Interview with Irish writer Gerry McCullough
How to introduce one of the most versatile and seasoned Night Publishing authors? Well, simply as she is, I guess. Gerry writes poems, short stories and novels. She is an award-winning Irish writer and I best describe her work as pristine, polished, perfect, a rose in full bloom. I’m currently half-way through Belfast Girls on my Kindle and I only put it down because life came in the way. I simply love the characters, Sheila, Phil and Mary and the descriptive snippets of nature Gerry’s throws in are like licking honey from your finger.
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
I was born and bred in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and I still live within striking distance of the city – not that I’ve ever been involved in any of the striking that used to go on there!
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
I’m a vegetarian. It’s a bit of a pity that I’m not specially fond of vegetables. I give myself a bye ball and eat fish, which makes it easier. I used to be very fond of things like Shepherd’s Pie and other things made with mince beef, but Quorn makes a good substitute. I have usually been considered a good cook, but the old skill is rapidly disappearing as I make fewer and fewer meals, sticking mostly to ready prepared stuff. Well, I’m a writer, I need time to write, don’t I?
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
My family (four children, sisters and in-laws) are all very supportive, and so are my wonderful friends. They’ve put up with being asked to vote for me on Authonomy, with being expected not only to buy my book but to twist the arms of all their own friends to buy it as well, and recently with being pressurised into voting for me on www.sinclairbooks.blogspot.com in their Book of the Month contest. Well, that’s what friends are for! A family member who shall be nameless once remarked, before Belfast Girls was accepted and published by Night Publishing, that writing was a nice little hobby for me. At that time I’d already had over forty short stories published, some of them prizewinners. Okay, I’ve forgiven her, but it wasn’t easy!
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
I have lots of friends, and I spend a lot of time socialising. But I suppose like most writers my main method of communicating with the world around me is through my writing. I always find it easier to write than to talk, although my teenage shyness is pretty much a thing of the past. But maybe that’s why I enjoy ‘talking’ through the Internet so much.
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
I have a room to myself now that all my children (two boys and two girls) are grown and flown. We call it my office – well, it has a desk and my laptop and as many book shelves as I could cram in, and piles of books on the floor which still don’t have homes. (There are bookcases in every room of our house, with no exceptions.) The view is across fields to a hill and forest – unfortunately new houses have arisen since we first moved here, and they clutter up the middle distance. Just outside the window is a white cherry tree which I dearly love. It always makes me think of Anne of Green Gables’ cherry tree just outside her window, which she called Snow Queen; and of course of the Housman poem, ‘Loveliest of Trees.’ It makes me feel very blessed to look at it. The blossom has been wonderful this year. Alas, it’s gone now, until next Spring.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
I try not to pin myself down to any particular genre. Belfast Girls is a mixture of romance, thriller and comedy – like most people’s lives, as I usually say. I was thrilled to be compared recently to Andre Malraux, who wrote The Human Condition. Well, I suppose that’s what my book is meant to be about!
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
Belfast Girls was released by Night Publishing at the very end of November, 2010. As for how it made me feel, I don’t think I can come up with the superlatives I’d need if I tried to describe my feelings. I could have jumped over the moon – I couldn’t keep the smile off my face – I wanted to jump about shouting ‘Hallelujah!’ Will any of those do?
Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
It came naturally to me to write about Belfast, my own city which I love, and to write from the point of view of girls growing up there as I did. I suppose my first draft, which was set during the Troubles, took me about six months. Then I spent a long time editing and polishing, and then I started submitting it. After about a million publishers/agents had told me no one was interested in the Troubles any more, I put it aside. Eventually I took it out again, rewrote it, setting it in the current day, and found a local agent, who advised me to put Belfast Girls on www.authonomy.com – and then I found Night Publishing, and the rest is history, and top notch history at that!
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
The intention is 1,000 words a day (except Sundays and special days, right.) I like to write either in the morning or the afternoon. Evenings don’t work so well for me. I have to admit that since Belfast Girls was published, with the continual need to work on publicity, my writing routine has gone down the tubes! Yes, I write, but not, often, creative fiction – unless you count publicity as this? There’s a thought!
What does Night Publishing mean to you?
Night Publishing is a great company which gave me, like many others, the freedom to write as we wanted to, and the opportunity to see our work published when the major companies had decided it didn’t suit their commercially based market plans. I’ll always be grateful to Tim (and originally Bruce as well) for affirming me by accepting my book and believing it was worth more than a rejection slip. Hopefully Belfast Girls’ current progress in, at least, the Women’s Literary Fiction chart (where it’s been up and down, but has been as high as 8) proves that they were right.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
Bestselling millionaire, winner of the Booker Prize (as suggested by Tee Geering), with another five or more books published. (Joke!) Or possibly in Heaven by then – who knows?
Final fun question. If you had to choose: are you a Houdini or an Edison? This is for the official NP tally. J
First answer: I would answer this, really I would, if I had the slightest idea what it meant!
After Reggie’s explanation: it looks as if I’m Houdison – a little bit of both! Imagination won’t get you there without hard work – but hard work for what, if there’s no imagination in it?
THANK YOU DEARLY, DEAR GERRY!!