Hi everyone, and this afternoon I’m delighted to welcome Jack Byrne to the blog. Jack is from Liverpool and has set his debut novel here.
I was delighted when he agreed to an interview, and to find out about his writing journey. Details of how to contact him are below the Q&A.
Over to you, Jack…
1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? Was there a turning point with a book that made you go ‘Wow!’?
I read everything I could get my hands on as a kid. No particular favourite, from Sven Hassell to Dickens. I never really read children’s books, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, all came later as a kind of catch up exercise. The books that were available in the house were mum’s Catherine Cookson, and an older brother’s collection of socialist literature, he was a shop steward in a local factory. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was an early book that had a huge impact on me and I would still recommend it today. Maybe even more than ever, as we have multi million pound companies skimming huge profits from kids free school meals.
2) Did you enjoy English at school?
I did, it was probably the only subject I had any time for. After leaving Grammar School part way through and going to the local Secondary Modern I told the English teacher my favourite book was Of Mice and Men. He laughed and said that would be too high a level for the Secondary Modern. I left that school without sitting for a single exam.
3) Do you currently write full time? If so, what was your ‘life’ before becoming a writer?
Writing full time is still an ambition. Like most working people I had jobs, rather than a career or profession and I have done many things, from car factory to University janitor, including setting up a couple of businesses. I finally settled to teaching English as a foreign language and combine that with writing.
4) How did you develop the idea for Under the Bridge?
The experience of the book is part of my life. All my ancestry was Irish but growing up during ‘The Troubles’ being Irish existed in, to use a more modern phrase, a hostile environment. One narrative in the book follows the adventures of two immigrants to Liverpool through the 50s to the 2000s. The second is set in 2004 and the main characters Anne and Vinny try to uncover the mystery of unidentified human remains found near the docks. Without being biographical, the story is of families like mine, the city they came to and the country they left.
5) Can you briefly describe the publication process?
I had been querying agents and publishers for over six months, with over fifty rejections, I had given myself a year to try the traditional publishing route if nothing happened then I would self publish. A writer friend suggested Northodox, and after submitting through their process they said they liked it, so that’s where we started.
6) How did you find your current agent and publisher? Do you have any ideas for other novels and have you started working on them?
It’s a little bit unusual; I’m a debut author, this is the first book for the publisher, and I think I was the first client of the new agent to get a deal. So a trifector of debuts. I found the publisher then approached the agent, and the agent sorted the the contracts etc. Under The Bridge is the first book in The Liverpool Mystery series, books two and three are written, and I am currently working on book four. The books cover the period from 1920 to 2020s a hundred years of turmoil in Anglo Irish relations, and the consequent crises in the lives of my characters.
7) Can you name one author that you admire, and why you like their style of writing?
There are too many to name a single style or author, some favourite books; A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel. Germinal, Emile Zola, The Black Jacobins CLR James. Reading in The Dark by Seamus Deane. I guess I like a more direct style of writing, luxuriating in the prose seems self indulgent to me.
8) What are you currently reading? Have you found that your reading habits have changed throughout lockdown?
I am researching the last book in the series and while writing most of my reading is background. My current WIP is set in Ireland in 1975 and 2019 so I am reading Dairmud Ferriter’s 800 page tome about Ireland in the 70s.
9) What are you currently watching on television?
I guess like many people TV is no longer the ‘go to’ medium. For casual viewing I tend to surf news on Youtube, and for entertainment there are so many great TV series being produced these days it’s hard to choose.
The Wire is the stand out series of the modern era, then of course the Sopranos. I came across Dirilus Ertugrul recently, a propagandistic Turkish production about the foundation of the Ottoman Empire a bit weird but strangely compelling.
10) When you write, do you prefer music or silence? Do you have a favourite band or artist you like to play when you do write?
It’s silence for me, I don’t want anything competing with the voices in my head.
Thank you for your time today Jack. I wish you all the best with your writing.
Bio: Jack Byrne was born and raised in Speke, Liverpool to an Irish immigrant father and grandparents.
Under the Bridge is his debut novel and follows reporter Anne and student Vinny around Merseyside, as they become involved in a story of unions, crime, and police corruption after human remains are discovered at a construction site.
Follow Jack on Twitter @Jackbyrnewriter
And find him on www.jackbyrne.home.blog