1 – Before we get started, Gerry, what can I get you? Name your poison and I’ll see if the chef can rustle it up. If it’s an Irish delicacy then you might need to roll up your sleeves and give a hand.
GM - You’re very kind, Babs! I think, since it’s a special occasion, I could forget my diet for once (or is it the millionth time?) and have some strawberry pavlova – or hot pancakes with raspberry jam – or a cherry scone – or hot chocolate – or – or – oh, you decide!
2 – Okay, mini bio time -Let’s get to know a little bit more about how you ended up here on my sofa, Gerry. I know you’re a successful writer but do you have an additional occupation or interesting hobby that drags you away from the keyboard.
GM - Well, Babs, I was born and brought up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I went to school and later university. I married as a student and we moved to the Co. Antrim seaside village of Whitehead. My first husband died while he was still very young, leaving me with two little boys aged four and five. A few years later, I met and married my present husband Raymond, who’s been a real blessing to me and the boys, and we moved to Bangor on the other side of the Lough, not too many miles from Belfast. Then we had two more children, both girls. Two per husband, I think that’s fair, isn’t it? So to answer the second part of your question, Babs, since I have four adult children and nine grandchildren, keeping up with their lives (and, for example, their birthdays!) is enough of a hobby for anyone, I should think. And, yes, it can be a major distraction!
3 – How did you get into writing? What was the first thing you had published and how did you go about it?
GM - I’ve always loved writing, Babs, since I was a very small child, and for years I tried hard to get published, but like 99% of authors, famous or otherwise, I gathered up enough rejection slips to, as PG Wodehouse said, ‘paper the walls of my office.’ The breakthrough came when an Irish magazine accepted one of my short stories, A Tale of a Teacup, (my first Tale of Old Seamus), and then went on to publish a whole series of the other stories I wrote about the same character. A few years later, I won a prestigious Short Story Award. I really thought I had it made! But it was several more years before Someone accepted one of my full length books. That came to nothing (Irreconcilable differences, as they say in the divorce courts.) But not long after that, Night Publishing accepted Belfast Girls, and since that I haven’t looked back.
4 – I usually have two or three projects on the go at the same time. How about you, Gerry? Do you get carried away with the latest project to the exclusion of everything else, or do you flit from one to the other as the mood takes you? Are you a planner, or happy to go where your characters take you?
GM - They say women are multi-tasking. I can only say, I’ve never been. (Which reminds me to stop talking for a moment and eat some more of this marvellous pavlova!). I need to concentrate on one thing at a time, and finish that, before going on to something else. At the moment, I have the problem that there are at least three things I should be writing. Firstly, adapting Belfast Girls to make a play. A local theatre is very interested in this project, but since way before Christmas it’s been dead slow and stop with it. Secondly, I’ve planned for some time to lengthen one of my more literary short stories, set before, during and after the First World War, into a full length novel. I’ve got up to 33,000 words. But every time I’ve thought of writing some more (and I’ve lots of ideas for new scenes) I think I should really be working on the play, and nothing happens. Then, I really want to write another book in my Angel Murphy thriller series, and I have ideas for two more, but I don’t know whether to go ahead with them or finish one of my other projects first. I really need to get my head together on this.
5 – I like to listen to music when I’m writing and depending on what I’m writing, the music will differ. So, for my Mrs Jones series it’s got to be Michael Buble’, Wildewood is Sting and Bedlam is definitely The Stereophonics. How about you, Gerry? Do you have a particular musical influence while writing?
GM - Well, no, Babs. I love listening to music when I’m doing nothing else. But I suppose it follows on from what I’ve said above, I can’t listen to music, or to someone talking, or anything, while I’m trying to write. I just doesn’t work for me.
6 – I love to genre hop, how about you? Do you write in a specific genre? Which is your favourite and why?
GM - Yes, I’ve written Belfast Girls which is labelled as Literary Fiction / Contemporary Romance; Danger Danger and my two Angel books which are thrillers with a bit of romance thrown in, Lady Molly & the Snapper, which is a YA Time Travel adventure, a collection of the first 12 of my Old Seamus stories (The Seanachie – which means storyteller in Irish) and a so far unpublished book which is a Terry Prachett-like comic fantasy. (This was the book accepted by another publisher which I mentioned above.) So I’ve genre hopped and enjoyed it. I actually believer books shouldn’t be labelled as one genre or another. No one labelled Dickens or Jane Austen as of one particular genre – but who am I to challenge the now established system? The problem with genre hopping is that readers are trained to expect a certain sort of book from an author. If you write something different, you have to start from scratch building up a new audience. Far too much work, I’m afraid.
7 – Is there a particular genre or type of scene that you would avoid and if so why?
GM - Yes, I would never write anything upsetting about a child being hurt in any way. I don’t read this sort of thing either. Or extreme horror, or extreme erotica. That’s about it. I’ll happily write or read almost anything else.
8 – As a child which was your favourite book? Were you read to as a child and did that develop your love of books? Do you have a favourite book and author now? What are you reading now?
GM - I never know what to answer to questions about my favourite book. Mostly, I have favourite authors, and I’ll read and reread everything that author has ever written. As a child, I read a lot of E. Nesbit, Nancy Breary (intelligent girls’ boarding school stories) Geoffrey Trease (historical fiction). But I also read adult writers like PG Wodehouse, Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen – the list is endless and I’ve probably left out some real favourites. One of my sisters used to read to me, and was also responsible for taking me to the children’s library and getting me enrolled. My mother recited poetry to me, my father sang – oh, I was brought up in a very cultured family. For which I’m very grateful. I can never understand writers who don’t read. If I stopped reading, I think my creativity would die the death very soon. Currently I’m rereading J.B. Priestley’s The Image Men, a book I couldn’t recommend too heartily to anyone reading this.
9 – Promotion and marketing is the bane of most writers’ lives. How do you reach your readers and promote your work? Do you have any particular tips that you can share with us?
GM - The usual advice is to build an internet platform. Facebook, Twitter, a bog, a website. I’ve done all that. The Kindle Select Programme, where you are allowed to make a book free for 5 days out of every 90, worked very well for me at first. Nearly two years ago my second book Danger Danger, published by Precious Oil Publications, had 21,000 free downloads followed by over 2000 actual sales, which put it into the overall top hundred on Amazon. Then because Danger Danger had a chapter of Belfast Girls at the back, and a link to buy Belfast Girls on Amazon, Belfast Girls in turn sold around eleven thousand in a few months, was in the top hundred overall for some time, and was #1 in its genres. Around then I switched Belfast Girls from Night Publishing to my new publisher, who put it up free on Kindle Select, and it similarly had around 21,000 free downloads followed by 2,300 actual sales, and went back into the overall top hundred again. Alas, Kindle Select no longer works like that, since Amazon changed the goalposts. Free downloads are no longer followed by actual sales, or not by many. Facebook and Twitter are less useful than they were, I think. And the new Countdown programme is of doubtful value. The emerging thing seems to be paid advertising, especially on sites with an established following, like BookBub. Unfortunately this is hard for a new writer since they won’t accept a book unless it has a large number of reviews. And how do you get reviews before people have read the book? It’s a bit of a vicious circle.
10 – Tell us a little about the books you currently have published.
GM - I suppose I’ve already covered this pretty well! I have six books published. Belfast Girls is about three girls, friends since childhood, growing up in the new post conflict Belfast where drugs, wealth and fashion have become important; and of their lives and loves. Danger Danger is a romantic thriller about twin girls separated at birth whose lives nevertheless follow strangely similar patterns, as the lives of twins seem to do. Both have a relationship with a dangerous man who draws them into trouble. Angel in Flight introduces Angel Murphy, a Belfast Girl emerging from a broken marriage and learning, while on holiday in Greece, to stand up for herself and deal with the villains she comes across. The second Angel book, Angel in Belfast, shows Angel tracking down another villain who has driven a well loved pop star to the brink of death. I’ve already mentioned Lady Molly, the YA Time Travel adventure, and The Seanachie: Tales of Old Seamus.
11 – Can you give us a little hint at what you have planned next?
GM - I’ve too many pots on the boil, as I said above. As a matter of fact, I decided last week to simply put all these aside, turn off the gas as it were, and relax into writing, as I used to do long ago, just what I feel like writing. I’ve started what might have been a short story, but seems to be developing into a novel. It’s a mixture of Georgette Heyer, Vanity Fair, and Jane Eyre – a historical romance, in fact – and I’m enjoying writing it. Whether it will ever get finished or not I’ve no idea. The whole point is not to push myself, but to get back to writing purely for enjoyment.
12 – And tell us even more about the one you’ve brought with you.
GM - Well, I’ve decided on Belfast Girls. The three girls in this book each have their own stories, but because they are friends the stories are intertwined. Sheila, beginning life as an ‘ugly duckling’ grows up to be a supermodel, and is kidnapped at one point in the book. Her one desire is to heal her broken relationship with her former boyfriend John Branagh. Phil is deeply in love since her teens with Davy Hagan, who is involved in dealing drugs. Phil, because she won’t give Davy away, is herself accused of dealing and sent to prison at another point. The third friend, Mary, starts as a wild child, with underage drinking and drugs. But when she almost dies from an accidental overdose she has a spiritual awakening and her life is turned around. And that’s just scratching the surface of the book!
13 – Pick one of your characters and sell him/her to us in twenty words or less.
GM - Sheila seems to have everything – beauty, success as a model. But all she really wants is John, who despises her.
14 – While I top up your coffee would you like to read a short excerpt from your chosen book?
Sheila stared at herself in the mirror and saw a cool, beautiful woman, the epitome of poise and grace. She knew that famous, rich, important men over two continents would give all their wealth and status to possess her, or so they said. She was an icon according to the papers. That meant, surely, something unreal, something artificial, painted or made of stone. And what was the good? There was only one man she wanted. John Branagh. And he’d pushed her away. He believed she was a whore – a tart – someone not worth touching. What did she do to deserve that?
It wasn’t fair! she told herself passionately. He went by rules that were medieval. No-one nowadays thought the odd kiss mattered that much. Oh, she was wrong. She’d hurt him, she knew she had. But if he’d given her half a chance, she’d have apologised – told him how sorry she was. Instead of that, he’d called her such names – how could she still love him after that? But she knew she did.
How did she get to this place, she wondered, the dream of romantic fiction, the dream of so many girls, a place she hated now, where men thought of her more and more as a thing, an object to be desired, not a person? When did her life go so badly wrong? She thought back to her childhood, to the skinny, ginger-haired girl she once was. Okay, she hated how she looked but otherwise, surely, she was happy.
Or was that only a false memory?
The evening was almost at its climax.
To the loud music of Snow Patrol, Sheila half floated, half danced along the catwalk, her arms raised ballerina fashion. This was Delmara's spring look for evening wear and she could tell at once that the audience loved it.
With one part of her mind Sheila was aware of the audience, warm and relaxed now, full of good food and drink, their minds absorbed in beauty and fashion, ready to spend a lot of money. Dimly in the background she heard the sounds of voices shouting and feet running.
The door to the ballroom burst open. People began to scream. It was something Sheila had heard about for years now, the subject of local black humour, but had never before seen. Three figures, black tights pulled over flattened faces as masks, uniformly terrifying in black leather jackets and jeans, surged into the room. The three sub-machine guns cradled in their arms sent deafening bursts of gunfire upwards. Falling plaster dust and stifling clouds of gun smoke filled the air. For one long second they stood just inside the entrance way, crouched over their weapons, looking round. One of them stepped forward and grabbed Montgomery Speers by the arm.
“Move it, mister!” he said. He dragged Speers forcefully to one side, the weapon poking him hard in the chest.
A second man gestured roughly with his gun in the general direction of Sheila.
“You!” he said harshly. “Yes, you with the red hair! Get over here!”
The story of three girls - Sheila, Phil and Mary - growing up into the new emerging post-conflict Belfast of money, drugs, high fashion and crime; and of their lives and loves.
Sheila, a supermodel, is kidnapped. Phil is sent to prison. Mary, surviving a drug overdose, has a spiritual awakening.
It is also the story of the men who matter to them –
John Branagh, former candidate for the priesthood, a modern Darcy, someone to love or hate. Will he and Sheila ever get together? Davy Hagan, drug dealer, ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. Is Phil also mad to have anything to do with him?
Although from different religious backgrounds, starting off as childhood friends, the girls manage to hold on to that friendship in spite of everything.
A book about contemporary Ireland and modern life. A book which both men and women can enjoy - thriller, romance, comedy, drama - and much more ....
Buy at - Amazon
Catch up with Gerry at:
Amazon Author Page
16– And finally a little game that I hope all my guests will contribute to. Gerry, can you give me 100 words of your choosing to follow on from this? Your last line will be picked up by the next guest... and so on: You can catch up with the whole story so far Here.
Oh my God nightmare! ...Rose twisted and turned in the damp sheets. Her fever increased. No more of this horror throwing her from one awful situation to another! Where was the castle where her dream started? If she could get there, a prince on a white horse would come and rescue her. There was the kitchen! Rose heard hooves thudding in the courtyard outside the door. She must open it! She wrestled in vain with the heavy bolt. A hand grasped her shoulder. A hand covered in grey fur. And a voice said in her ear, ‘Oh, no, my pretty one! Too late for that!’
Thanks for inviting me in out of the cold, Babs! It’s been great – especially the strawberry pavlova.
And thank you so much for coming, Gerry. It's been lovely to find out a little more about your life. I wish you continued success in all you do and hope all your plans come to fruition. Do pop back and let us know how you get on.