Writers In Ireland: Pam Lecky

Today on Writers In Ireland, I’m chatting with Pam Lecky, an Irish historical fiction author, also writing crime, mystery and romance. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century.

Pam’s debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; and long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award. Her short stories are available in an anthology, entitled Past Imperfect, which was published in April 2018. She is currently working on her next couple of novels, a Victorian mystery series.

Tell me about The Bowes Inheritance – what inspired you to write this story?

My debut novel is a Victorian romantic suspense, set against the backdrop of the Fenian dynamite campaign in Britain during the 1880s. It started out as a simple romance but as I did my research more and more interesting facts emerged. Having the threads of a mystery/crime running through the story gave it more depth and I have to admit I do prefer to read stories like that myself. The premise for the novel was a woman inheriting a property in a different country and having to fight to keep it. I have always been fascinated by the relationship between the Irish Ascendancy and the British upper classes. So I had lots of conflict to make the story interesting!

What is it that attracts you to write historical fiction genre?

Overall my work is classified as historical fiction although I have written contemporary and ghost stories as well. There were a lot of influences in my childhood and the earliest one that I can remember was actually television. Historical dramas in particular caught my attention, even though at that young age I didn’t really understand the stories. Ah but the costumes, the architecture and the way people behaved – something clicked. My father was a great reader and encouraged me to be as well; as a child and a teen I devoured books and I mean devoured. Then Dad bought me the complete works of Jane Austen and a foundation was laid. For those familiar with the 19thcentury world, I think I actually became a bluestocking! I munched my way through classics, dined on crime (modern and historical – Dorothy L. Sayers and P.D. James my absolute favourites – what fantastically twisty minds those women had), and supped at the feet of Georgette Heyer’s heroes and heroines. So I suppose it was only natural that I would lean towards historical mystery and crime with a pinch of romance.
However, I would like to try my hand at other genres and other eras of historical fiction. I just need to find more days in the week!

How long does it take you to complete a book?

My debut novel took 6 months to write the first draft but from start to publication was about 18 months. My second book, which is currently out with publishers, took a year plus about another 4 months of reworking for my agent. My short stories can be written in a couple of hours or weeks depending on whether the muse is co-operating or not!

On literary agents, I’ve spoken to authors who don’t think it is necessary to have one, and others who absolutely depend on their agents. What’s your opinion, Pam? 

Earlier this year I signed with the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency in London – a huge step forward in my career. My agent, Thérèse Coen, has been a great support and has given me lots of feedback and advice. What impressed me most about her at our first meeting was her saying she viewed our working relationship as a long-term thing not just about one book. My next novel, No Stone Unturned, the first in a trilogy of Victorian mysteries, is currently on the desks of commissioning editors in the UK. Hopefully, the book will find a publisher and I know my agent is pushing it as best she can. As to whether an agent is necessary or not depends on what you want. I have happily self-published but find the lack of support and enthusiasm from the Irish literary community very frustrating. My debut novel has been longlisted and shortlisted for literary competitions but, because it’s self-published, it doesn’t get noticed. My reviews are generally four and five stars, so I know I have produced a good book and people have enjoyed reading it. I feel to get the recognition my work deserves I need help and an agent can do that. A traditional deal, if only for a couple of books, would be a huge boost to my career. Don’t get me wrong – I love self-publishing but I want my work to have a chance to compete. I will self-publish again, I have no doubt, and earlier this year I published an anthology of short stories (mostly historical fiction), entitled Past Imperfect.

What’s your opinion on Indie publishing in general?

Well, I love it but then I love to be in control. It’s not for veryone – you need a fair few skills to do it completely independently. And, there are a lot of scam artists out there preying on vulnerable authors (vanity publishers, etc.). The reality is that traditional publishing is a business and I think many authors forget this. Publishers want guaranteed sales so tend to look for tried and tested work that unfortunately can be a bit formulaic. Indie publishing throws the doors wide open – you can write what you want, mix up genres (which is something that brings trad publishers out in a cold sweat!) and experiment to your heart’s content. Big plus for creativity. Unfortunately, with opening the floodgates to creativity you can lose out on quality. Thankfully, most Indies realise they need professional editing and graphic design, but there are still far too many poor quality books published. Why should I care, you may ask, but poor indie publishing hurts all of us and reinforces the negative reputation that’s already out there. We are competing with the big publishing houses with big budgets – you owe it to your readers to produce the best quality book you can – after all, you are taking their hard earned money. And you are shooting yourself in the foot – you only get one chance to make an impression with your work.

And on literary competitions and awards – how important are they, in your opinion?

I can only comment on my own experience. The Historical Novel Society made The Bowes Inheritance their editor’s pick and then long-listed it for the HNS Indie Award. That was such a thrill for me and obviously it was something I could use to promote my work. Luckily, I discovered the Carousel Aware Prize, the brainchild of Carolann Copland. This competition is for Irish self-published authors only. To my amazement Bowes was shortlisted for the novel category. Again, it was a huge confidence boost with the added pleasure of it being for such a worthy charity as Aware. Last year the book was awarded the Indie B.R.A.G. medallion. I was able to use these listings and the award in my submissions to agents and publishers. I’m not sure if it made any difference, but I’m sure it didn’t do any harm. The Carousel Aware Prize, in particular, wants to promote quality Irish indie work and hopefully will become synonymous with it. Part of the prize is the opportunity to have your books stocked in bookshops – something which is difficult for indie authors in general.

Being such a prolific writer Pam, how much do you contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?

Presently, I do all the marketing and PR. It’s all about creating a brand and to do that you must write well, have your work professionally edited and have great cover s (professionally designed). A cohesive look to your work and your social media platforms will help to create your brand. As I work part-time I dislike sacrificing writing time to marketing, but it is necessary. However, one of the most positive things about jumping on the social media rollercoaster is that you meet the most amazing and supportive people. The Indie author community in Ireland is wonderful and with the formation of the Irish Independent Authors’ Collective, it will go from strength to strength. We are promoting quality paperbacks by applying a minimum standard for an author’s books to be included, and plan to host Indie book fairs a couple of times a year. Through the use of social media I have found an amazing editor and writing groups and heard about competitions and awards. I use Facebook and Twitter and have a blog/website. Writing is a very solitary business so it is wonderful sometimes to walk away from the laptop and go online to see what everyone else is up to. For new writers social media can be very daunting. You have to experiment and when you find the one or two platforms that suit you, you’re comfortable with and actually work, then stick with those and ignore the rest. There are only so many hours in the day – you have to use your time as cleverly as possible … you also need to write! The more work you have out, the better chance of success (I define success as readers finding your work and loving it).

And what about reviews – do you read them? And If you’ve ever had any negative ones – how do you handle those? 

I don’t think you are a proper author until you have received at least a few stinkers! They hurt – of course they do, particularly if they aren’t warranted or a bit silly (I got a 3 star one because the reader had to pay a lot of postage to get the paperback – Amazon’s fault not mine, but I took the hit!). I read all my reviews but tend to monitor my overall rating as opposed to obsessing over the negative comments. But sometimes those negative comments are helpful, even constructive. You have to ask yourself does that reader have a valid point and if they do, act on it, particularly if a few people make similar comments.

Finally, Pam, can you share with us what you are working on now?

I am currently in the very early stages of the second book in my Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series. The working title is Footprints in the Sand and it is set in Egypt in 1887 and involves a murder and the notorious black market in antiquities. The first book in the series, No Stone Unturned, is the one my agent is promoting at the moment. I am really enjoying this book as I have always loved reading about Ancient Egypt. I get a buzz from doing research too, so you could say I’m in author heaven at the moment!


Check out Pam’s website HERE. | TwitterFacebook | Her books can be found HERE

Writers In Ireland: Catherine Kullmann

This week, the featured author on my Writers In Ireland series is Catherine Kullmann. Born and educated in Dublin, following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. She is married and has three adult sons and two grandchildren.

Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. She loves writing and is particularly interested in what happens after the first happy end—how life goes on for the protagonists and sometimes catches up with them. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society.

Catherine’s debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, was short-listed for the 2017 CAP Awards (Carousel Aware Prize for Independent Authors). Her latest novel, A Suggestion of Scandal, was released on 1 August 2018.

Welcome, Catherine, and congratulations on the publication of A Suggestion of Scandal. Can you give us a snapshot of what it is about?

When governess Rosa Fancourt surprises two lovers in flagrante delicto, her life and future are suddenly at risk. Even if she escapes captivity, the mere suggestion of scandal is enough to ruin a lady in her situation. In Sir Julian Loring she finds an unexpected champion but will he stand by her to the end?

What inspired you to write this story?

The initial impulse came from a notorious Regency divorce case that was triggered when a governess surprised her employer with her lover, her hand inside his military pantaloons. The lovers made no attempt to hide their guilt but I began to wonder what if they had tried to do so. What would have happened to the inconvenient witness?

Tell me more about your interest in the Regency genre?

It is the period rather than the genre that attracts me. The first quarter of the nineteenth century was one of the most significant periods of European and American history; an era whose events still resonate two hundred years later. The Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland of 1800, the Anglo-American war of 1812 and the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 all still shape our modern world. But the aristocracy-led society that drove these events was already under attack from those who saw the need for social and political reform, while the industrial revolution saw the beginning of the transfer of wealth and ultimately power to those who knew how to exploit the new technologies. It was still a patriarchal world where women had few or no rights but they lived and loved and died, making the best lives they could for themselves and their families, often with their husbands away for years with the army or at sea. And they began to raise their voices, demanding equality and emancipation. It interests me to explore women’s lives in particular against this background. It is not so long since many of these restrictions, whether legal or social, still applied in Ireland. It is important to realise how far we have come, and also to be aware that that which was gained can also be lost.

Do you think that authors should stick to writing in one genre only? 

Authors should follow their muse wherever she leads them. They should not shy away from challenges and be willing to accept commissions if they are prepared to put the time and effort into them. Good writing is as much craft as art. Although I only started writing fiction after I retired, in my professional life I wrote a lot and rarely had a choice of subject. I learnt to express myself as clearly and as elegantly as possible. I don’t see why an author should not write in one genre for their bread and butter and in another for their jam, for example, or write in various genres as the stories come to them. It may make it less easy to build a brand and, if they are writing in two conflicting genres, it might be advisable to use a pen-name for one of them, but if they feel the urge to try a new genre, they should go do so.

Did anyone – famous or not – inspire you to write?

I was introduced to the extended Regency period not only by Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, but also by the great essayists such as Hazlitt and Charles Lamb, and the romantic poets—Keats, Wordsworth and Shelley. All of them have inspired and influenced my writing, as have the great military diarists and auto-biographers of the day such as Harry Smith and Kincaid of the Rifles. Print was the only mass medium then and there is a wealth of contemporary writing from that time. The print shops also thrived; thousands of hand-coloured engravings – fashion prints, caricatures, illustrations, portraits—have survived and are tangible reminders of the period. I now have a considerable research library to which I add constantly and any free space between the bookcases is hung with prints from the time.

How long does it take you to complete a book?

About a year, excluding breaks. I like to set an almost completed work aside for several months and then look at it with a fresh eye. Apart from A Suggestion of Scandal, I have a novella, The Duke’s Regrets, and another novel, The Potential for Love, more or less ready for publication and plan to release them next year. In the meantime I shall start on a new book to be published in 2020.

Do you write every day, Catherine? If so, how is your writing day structured?

I write almost every day. I started writing after I took early retirement and I am usually at my desk by eleven a.m. at the latest. I work until lunch-time and, again in the afternoon for three to four hours. Work includes writing, research and marketing. The amount of time spent on any one of these activities depends on where I am in a new book. As I write this, I have a new release due next week so marketing and promotion is a priority at the moment.

And your thoughts on social media for authors and marketing?

As an indie author, marketing is part of my job description and I find social media invaluable. But they are not only useful marketing tools. Writing is a lonely business and it is wonderful to have access to the various online communities of writers who are, in general, very supportive.

Which leads me to my next question – your opinion of the current business of publishing?

I am indie published—my books do not fit comfortably in current genres, falling, I am told, between the stools of historical fiction and historical romance. I call them historical women’s fiction. The protagonists are fictional but they live in an authentic historical world and their behaviour, attitudes, morals etc. reflect this. The stories are relationship-driven—I like to consider what happens when life gets in the way of love—and I feel a happy end has to be earned. To come back to your question, I think that the decisions of many of today’s publishers are both genre- and formula-driven. For example, at a recent workshop on pitching to agents, participants were advised to compare their books with recent debut authors in the genre, as publishers tended to want more of the same. Indie writers have more freedom when it comes to genres and topics.

And finally, Catherine, would you like to share with us what you are working on now?

I am at the very beginning of a new book, still at that stage where wisps of ideas are coming together. It is the story of a woman who deliberately breaks society’s rules and the consequences for her and her family.

Check out Catherine’s Website HERE | Facebook | Twitter | Catherine’s Books HERE

Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Carolann Copland

From Dublin, Ireland, Carolann Copland is the founder of Carousel Creates, a writers’ centre in the Dublin Mountains. She has a Bachelor of Education in English and Drama and has been a teacher for sixteen years. Her first book, Summer Triangle was published by Emu Ink in October 2013, followed by Scarred launched in June 2015 and a third novel is currently underway. Carolann has also lived in the Middle East and the United Kingdom. She is married to Neil and is a mother of three children aged twelve to twenty-four. She is a member of two writing groups and works to promote other writing groups in Dublin. Through mentoring writers of all ages, from all walks of life, Carolann is happiest when she is sharing her passion for writing.

Welcome to the series, Carolann. Begin by telling us about your writing journey so far?

I’m not sure if I used to scribble stories as a child, but I definitely told stories. (Or lies?) As an adult, I first discovered writing stories when I went to university to study English and Drama at the age of 30! The last thing my English professor said to me when I left was Don’t forget to write and he wasn’t talking about a postcard… I was forty before I eventually joined my first creative writing class and I became addicted. I was writing novels for about three years before I published.

And how do you structure your writing time?

I need to write every day. I have a full-time job as a teacher so my writing day begins at 6am and ends at 7.30am. I often find time later in the day too but that’s a bonus… and then there are the school holidays. Most of my first drafts are written in the summer. My first drafts are written in a few months. The re-writes and edits take at least a year.

How would you describe your novels, in terms of genre?

I want to write stories that I haven’t read yet. My reading is of such a wide variety of genres and my novels reflect this. Real life is not trapped in only crime, politics or romance. Life is all of these and more.

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

Disagree. I do believe we should use our experiences to authenticate our writing, but writers are inquisitive by nature. I want to learn about a subject before I write about it, but I don’t need to have lived it. If we could only write what we know, novels would be quite boring. Our lives are not always about death, heart-break and horror. But our readers want to read about such things as well as love, relationships and redemption. We make stuff up. It’s what we do.

What is your opinion on the importance of literary competitions and awards?

I think that the written word, like every art, needs competition to keep it moving forward. But we shouldn’t find ourselves too engrossed in only reading award-winning authors.

Do you contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?

Completely. I think the days of authors writing the book, then sitting back and letting it all happen are gone. All my author colleagues work very hard on their own marketing and PR. I do put things by my publisher before I make big decisions though. Two heads are always going to work better than one. I also run Carousel Writers’ Centre in Dublin, where I facilitate writing courses for adults and children, so my life is pretty much surrounded by writing and writers.

And social media?

Social media is very important to me. My books meet their first readers through facebook and twitter before the snowball effect takes root. Also, the support that others in the writing industry give on social media is the push that keeps my pen flowing.

Do you think it would help to have an agent?

I don’t use an agent. When I’m struggling through PR and marketing, I do sometimes wish that I could let someone else take the strain. But my publisher is so supportive and knows the business so well that I don’t feel the need for a middle person. She’s bossy too in the best kind of way. I have huge respect for her.

What’s your opinion of the current world of publishing?

I think that the current international world of publishing is at a very exciting crossroads. The ebook has contributed to a massive increase in readers and authors. Our reading choices are much wider but it can also create a feeling of being swamped. Nationally I think we’re taking things a lot slower. Many Irish authors are saying that they might take the plunge into independent publishing but few are jumping.

And on Indie publishing?

I have read so many brilliantly indie published books over the last few years. I’m loving the choice that the readers now have and the competition it gives to traditionally published books. My own books are independently published using an assisted publishing company, Emu Ink, and for now this suits me very well. My readers hold me in as high esteem as my traditionally published writing colleagues. Indie Publishing works for me.

If you’ve ever had any: How do you handle negative reviews?

I don’t think you’ve made it as a writer until you get people thinking on your subject and arguing back at you. I like that. I’ve never had anyone tell me that my writing sucks. I’ll let you know how that feels if it happens.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Have faith in your story. Stick your bum to the seat. Write every day. Discipline your time on social media. Involve yourself in creative experiences. Mix with other writers. Love what you do.

And finally, Carolann, can you share with us what you are working on now?

I have just spent the summer in Andalucia, writing a novel set between Spain in post-civil war years and modern-day Ireland. I am deeply in love with all things Spanish and it was inevitable that it would creep into my writing eventually.

Summer Triangle and Scarred, published by EmuInk, are available to rent as ebooks from Emulink and are available to buy from Amazon also in paperback.

You can also find Carolann on Twitter | Facebook | Author Website

Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Vanessa Gildea

Vanessa Gildea studied film as part of a Liberal Arts Degree at the University of Limerick. Subsequently she worked in film training for nine years, mostly for Filmbase. She has directed short documentaries for Amnesty International Ireland and award-winning Dublin based production company Venom Films. In 2006 she wrote and directed the Irish Film Board funded short film ‘The White Dress’ which won numerous awards (Best Short Film Foyle Film Fest, Belfast Film Fest, Cinema Tout Ecran Geneva, awards at Galway & Kerry Film Festivals) and was nominated for an IFTA. It has been purchased / screened by RTÉ, Swiss, French and Italian Television.  In 2009 Vanessa wrote and directed a short film called ‘The Beast’ for award-winning production company Venom Films. She has received three IFTA nominations including ‘The White Dress’, Dambé – The Mali Project, a feature-length music documentary shot in Mali, West Africa, which was nominated for an IFTA 2009 in the Best Feature Documentary category, and ‘John Ford – Dreaming the Quiet Man’ in 2013. Also in 2013, she was the first recipient of the Tyrone Guthrie ‘Film Writing Bursary Award’ and in 2014 she received the Arts Council’s ‘Film Bursary Award’. As writer / director she completed an Arts Council Project Award film called ‘The Abandoning’ which won BEST SHORT FILM at The Sky Road Film Festival, 2014, a Special Mention at The IndieCork Film Festival, and was highly commended at The Belfast Film Festival, 2015.

Vanessa, with such accomplished writing, directing and producing credits, can you tell us when it all started for you?

I was always playing around with ideas, since I was a teenager but I only started to write in my 30s. The first film I wrote was called ‘The White Dress’, I wrote it in one sitting and I never did any re-writes, but I had written the film in my head a hundred times, and luckily it got funded.

Did anyone, famous or not, inspire you to get into film?

The first filmmaker that blew my mind was Mike Leigh. When I saw ‘Life is Sweet’ as a teenager it changed my view of what a film is, up until then I had only seen hollywood movies. I didn’t know people made films like that, reflecting real life back at the audience and I thought it was the most exciting and moving film I’d ever seen. I still love it and when I’m writing I think about authenticity and Mike Leigh is always somewhere floating around that thought process.

And your first production break?

I had made a short doc for Amnesty [International] and someone from the Irish Film Board had seen it and she decided to take a chance on me as a first time writer / director of a drama. I am forever grateful.

Do you write every day?

No. I work in production, research or teaching. When I’m not working I can spend time writing but not as much as I’d like.

Is there a film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

There’s a hundred. I am in awe of Charlie Kauffman, the complexity, simplicity and brilliance of ‘Adaptation’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. Also, I wish I had written or could write something as good as ‘The Visitor’ by Tom McCarthy.

Do you have an agent, Vanessa, or think it necessary to have one?

No I don’t have one and I think if you want to write as your profession then yes, an agent is a good idea.

Do you contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?

A little, but I dislike that side of things, I’d much prefer someone else do it.

And on social media for filmmakers?

I have mixed feelings about social media but it’s here and it can be a very useful tool. It is boring to use it solely for self-promotion though, better to have a bit of fun with it.

What’s your opinion of the film industry in general?

There are great films being made all the time, some are Hollywood, most of the films I really love and admire are not from the Hollywood system. I have to seek out the films that I like, but it’s not hard, with the IFI, the Lighthouse and VOD platforms like volta.ie, but one major problem I see is the lack of women storytellers, women centric stories and characters. I recently heard most film crowd scenes have 70-80% men in them, what is going on? Women are not coming forward, they’re not being allowed to and when they do the kind of films they want to make are not getting the same support. We are 50% of the population, we should be telling 50% of the stories.

And on the importance, or not, of film competitions and awards?

Winning awards can be a bittersweet experience but the recognition is good and it definitely helps when it comes to getting the next project funded, well I think it does.

Have you, or would you, consider crowdsourcing to produce your own work?

I haven’t, but I have supported plenty of projects, I would consider it.

If you’ve ever had any: How to you handle negative reviews?

Of course you have negative reviews, I would like my films to provoke a reaction in people, but you have to learn to shrug it off, and also sometimes the person critiquing the film might have a point. I equally take praise with a pinch of salt, I know when I am happy with my work, I know the moment when I am happy to say that’s it, it’s finished, that’s all we can do. I also know when I have worked hard and done everything in my power to realise the idea. After that, I don’t think you have a clue what people will think or how they will react, but you make it to be seen and the rest is beyond your control.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

No, because I am still one myself.

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

I think if every writer stuck to that as a rule, we would have lost out on some great fiction and dramas, but you can write what you know about life, love, loss, emotions in to characters, in to situations without it being necessarily autobiographical.

Can you share with us what you are working on now?

I am about to start an MA in Screenwriting at the National Film School Dun Laoghaire, so I am playing with a few ideas for that as part of the course we have to write a feature script. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

And just for fun…six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?

My Dad, my grandparents and Brendan Behan.


Vanessa’s film, The Abandoning, will shortly screen as part of the Short Film Programme | Irish Women in Film, I am curating at the MFFA



Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Martin Malone

Martin Malone is the author of 6 novels, a memoir, 2 short story collections and several radio plays. He has also written for TV and stage. His first novel ‘Us‘ won the John B Keane/Sunday Independent Literature Award and was shortlisted for the Irish Fiction Award. His second novel ‘After Kafra’ was scripted for RTE TV. ‘The Broken Cedar’ was nominated for the IMPAC Award and shortlisted for an Irish Fiction Award. His short stories have been widely broadcast and published, and have won national competitions. His short story ‘Valley of the Peacock Angel’ was nominated for the 2012 Sunday Times Short Story Prize. He has received several Arts Council of Ireland bursaries for literature. He is twice a winner of the Cecil D Lewis Award for Literature.

Martin, when did you first begin to write?

I think about age 13, for a year or so, and then I became involved in sports, athletics and soccer. I resumed my writing career when I was 32, putting aside two half hour periods a week, and increased the time spent writing when I began to have work accepted by the likes of Ireland’s Own, Woman’s Way and others.

And how long had you been writing before you were published for the first time?

About 6 months.  A short story entitled ‘Rough and Tumble’ in Woman’s Way. First novel ‘Us’ originated from a short story and was accepted by Poolbeg Press.

Do you write every day?

Not every day, but I don’t miss a day if I’m writing a novel – the first draft takes about two months. If I’m writing a short story, it’s three days. In-between, I read, teach part-time, hill walk – let the creative juices refill. When I’m writing a novel, I hit the 1,000 word mark daily. Sometimes it runs smoothly but on other occasions…it’s flog the horse time. Usually morning, early, works best for me.

Do you have an agent, Martin?

No agent. I don’t think it necessary for Ireland, but certainly for outside of the small isle. In any regard, it’s wise to have someone run the eye over a proffered contract, just to see what wriggle room there might be in terms of advance, royalties and so on.

Do you contribute to the marketing /PR of your work?

Very little, which is not nearly enough. Cream usually rises to the top, if it’s cream….or the author’s been dead for a long time.

What’s your opinion of the current world of publishing?

Dwindling advances, harder to get reviewed, the growing dominance of the e-book, a diminishing readership. In one way, it’s become easier to be a writer. Digital world. In another, well… traditional, mainstream publishers (those who pay you for your work), have drastically cut back on their lists. Whereas some years back, they would perhaps give a new author time to hone and develop her skills by signing her for a three book deal; now they rarely – unless they see evidence of a decent commercial return. Which is understandable, I suppose.

On the importance [or not] of literary competitions and awards?

Significantly important, for a number of reasons: it gives the writer something to aim for – even if it simply serves to kick-start his writing; it affords writing practice; success can lead to an agent taking you seriously; even a shortlisting is a plus, especially if the winners go on to do very well. And lastly, well…you might win enough money to buy the time to write. Which is where I’m at, along with very many other writers.

And Indie publishing?

You shouldn’t put a border around creative expression.

Would you consider self-publishing your own work?

Yes, perhaps when the rights to my earlier books are reverted…self-publishing is all the vogue now, and some of the traditional publishing houses have their own self-publishing branches. But people paying money to have their work published….as opposed to it being paid for…which strikes a better chord? It serves a writer well in bad times to remember that a commissioning editor paid for his work. On the flip side, Roddy Doyle came through the self-publishing ranks, which tells you about the snobbery of certain people in publishing houses to whom he submitted. They got it so very wrong about him and a host of other writers. To underscore, no borders should exist when it comes to creative expression/exploration. Borders do exist, if not – they’re put in place. On another note…I once knew a writer who told me she had 100,000 euros to invest in her book…where to with that? Are there monied writers out there? One who can persuade, by weight of his bank account, a trad’ publisher into accepting his work?  I know writers who’ve tried that approach and for one of them, it didn’t pan out – the publisher declined – and his work, by the way, was very good.

What are your feelings on social media for authors and marketing?

Do you mean if I ask my friends to put a starry tall tale on Amazon for my works? Or to defend a work that’s been adversely reviewed? No. I’m not great at telling people how great I am. Anyone who looks at Amazon and sees a writer’s book garnering five stars and no less than, needs to take his head out of his arse and realise he’s been lied to – no book is ever that good  – there’s always a sniper in the grass.

Reviews, handling of?

Negative reviews, mixed, glowing…you try not to get too down about the bad, nor too excited about the good…is it a negative review if the writer learns something from it? Some facet of his craft that might say…okay, that’s the second time a critic has mentioned this – let’s fix it. I find it interesting to see how easy it is for some writers to fill space in certain national newspapers, whereas – take for example, my novel The Broken Cedar: published by a major international publisher that stables the likes of Hemingway – was reviewed by newspapers and magazines in Canada, Australia, the States and the UK, yet didn’t create a ripple here until nominated for the IMPAC. I do think, on the other hand, there exists a critic or three, writers too, who mistakenly think all that’s foreign is gold.

What would you say to aspiring writers?

Read, write, observe, write – that’s the old advice – still pertains,  but add to it – make contacts, use social media, be business wise, learn how to sell yourself. Be pushy to the point of ad nauseam. And believe in yourself.

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

Both. Start off by being human…we all know what’s that like.

Six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!

Only six? My father; Thomas the Apostle; Mary Magdalene; Charles Dickens; Queen Elizabeth(the virginal variety) and Mona Lisa(with smile). Among the living: too many to mention.

Is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?

Many. Books I really admire include ‘Disgrace’ by James Coetzee; ‘A Month in the Country’ by Al Carr, and ‘The Restraint of Beasts’ by Magnus Mills…

In closing, Martin – new work we can look out for?

A whodunnit novel features in 2016. Us is due out in June as part of New Island’s Modern Classic series. Working on a book for an Irish soccer international…and in-between trying to bring my novel about an incident during the Irish Civil War to stage. Somewhere in there is a short story screaming to be allowed take wings.

Check out Martin’s Blog: https://martinmalonewriter.wordpress.com


Photograph courtesy of Errol Farrell.