Hi everyone. This afternoon I’m delighted to welcome Brian McGilloway to the blog. Brian is a crime writer and English teacher, based in Ireland, and he was kind enough to answer a couple of my questions.
Over to you, Brian…
1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? Was there a turning point with any particular book that made you go ‘Wow!’
I’d had a few. I remember reading John Diamond by Leon Garfield, a mystery story set in Victorian London, when I was about ten and loving it. As a teenager, I was a fan of SE Hinton and The Outsiders in particular. Her novel That Was Then, This is Now had that wow moment where you feel like the world has shifted under you. The idea that someone could write their own book while a teenager made me want to write even more than I already had.
2) Did you enjoy English at school?
I loved it – and that’s possibly why I’ve become an English teacher now. I actually started studying Biological Sciences at university and managed it for about two months before transferring into English. It was the right decision.
3) Do you find that your day job helps you in your writing?
I suppose it does in that it’s a very social job and so you’re constantly meeting people and hearing stories which is only ever helpful to writers as we’re all magpies of a sort anyway. It also offers me a contrast to the silence and isolation of writing, so the two work as nice counterpoints to one another.
4) What was your route to publication? How did you find your current agent?
I was first published by Pan Macmillan under their New Writing scheme which was designed to find new writers. I found my first agent after he picked up a copy of my first book from a bookstore in London called Goldsboro books which has been a huge supporter of my work since Borderlands. Fittingly enough, the owner, Dave Headley, set up an agency himself a few years back and I’m now with him, so there’s a nice symmetry to that.
5) Do you have any plan formed when you come up with ideas? How does your idea generation work?
Ideas are everywhere so that’s not difficult. The hard part is picking ones which have legs to sustain an 80,000 word story. I normally allow things to float about in my head for a few months or longer until I’ve looked at them for all angles and worked out the patterns that could run through the story.
6) How many times, roughly, would you say, that you polish a draft before you send it off to your agent?
I do my first draft and then a second run through before I show it to my agent. It would get another check over then before going to my editor. I tend to do a fairly brutal self-edit between draft one and two so hopefully it’s in presentable shape by that stage to be seen by someone I trust. Normally a book will have had 5 -7 runs through it before it goes to print.
7) Do you have any advice for writers looking to send their work to agents?
Don’t give up is probably the obviously one. You need to remember that agents will have their own tastes and interest and already have their own slate of writers, so if one passes on your work, it doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the quality of the work, but rather that its not right for that particular agent. Keep trying. Of course, if you’re getting the same feedback about specific aspects of your writing from a variety of agents, it’s probably best to take that on board.
8) What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
I’ve been reading a lot of Irish crime recently. Jane Casey’s Cutting Place is a superb book and made me fall in love with police procedurals all over again. Andrea Carter’s The Body Falls is a really gripping, tense, atmospheric mystery set near where I live. And I’m just finishing Steve Cavanagh’s new one, Fifty-Fifty which is a page turner of the highest order that keeps you constantly on your toes and oozes confidence and skill.
9) When you leave your desk on a Friday, what’s the first thing you do? On a Friday evening/on the weekend, what do you do to relax?
Friday night normally involves a takeway and sitting in front of the telly! I started coaching youth rugby a year or two back so that takes up Saturday morning. And if I can, I’ll manage a cinema trip at some stage.
10) If you had to choose between Rod Stewart and Freddie Mercury, who would it be and why?
I’d say Freddie Mercury as I grew up in a house where two siblings were Queen fans so I got a taste for their music too. I’m a big fan of Tom Waits though and Rod Stewart does cover some his songs, I suppose.
Brian McGilloway is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Benedict Devlin and DS Lucy Black series. He was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1974. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he was Head of English until 2013. He currently teaches in Holy Cross College, Strabane.
His first novel, Borderlands, published by Macmillan New Writing, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger 2007 and was hailed by The Times as ‘one of (2007’s) most impressive debuts.’ The second novel in the series, Gallows Lane, was shortlisted for both the 2009 Irish Book Awards/Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2010. Bleed A River Deep, the third Devlin novel, was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of their Best Books of 2010.
Brian’s fifth novel, Little Girl Lost, which introduced a new series featuring DS Lucy Black, won the University of Ulster’s McCrea Literary Award in 2011 and was a New York Times Bestseller in the US and a No.1 Bestseller in the UK. The follow-up novel, Hurt, was published in late 2013 in the UK and Ireland by Constable and Robinson and was published in the USA under the title Someone You Know. The third Lucy Black novel was published in 2015 in the UK and Ireland as Preserve the Dead and in the USA, under the title The Forgotten Ones. Bad Blood, the fourth in the Lucy Black series, was published in May 2017. His tenth novel and first standalone, The Last Crossing, will be published in Spring 2020.
In 2014, Brian won BBC NI’s Tony Doyle Award for his screenplay, Little Emperors, an award which saw him become Writer In Residence with BBC NI. He currently has a number of screen projects in development with BBC NI.
Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife, daughter and three sons.
Brian is represented by David Headley of DHH Literary Agency
Thank you for visiting my blog, Brian. It has been a pleasure to interview you!