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

It has to be both,I needed to feel satisfaction in the story I was telling. It was also important that the reader could visualize the images and situations I was portraying. Balancing the two. Never easy and I wondered so often if anyone would ever want to read my book. I suppose that is quite natural when writing a first book especially when it’s essentially about oneself.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

This was a challenge, I spent many a restless night deciding whether or not to include a particular incident within the pages. In the end I decided on being truthful and write down the events as they happened. However, I did not include one very serious incident, which ever since I have question myself as to why not??

Do you have any creativity tricks?

Not really a trick, perhaps creative. I struggle with my first chapter, I was aware the first chapter was what kept the reader turning the pages. I decided to begin the book using the last chapter as the first. I believe it has worked out well.

What are your plans for future books?

I’m over 80 years old and health is not great, I do enjoy blogging and writing letters to the editor. However, I have no ideas or plans to write anymore books. But we never know when we might change our minds.

I served total of 23 years in the Royal Navy and RCN. I have been to the other side of the world and back have sailed under the arctic ice, surfaced through the ice on a submarine, have play soccer on the ice. I married in 1963, and divorced in 1969, I won the custody of my four year old daughter Caroline. I remarried in 1972 we had a second daughter in 1973 Susannah. My wife Linda and I live in a little cottage in Abram Village, Prince Edward Island. We have been married 47 years, our two girls are grown and moved on. We live with our two dogs, Yoda a 11 year Keeshond, and Rosie a four month old Caren terrier mix. I have self published three books, two memoirs one fiction.

In my interview today I talked only about my first book “Lily & Me” my second book follows on where the first left off “The Royal Navy & Me” Finally four years ago I attempted my first work of fiction “Chapter XI Armageddon”

Books

http://irishroversbooks.com/

Home • Privacy • Terms • About & Contact

The material appearing on NFReads.com is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, medical diagnosis, medical treatment, legal advice or financial advice.

The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Uncategorized

Is It Ever Right?

Seeing a shoplifter wrestled to the ground in our local supermarket today reminded me of an incident when I was Duty Manager in a major store years ago.

It was a warm summer evening and the store was busy. I was walking down the entertainment aisle when I heard the familiar thump of something being dropped into a bag. Looking around I noticed a young man wearing a long coat studying the DVDs. There was a battered old shopping bag by his feet.

I positioned myself among the customers so I could watch him discreetly. And I could clearly see how he operated. He picked up two DVDs and pretended to read them. Then he bent down as if he was putting them back on the lower shelf, and he let one slip into the bag. He did this five times, then picked up the bag and casually headed for the door.

Just then there was an urgent call for a First Aider to go to the warehouse. I had no choice.  The accident took priority, and by the time I phoned security the lad was gone.

Some weeks later I noticed him again. This time he was walking out the front door with the same old shopping bag. He went to the cash point where he put the bag on the ground while he used the machine. I passed close by him and I could clearly see a pile of DVDs in the bag. Of course I couldn’t do anything about it as I couldn’t prove he stole them, so I had to leave it and go back to work.

It was weeks before I saw him again and this time he clocked me clocking him. He gave a big grin and took his time wandering around the store, feral eyes everywhere as he picked things up and put them down again. Security tracked him the whole time, but he didn’t step out of line. He was obviously enjoying himself winding us up, and eventually he picked up a newspaper and a bag of crisps and headed for the self-service tills.

It had been a long hard week and I was feeling totally stressed out. A head office visit had gone badly and the losses were dreadful. We were on notice to sort out the issues of the disappearing stock. And now I was totally frustrated at being mocked by one of the regular thieving toe-rags.

So I picked up a couple of DVDs and got a security tag from behind the Customer Service desk. Then as I squeezed through the mass of customers at the self-service tills I casually slid them into the lad’s bag.

Security got a call to stand by the front doors, and sure enough when the alarm went off the lad smirked and swaggered away. When he was stopped and asked to show what was in the bag he got stroppy and gobbed off about his rights. But when the security guys took out the DVDs and asked him to show the receipt for them he really kicked off. It took three guards to restrain him until the police came.

I did feel guilty for a short time – until the police found three ladies purses and about thirteen stolen credit cards on his person.

Was it justified? How would you define justice?

 

 

Uncategorized

The Harness Maker

 

It’s long gone now, of course, the old Harness Maker’s shop in Lower William Street, Listowel. Yet every time we visit Ireland we still make a point of taking a mini pilgrimage to Listowel to spend a few reflective moments in the street where it once thrived.

Coming out through the archway from the old cattle market near Tae Lane, we look across the narrow, wet street to where the big glass window with the words Harness Maker written across the middle of it in big dramatic letters used to be. If you concentrated hard enough you could almost see the top of Moss Scanlon’s head, encompassed in a halo of light created by the early evening sunlight, bobbing about inside the shop as he crafted away on something exceedingly important.

A faded image shimmering in the fog of those hazy bygone days, the shop only exists now in the memory of those of us who can still recall a time when the horse was the lifeblood of the rural Kerry community, and Moss Scanlon, Harness Maker, provided an essential service to most of them.

Back in those days people depended on the pony and trap for their basic everyday transport. Bigger horses were crucial for ploughing the fields and pulling the haycarts, and the donkey and cart was the best way for getting the milk to the creamery.  Needless to say, all of those animals required a huge assortment of leather goods to enable them to do their jobs properly, and the necessary saddles, harnesses, blinkers, straps, and a whole variety of other bits and pieces were usually made, and repaired, in the local harnessmaker’s shop.

Many were the times that my sister Jo, my brother Maurice and I took the bus from Tralee to spend a couple of weeks of our summer holiday with our Uncle Moss Scanlon, Harness Maker.

As the bus clattered to a halt outside the hardware shop in the town square, we would bounce down the steps and into a cloud of pulsing diesel smoke, carrying a little brown suitcase between us. The street always had a bustling activity about it as we rushed excitedly past the amazing Maid of Erin figure that sticks out from half way up the front of a pub, and we would practically slide around the corner into Lower William Street.

And there it would be across the road, the door wide open and wonderfully inviting.

The first thing to greet us was the chirping of the two songbirds in the cage above the door, then the wonderful aroma of leather would waft over us, heavy with the scent of dye and a sprinkling of wood shavings. It was magic.

‘Aye, aye,’ Moss would say, looking down at us over the top of his glasses.

Moss was a man of very few words but that didn’t matter because his nephew Mick made up for it. Mick worked in the shop with him, and when Mick wasn’t talking he’d be singing, usually some obscure song that nobody had ever heard of before. Or was it the way he actually sang them that made them so unrecognisable?

Anyway, we’d go straight through to the small back room to say hello to our grandmother, who was usually sitting beside the big black range that always had a kettle puffing steam on top of it, and a teapot with tea in it that was as thick as tar.

Dropping the suitcase in a corner we’d hurry back out to the shop and perch ourselves up on the counter where we could casually observe the general activity of the day, both inside the shop and outside in the hustle and bustle of the busy street.

We were already well aware that the shop was a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters who regularly wandered in for a chat and a bit of jovial banter. The legendary Bryan MacMahon himself once corrected my grammar.

‘It’s not different to,’ he told me sternly in his headmasterly voice. ‘It’s different from.’

Market Day was on the Monday and it was always a riot of activity with assorted animals haphazardly scattered all over the street; horses and carts tied to lamp posts, ducks, chickens, pigs hemmed in by farmers with long sticks, dogs snapping at each other, farmers snapping at the dogs, cows with their rear ends slap up against the shop windows, groups of men disappearing into the inviting atmosphere of the numerous pubs and emerging later in a much better mood, bursts of riotous laughter, lots of animated banter, the odd person playing on a fiddle and bringing a rash of foot tapping and sporadic hand clapping, deals done and sometimes begrudged, and a steady stream of people wandering into our shop with odd bits and pieces of leather equipment that needed repairing.

Some bits, of course, were way beyond any hope of resurrection and then we’d revel in the wonderfully entertaining scenario of Moss Scanlon trying to convince the sceptical farmer that they should be replaced with new ones.

‘How much would that be?’ was usually the first thing that the farmer asked, and no matter what figure Moss quoted, it was always followed by an unbelieving yelp of ‘How much?

You’d immediately assume that this was going to be another ‘Mission Impossible’ and that the farmer would storm off in a huff. But Moss Scanlon was good, and more often than not the farmer went home carrying an excellent piece of handcrafted kit tucked reverently inside his jacket.

I’m sure Arkwright in ‘Open All Hours’ was actually based on Moss Scanlon, Harness Maker, Listowel.

Sadly, even ways back then, times were already changing. And in Moss Scanlon’s view, not necessarily for the better, either.

First came the tractor, followed quickly by the combined harvester and then the threshers and bailers, and slowly but surely the traditional ways of working in the Irish countryside was succumbing to the relentless drip, drip of progress. Gradually the farmer became less and less dependent on the harness maker and his expertise.

Of course it took a good few years for these machines to filter across to the west coast of Ireland, and initially few people could afford them anyway. The cost was much too prohibitive. Then someone created the Co-Operative and they spread like a rash, and the farmers were delighted.

For Moss Scanlon, though, they brought with them the whisper of advancing doom.

Unfortunately Moss Scanlon became ill sometime in the late sixties and he was forced to spend many weeks in hospital, and he never really recovered sufficiently to go back to work full time. Mick made a gallant effort and soldiered on regardless, but eventually it all became too much of a struggle for him, and eventually the business faltered.

Moss died sometime in the early seventies and Mick had no choice but to put up the shutters on the big window with M Scanlon, Harness Maker written across it, and close the door for the final time.

There’s still a shop and a big window there, of course, but this one has a Barber’s candy striped emblem outside it, and there’s absolutely nothing at all to indicate that once upon a time a completely different way of life ever existed there. Life has moved on regardless, confining our little bit of history to a few grainy photographs in an old leather album. You try to inject enthusiasm into them as you point out relevant details to the kids but, regretfully, those delicate, elusive moments belong only to us. And even they are beginning to fade, getting harder to recall as time takes its toll on us as well.

I take out a handkerchief and blow my nose, and I wipe a sudden speck of dust from my eye before wandering back through the arch.

 

The End

Uncategorized

Picture this

Picture this – a cup of coffee on a small table that’s decorated with a cute Christmas cloth, and me with a vacuum cleaner set on turbo. I did NOT know this had the same thrust as a Boeing 747 starboard engine at take-off, and I swear I was no nearer than ten inches to that table! Anyway – flump! – the cloth disappeared up the spout.

Now I’ve seen magicians pull a tablecloth from under a whole dinner set without even rattling a spoon. But me? Naw, the cup leapt into the air, did a spiteful pirouette and sprayed everything within a ten foot radius – the ceiling, the walls, the curtain on the other side of the room, the settee, the carpet, the rug … the poor cat will be traumatized for the rest of its life.

I’m only glad we haven’t got a dog – the doghouse would be crowded with both of us in there for the foreseeable future!

Uncategorized

Sheepish …

We saw the strangest thing today as we were walking along the Newport Canal. The sky was clear and the birds were chirping happily as we looked down over a sloping meadow where sheep were grazing. Suddenly one sheep charged another and butted it so hard it flipped right over. As the stunned creature staggered to its feet the first sheep slammed into it again, knocking it back down.

Then as it attacked for the third time all the other sheep came racing across and joined in too, piling all over the poor sheep on the ground.

Somehow the victim managed to scramble out from under the pack and bolted off down the field, throwing itself into a lean-to in the corner. The mob raced after it and charged at the shelter, pushing and shoving to get in. This went on for what seemed like ages until, just as suddenly as it had started, they appeared to lose interest and wandered off back up the field to continue grazing.

Then the mugged sheep came sauntering out as if nothing had happened and it too continued grazing.

 

Uncategorized

Interview for the Seumas Gallacher Blog

Interview for the Seumas Gallacher Blog

1 – Tell us about your connection with Wales:

I was born in Tralee on the west coast of Ireland and came to the UK when I joined the Royal Navy at 18. It was while I was on a course in Portsmouth that I met a beautiful Welsh girl, Jennifer Marshall, who was on holiday from Newport, South Wales. After a short romance we got married and when my service contract ended we went to live in Newport to be near her family. We’ve been there ever since.

2 – Tell us about yourself as a writer and as a person:

When I won my first writing competition I was so excited I ran all the way home. I was about eight years old. The Fun Fair was coming to Tralee – our little town on the West coast of Ireland – and apart from Duffy’s Circus which came in September, this was the highlight of our year. Our English teacher asked us to write an essay about it, and I won the only prize – a book of ten tickets for the fair.

So writing was in my blood from a very young age. I loved essays and English literature

My grand-uncle Moss Scanlon had a small Harness Maker’s shop in Lower William Street, Listowel – a rural town in Kerry that was just a bus ride from Tralee – where I spent some wonderful summer holidays. The shop had a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters who’d wander in for a chat and a bit of jovial banter. One famous storyteller who often popped in was John B Keane, and I asked him once where he got his ideas from. He told me that everyone has a story to tell, so be patient and just listen to them.

And I was there when John B’s very first story was read out live on Radio Eireann. I can still remember the buzz of excitement and the sheer pride of the people of Listowel. And the seeds of storytelling were sown in my soul.

Another source of encouragement was Bryan MacMahon, one of Listowel’s finest writers and a schoolmaster to boot, who was a very easy person to talk to.

Anyway, I left school at fourteen and went to work in hotels in Killarney, and I quickly got caught up in the excitement and colourful buzz of the tourist industry – remember, this was in the 60s when the Beatles were creating a heady revolution and engulfing the youth with hopes and dreams of a wonderful future – so I felt no great urgency to write. I dreamed of being a writer, of course. I wanted to be a writer – but somehow life just got in the way.

When I joined the Royal Navy at eighteen I was sent to the Far East. I spent the first three years between Singapore and Hong Kong, and again I was having so much fun I didn’t get to write anything, although there were loads of stories bursting to get out.

It was only when I got married and the children came along that I made any serious attempt to put pen to paper, and the result was Dark September, an alternative history novel set in Newport during WW2.

I loved writing it – I always write in longhand – but I hated having to type it. After working a ten hour day, I’d be clattering away into the early hours on an old Olivetti typewriter and getting on everyone’s nerves. Then I’d scream in frustration when I’d discover that hours of hard work were ruined by some horrendous typo error, and I’d have to start all over again.

Amazingly, I found an agent almost immediately but she insisted on some major changes so I spent a year re-writing it.

Unfortunately my agent died suddenly and the agency closed. It took ages to find another agent, but he too demanded even more changes. It became too much for Jennifer and the kids, so my manuscript hibernated in the attic for a few years.

Then Jennifer bought me a computer for Christmas – with Spellcheck!

This time finding an agent has proved impossibility – they only want to represent people who’re famous for just being famous – but now I’m delighted to say the book has been accepted by Tirgearr Publishing and I’m delighted with the result and all the hard work they’ve put into it to make it a great success.

In the meantime – while my book was languishing in limbo – I discovered that writing short stories is amazingly therapeutic. I get a great buzz from taking an idea and developing it, often watching it evolve into something completely different from how it started out. And I realized too that great ideas are all around us. Little gems are waiting to be harvested everywhere we look. I found myself listening to what people are saying, and the way they say it.

For instance, the Irish are famous all over the world for their colourful and exaggerated expressions, always using a dozen words when one would have done. So I build on that and set all my short stories in Ireland. The names are changed, of course, because I don’t earn enough to survive a lawsuit. I’ve written hundreds of stories, most of which are still stuffed in drawers somewhere, but I did manage to get more than twenty of them published over the years, in anthologies, e-zines and magazines as well as web sites.

DREAMIN’ DREAMS, published as an eBook with Smashwords.com and in paperback by CreateSpace – contains twenty of my published stories, of which I’m very proud. They’re all based on real people who passed through my life at some time or other, or events that actually happened to me. Enhanced, of course, and sometimes exaggerated out of all proportion.

The title comes from something my father said years ago, when I got poor grades at school. ‘What do you expect?’ he said to my mother. ‘He never does any studying. He just sits there, dreamin’ dreams.’

The image on the cover is the statue in The Green, Tralee’s town park, and it represents the characters from the song The Rose of Tralee.

3 – Why did you decide to write in your chosen genre?

My favourite reading material has always been fast paced thrillers, murder mysteries, war stories. I write what I think I would like to read.

4 – Tell us about the concept behind your first book

The idea for Dark September came to me when I was in the Royal Navy and we were on exercise in the Brecon Beacons. I wondered what it would be like to be running for your life through such inhospitable terrain from someone who wants to do you a serious injury.

Later on I saw some disturbing footage of Nazi guards disposing of people with special needs and I felt tremendous sympathy for their families. How would I react if I was in that position and Germany invaded the UK? Where would |I take my child? Being Irish I felt it would be natural to gravitate to Ireland, which was neutral during WW2.

Of course once I started writing the story it took on a life of its own. Characters reacted in ways I never intended. People who were created as decent characters turned into monsters half way through a chapter, even a sentence. It was exciting and disturbing all at the same time, and I enjoyed every moment of writing it.

My favourite character is Danny O’Shea – vulnerable, naïve, basically honest but thrown into a situation that he has to face into or go under. I see a lot of myself in him. Not sure who could play him in a film – someone who was sensitive – Aidan Turner, perhaps. The theme tune would be Running up the Hill by Kate Bush, all thudding drums and loud pulsing music.

One concern I did have about the story was making Cerys and Bethan Frost direct descendants of the famous John Frost, a treasured character in Welsh history. They started out as beautiful, kind and loving girls but they got corrupted by both love and promised riches. But so far I haven’t had any negative feedback on that aspect, although some people thought the sudden sex and brutal violence should have been flagged up in the blurb.

5 – Which Welsh person would you like to invite to dinner and what would you serve?

John Frost. I would love to know what makes a man stand out from the crowd and put himself in harm’s way while pursuing a principal. What did he think about the justice system at the time, and people who were steeped in religion but oozing hypocrisy from every pore? And I would serve Welsh lamb, carrots and new potatoes with Welsh Ale from a keg.

 

6 – What’s the best thing about Wales?

Its similarity to Ireland. Parts of West Wales are so like the places where I ran as a lad in Kerry. Listening to Owen Money every Saturday makes me laugh. The warmth he displays fascinates me – I could be listening to Kerry Radio. And of course my wife …

 

7 – What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished self-publishing another thriller called Gallows Field. This one is set in Tralee during WW2. A crowded pub. The music is loud. The singing is louder. Joe McCarthy is shot dead. And no one sees a thing. Available through Smashwords and Amazon.

8 – How did you find the experience of self-publishing?

To be honest I always hoped my work would be snapped up by a main stream publisher who would take responsibility for the sales and advertising. But the reality is totally different. Most publishers now demand that the author does as much self-promotion as possible while imposing restrictions on pricing. I love the writing aspect of it all, but I’m not comfortable pushing for sales and reviews. There are companies who will promote your work for you but it cost more than you’ll ever make in sales. But if you want people to read your stuff you have to put it out there so the world will notice it.

9 – What’s your advice to new writers?

If you are a budding writer, or just thinking about trying your hand at writing, remember to have fun with it. Be aware that very few writers make it to the top of the tree – those that do will tell you that it involves a copious amount of self-publications and a shed full of luck. And of course a good story too.

Yes, take your craft seriously – it’s a God given talent and it’s your duty to share it with the world – but enjoy it too. Just don’t get so immersed in it that you lose track of the people you really care about, the ones you’re proud to show it to first. (And listen to them, as well, even if what they’re saying isn’t what you want to hear!)

And keep working at it, even if it’s just 100 words every day, because every time you write something, you’re fine-tuning your skills.

10 – What are you currently reading?

Val McDermid Wire in the Blood. In paperback.

11 – What’s your favourite book?

So many it would be hard to whittle it down to just one. The Wind in the Willows had the most magical effect on me – I lived in that story and still get the feeling whenever I sit on a riverbank. I also remember running home from school to listen to Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe being read on the radio. In my teens I was hooked on Mickey Spillane and Zane Grey, but now I have to say Val McDermid is my all-time favourite. Followed closely by Ann Cleeves and Andy McNab.