Monday, 18 April 2016

Writing Achievement Unlocked


In the writing game, good news mostly comes in small measure. So you need to be grateful when something good happens. Imagine I'm typing this with my happy face on.

I finally signed with a new literary agent. Svetlana Pironko of the Author Rights Agency decided to take me on after reading my novel SHOT. The story goes a little bit like this:

"You can’t choose your family. This fact becomes a major career obstacle for DS Shannon McNulty when she takes up a post with the Police Service of Northern Ireland following a decade on the force in London. The move from England back to her hometown of Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland coincides with the untimely death of her gangster uncle, Brendan McNulty. Now Shannon must balance an unofficial investigation into her uncle’s shooting with her first official case for the PSNI. A swift resolution to the disappearance of a politician’s daughter could lay the tracks for a stellar career as a Belfast detective. But if she fumbles her family and career juggling act, she’ll lose everything."

I'm very happy about this development. Relieved too. One of my goals during the three-year career break I'm currently enjoying was to secure a literary agent. With only five months of that time remaining, it's finally happened. Many thanks to Les Edgerton, by the way, for introducing me to Svetlana. Pretty cool to share an agent with such a legend. The fact that she has worked with Ken Bruen -- a noir god -- is gravy.

Emerging writers, don't give up. I'd almost abandoned this book when Svetlana's email pinged through. I'd almost given up on writing crime fiction altogether, in fact. This current agent hunt began in June 2015 and I got really close with a few agents, but until last week I just didn't get close enough. Form rejections are almost kinder than those 'close but no cigar' emails. But it's a trial most writers will have to endure. I accept that.

I'm sure there'll be more disappointments ahead. Getting an agent is still no guarantee that they can get your work published. However, I'm a step further along than I was at the start of this month. So watch this space. Hopefully I'll have another bit of good news to share in the near future.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Closing in on 50

Monday, 29 February 2016

Ian Sansom Event Inspires Sporadic Blogger To Get His Act Together

That's right, folks. It's that time of the year when I realise that I haven't blogged at all since I resolved to blog more. I'm that blogger. Always.

But this isn't about me. It's about (Professor) Ian Sansom, a wonderful writer. He's also been a source of inspiration for my own writing, and was then directly responsible for helping me improve it when I did the Creative Writing MA at QUB from 2011 to 2012. But don't let that colour your judgement. You'll find some pretty dated reviews and interviews with Prof Sansom from before my time at QUB right here. Since then I've been to a few of his launches (and you'll find an account of one in that link above) and had a fun time at each of them.

Don't you want to have fun too?

All right, then. Here are the details for the launch of a great writer's third latest book at a great bookshop. Great!




The Directors of 4th Estate and No Alibis Bookstore are very pleased to invite you to celebrate the launch WESTMORLAND ALONE, the new novel from Ian Sansom, on Friday 4th March at 6:30PM. Tickets are free, but are limited, so please reserve your spot now.

Welcome to Westmorland. Perhaps the most scenic county in England! Home of the poets! Land of the great artists! District of the Great lakes! And the scene of a mysterious crime…

Swanton Morley, the People’s Professor, once again sets off in his Lagonda to continue his history of England, The County Guides.

Stranded in the market town of Appleby after a tragic rail crash, Morley, his daughter Miriam and his assistant Stephen Sefton find themselves drawn into a world of country fairs, gypsy lore and Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling. When a woman’s body is discovered at an archaeological dig, for Morley there’s only one possible question: could it be murder?

Join Morley, Miriam and Sefton as they journey along the Great North road and the Settle-Carlisle Line into the dark heart of 1930s England.

Born in Essex, England, Ian Sansom is the author of the popular Mobile Library Mystery Series. He is also a frequent contributor and critic for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The London Review of Books, and The Spectator. He is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

He studied at both Oxford and Cambridge and is a former Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Currently, he teaches at Warwick University.

Book your spot now: email David or call the shop on 028 9031 9607.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

As 2015 Closes


I'll do my best not to ramble, and keep this to a tight 700-word post.

As is my habit, I’ve been thinking about what comes next as opposed to what has happened. My main concern is that the current situation I find myself in is going to come to an end. Jeepers creepers. The end is nigh!

That sounds dramatic, right? Indulge me. I’m a writer.

Right now, I’m a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. The highlights: I got through my differentiation in June 2014. I taught on the Introduction to Creative Writing Module as a University Tutor, September-December, 2014 and 2015. I’ve completed a novel for the creative component of the thesis (insofar as a novel can be complete before it’s published), and I’m working on the critical component. I’ve attended many interesting courses and conferences. I’ve also taken part in a number of conferences and festival events.

I’m many other things besides a PhD student, but I’m trying to keep this focussed.

If it were possible, I’d be a PhD student for the rest of my days. I love this life. It suits me and my family in that (apart from the teaching aspect), my timetable can be moved about to suit childcare needs, etc. It stimulates me intellectually and allows me time to look after my health, mentally and physically. Before the PhD, I completed an MA in creative writing at QUB while working a full-time job and doing my best to be a husband and father in the time left over (thank you for your patience, Mrs B). I feel that the privilege of working to earn a PhD was the reward.

And as 2016 looms, all I can think about is the fact that my target date to complete this massive project is September 2016.

That’s still nine months away. I know.

But I’m the father of three children. I also know how quickly nine months can pass while you worry about the future.

And yes, I have to think about the future, but I also have to think about the now. If I take my eye off either vague concept of time, I could forget to enjoy the privilege I’ve earned. And so, I have had little time to think about what I’ve actually achieved as a writer and a student. Those achievements – stripped of their attachments of pride and relief – can be viewed in the previous blog post here.

As I read back over this piece, I’m slightly concerned that this will come off as braggadocious. But rather than go back and downplay the achievements, I’ll learn from a criticism that’s levelled at me from time-to-time.

I lack confidence.

Because there’s a fine line between self-deprecation and self-hate, I suppose. When I make fun of myself, people sometimes laugh. When I play the part of arrogant wee shite, people sometimes laugh. When I mock others, people sometimes laugh. I like to make people laugh. It sets them at ease. Gives them a wee oxygen boost to the brain. And when you do it often enough, people smile when they see you. I like that.

My humour tends towards making fun of myself, because I’m an easy target and I know I can take it. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve hurt more sensitive people in the past with my attempts at making others laugh. Taking the piss out of myself is safe.

I also thought that the ability to make people laugh is directly proportional to how confident you are. But I guess other people don’t see it like that.

Let me be clear… I’m pretty fucking confident, people. And I like that about me.

What I don’t like is laziness, especially when I sense it getting in the way of my own ambitions.

So if I act like I’m not all that impressed with myself, it’s because I’m not. I’ve finally figured out that I can do a lot more than what I’ve done. And I refuse to rest on my laurels. Next year, I need to stop worrying about what’s ending and think about the new beginnings that I’ve yet to experience.

Right now my kids are on Christmas holidays. They’ve been to their granny’s and they’re just home and getting loud. I’ve gone a little over 700 words. Rather than edit and lose some of this honesty (typos be damned), I’ll just finish here and go join my family.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Enjoy Whatever You Subscribe To.

Come at me, 2016.

Writing CV, as at December 2015

Publications
  • Novella, The Point, Pulp Press 2011 (re-released by Blasted Heath in 2013)
  • Novel, Wee Rockets, Blasted Heath, 2012
  • Novel, Fireproof, Blasted Heath, Fight Card Books, 2012
  • Novella, Welcome to the Octagon, 2013
  • Novella, Wee Danny, Blasted Heath, 2013
  • Novella, Bounce, Verbal Arts Centre (commisioned for the Killer Books festival), 2013
  • Novella, Breaking Point, Blasted Heath, 2014
  • Novel, Undercover, Blasted Heath, 2015

Relevant Work History
  • Freelance Writer at Culture NI (http://www.culturenorthernireland.org), 2010 to 2011
  • Webmaster at Crime Scene NI, a blog devoted to Northern Irish crime writing
  • University Tutor at QUB on the Introduction to Creative Writing module; September 2014 to present. Module includes prose, poetry and drama (screen, stage and radio)

Writing Awards
  • Arts Council of Northern Ireland, SIAP award, received five times between 2007 and 2015 (four times for literature, once for drama)
  • Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Travel award, received to support a trip to Long Beach CA to attend Bouchercon (a crime fiction convention) as a panel member and a representative of Northern Irish crime fiction, 2014
  • Northern Ireland Screen, Script Development award, for screenplays titled The Point and Time, 2008 and 2014 respectively

Theatre Production
  • An Irish Possession, One-man show written and performed for The Black Box Lunchtime Theatre, directed by Conor Maguire, 2010
  • The Sweety Bottle, Regional tour via Brassneck Theatre Company, 2013 (March to April)
  • The Sweety Bottle, Eight performances at The Grand Opera House via Brassneck Theatre Company (transferred from the Baby Grand to the Auditorium due to popular demand – the first play to achieve this at the Grand Opera House in its history), 2013 (August)

Education

  • Masters, Creative Writing, Queen’s University Belfast, 2011-2012
  • PhD student (post-differentiation), Creative Writing thesis titled Radical Crime Fiction, Queen’s University Belfast, 2013-present

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

New Downey



About the author

Garbhan Downey has spent 25 years in the publishing industry in northwest Ireland as a journalist, writer and editor. He has also worked for the BBC as a producer and presenter. A graduate of University College Galway, he lives in Derry with his wife Úna and two children. Once Upon a Time in the North West is his eighth novel.

Back Blurb

Chronicle of a Century

The death of a well-connected Irish newspaper publisher triggers a clandestine hunt to recover his memoirs.

The Americans, concerned that Sean Madden’s private record of the past century will jar with the official account, need to get their hands on it before the British and Irish. But Madden’s hardnosed granddaughter, heir to the North West Chronicle, has her own interests to protect as well.

This pulsating page-turner takes the reader on an epic journey of war and peace, love and loss, politics and criminality right across the twentieth century.

Every secret has its season, and all Sean Madden’s – and all of Derry’s – are about to be laid bare.

‘Expect a literary smack in the mouth’

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Shameless Advertising



I've reduced the price of the paperback versions of Undercover and Wee Rockets on Amazon. The prices will remain low until after Christmas.

Let me be clear, I'd prefer it if you bought my books from No Alibis in Belfast, but that just isn't physically possible for everybody. So this is for the readers who can't make it to my favourite bookshop.

If you want to put a physical copy of one of my books into a friend or relative's hand, using one of the following links is probably the easiest way to do it:

Paperbacks (Ireland &) UK

Paperbacks US

Paperbacks CA

Merry Christmas, folks.


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Guest Post - Anthony J. Quinn



I'm very much a believer in writing first and researching later. The danger of writing historical fiction is that as a writer you run the risk of disappearing down a wormhole into another era, never making it back with a clear-cut, compelling tale to relate. I've been obsessed with WB Yeats and the Sligo setting for years, as well as Michael Collins and his role in the War of Independence, and the temptation was to succumb to excess and include a rich tapestry of historical minutia.

    However, writing historical fiction, especially a mystery story, should be like steering a boat with a leak in high seas. Many loved items have to be chucked overboard with every page you write. Amusing anecdotes and fascinating details that don't animate your principal characters and move the plot along have to be discarded with impunity.

  That sense of urgency which comes with keeping the literary boat from capsizing at all costs is a protection against procrastination and getting lost in the past.



   A guilty feeling of transgression haunted me during the writing of both The Blood Dimmed Tide and Blind Arrows. I worried that I might be doing some of Ireland's most famous historical characters a great disservice in entangling them in plots involving ghosts, spies, smugglers, corrupt policemen and 'lust murderers'.



  In regards to Yeats, his life and his work, have been obsessions of mine since early adolescence, and the story about his fascination with spirits and his strange relationship with his wife Georgie was irresistible.  It surprised me that no one in literature, drama or film has given his life a fictional treatment or tried to transpose his supernatural investigations into a mystery tale.

     However, Yeats has been much derided for his 'creepy' obsession with the supernatural, and his interest in the magical powers that might be acquired through esoteric knowledge has alarmed many literary critics over the years. It eased my conscience to think that I was at least portraying this side of his character sympathetically. This was what I promised WB Yeats at the start of writing The Blood Dimmed Tide. Whether or not I delivered is another matter.

    I hope I am saved by the fact that many of Yeats' friends found him unknowable. Irish writer Sean O'Faolain famously said of him: "There was no Yeats. I watched him invent himself." In that sense, he is impossible to capture within the covers of a biography, which is a great problem for his biographers, but a golden opportunity for a novelist.

   Yeats will always remain an enigma. He was one of a group of extraordinary and mesmerising figures that made London at the turn of the century an emporium of exotic cults and psychic societies. He was the closest thing we have to a supernatural sleuth, always seeking answers, always probing the evidence before him, always odd and unpredictable in his behaviour - which I hope makes him the perfect hero for a mystery story, especially one that involves ghosts, spies, smugglers and corrupt policemen.

  Writing about Michael Collins in Blind Arrows, I wanted to give a more nuanced depiction of him and his role in the War of Independence. Neil Jordan and Liam Neeson's film portrayal was so captivating with Collins depicted as a John Wayne style hero, that I struggled to keep Collins from overtaking the book and dominating all the scenes that mentioned him.



Lastly a word about Silence, the third in the Celcius Daly series, which was published on November 5. It's the most important and ambitious book that I've written. I've always tried to write about the Troubles in oblique and unexpected ways, wrapping up that very dark material in what I hope are entertaining crime thriller plots, the conventions of which have helped me excavate some very haunting personal experiences. In Silence, I found the subject matter so disturbing that I wanted to run away from it many times, but I'm glad that I stuck with it. Already, the Sunday Times has called Silence 'a masterful meditation on the corrosive legacy of the Troubles', and the Sunday Express has picked it as one of the best crime books of the season. It's great to see fiction so rooted in the Tyrone and Armagh landscapes, and its people, praised by the big London newspapers.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Make Some Noise For The Silent Dead



Claire McGowan's third Paula Maguire novel, The Silent Dead, was published today. And you'll find a post on her blog about this and the journey to the publication of her fifth(!) book in three(!) years.

And people thought I was prolific. Good to have somebody out there like Claire showing the rest of us how it should be done.

I look forward to catching up with Paula and the rest of the folks from Ballyterrin.

Here's some book blurbage:

1 May, 2006 – a small town is shattered by a devastating bomb. 16 people die – yet the suspected bombers walk free. 
2011- as the fifth anniversary approaches, the five terrorists disappear. And start turning up dead, killed in the same ways as their victims. Buried alive. Beheaded. Burned to death. 
Paula Maguire, heavily pregnant and struggling, has to ask herself: does everyone deserve justice? And what does justice even mean when the victims are remorseless killers? 
The third book in the Paula Maguire series sees her pushed to her limits, both at work and in her private life. Can she find the missing before it’s too late – when she’s not even sure if she should?

There's also been a tantalising tweet about Paula no. 4 today... Fair play to ye, McGowan.

Five Questions - Desmond J. Doherty

Desmond J. Doherty and Eva Gabrielsson


Desmond J. Doherty was born in Derry and is a solicitor in his own law firm. He has extensive civil and criminal law experience. Over the years he has been involved in a number of high-profile inquests which include the Dublin and Monaghan bombing and the Omagh bombings. He has experience in various courts and tribunals including the Special Tribunal for the Lebanon and the International Criminal Curt for the former Yugoslavia.

‘Deadlight’ is the third in the Valberg trilogy.

Gerard: It’s well known that Scandinavian crime fiction has been popular for some time. You’re the only CSNI regular who has a foot in the Northern Ireland and Sweden via your main character, Detective Valberg. Is it safe to assume you’ve been influenced by the likes of Stieg Larsson?

Desmond: 'Is it safe?' Very safe. For sure. Henning Mankell before Stieg Larsson and now of course the great Norwegian, Jo Nesbo. But the deeper you dig and the further you go into Nordic Noir the list and talent of all those fantastic authors is endless. Valberg has been described as someone from Nordic Ireland! We are so close to Scandinavia. How could any crime writer not be influenced by our Scandinavian neighbours who have great PR. While the Nordic authors expose the deep divisions in their society, the divisions that we have lived with and grown up with here make for fantastic dark and violent crime fiction.

Jørgen Jaeger


Gerard: So, as the photographic evidence suggests, you’ve been to Norway recently. And you met Mr Larsson’s widow. Would you consider that a high point in your career?

Desmond: The high point went even higher after Eva asked me to sign all three Valberg novels for her. She was delighted to be the first person to receive the third Valberg novel. We were on a panel together for a group of mainly Norwegian lawyers dealing with Human Rights and the rights of authors dead and alive. Eva's position is outrageous. Under Swedish law she has been treated appallingly and we all should support and stand by her. Hearing how Stieg's three novels came about and his writing process was bewildering. I never thought I'd be in such a privileged position to be with Eva and personally speak about and ask about Stieg's work. I hope to get Eva to Nordic Ireland next year.

Gerard: Valberg’s career as a PSNI detective has more highs than lows. Do you consider him to be a true representation of a cop from Northern Ireland?

Desmond: Remember, when he does go low it's very low. Sometimes I feel I won't get him back. He's more of an eclectic mix of lawyers and police officers I've come across over many years of experience here and elsewhere. He's not based on any one individual I know. I think his scorn for procedural propriety in this day and age of form filling and pettifoggery would mean that he wouldn't survive long in the PSNI. He's a fictional representation of a police officer from here. I think his emotions and feelings are true to all of us however. Fans of the books say, 'He's some boy...isn't he.' Every time I hear that I pause as I wonder are they being complimentary to Valberg or O'Driscoll. Some of the readers like both of them.

Gerard: Part three of your series is clearly the most high-octane to date. Anybody who’s read the first two will know that says quite a lot. Do you think the series has a definite end in sight or do you plan to torture your poor characters for a few more years?

Desmond: I wanted to move and develop the characters with time. Valberg moves on and so do the police officers and lawyers around him. Therefore the story moves on too. Deadlight for me was high-octane with emotion, as well as action. I had a plan all completed but I really just followed my gut with the story.'Emotional content. Not anger.' I wanted to bring the O'Driscoll affair to some sort of conclusion. That was always the desire. But I found it hard to let the main characters go as they have so much to say and develop. I wasn't under any pressure to write a fourth in the series but I couldn't stop writing when I finished Deadlight, so continued.

Gerard: If not Valberg, who else?

Desmond: Amanda Cleary-the Derry Journal journalist. I really like her. She is the one character who everyone trusts and who comes out of the whole debacle with her integrity and dignity intact. On the other hand the lawyer who sleeps with her eyes open,  Miss Maguire, has a series of her own in my head. She is wild and beguiling. Yes. Lets have more of her. I've written a short story in a collection I'm working on called, 'Inquest.' It's all about Constable Michael Bell and what happens to him on his first day in CID. He's just one of the characters that I'd like to take further. As for Jon Valberg, he has good and bad days. A lot of dark and not much light but his gallows humour allows him to survive. That is a very Irish and Scandinavian trait.



Desmond J. Doherty is published by Guildhall Press. Check out their website for more information on where to buy his books.