Welcome author Brian McGilloway to this special online interview with Fran Lewis.
Brian McGilloway is an author hailing from Derry, Northern Ireland. Born in 1974, he studied English at Queens University Belfast, where he was very active in student theatre, winning a prestigious national Irish Student Drama Association award for theatrical lighting design in 1996. He is currently Head of English at St. Columb’s College, Derry. McGilloway’s debut novel was a crime thriller called Borderlands. Borderlands was shortlisted for a Crime Writers’ Association Dagger award for a debut novel.
In 2007 McGilloway signed with Pan Macmillan to write three crime thrillers in his Inspector Devlin series. The sequel to Borderlands, Gallows Lane, was published in April, 2008, followed by Bleed A River Deep in 2010. The fourth book in the series, The Rising, was published in spring 2011, and the fifth, “The Nameless Dead”, on 10th May 2012.
McGilloway lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife and their four children
SPECIAL INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR: BRIAN McGILLOWAY
In the novel Someone You Know Lucy is haunted by a crime she never solved and someone she did not bring to justice? Why?
While I understand that readers will always want there to be a sense of justice and resolution in a novel – and rightly so, for it’s part of the thrill of the genre – it’s also a fact that in real life, the types of clear up rates enjoyed by fictional detectives look ridiculous. Growing up in Northern Ireland has shown me just how fluid a term ‘justice’ can be and that all too often those who commit crimes – on all sides in the North, it has to be stressed – are never caught. I wanted to reflect that in a book and thought that the first book in a series was the place to do it. It gives Lucy a reason to continue in her position and a mission across the series. The fall out of that crime will influence the entire series of Lucy books.
What made you decide to become an author and leave your position as the Head of English at St. Columb’s College?
I’ve been writing for over a decade now and teaching at the same time. We also have four children so I’ve been finding my time growing tighter and tighter. As I’ve tried to make each book better than the previous one and I think my own ambition for each book has grown, I’ve found them taking longer to research and write to a point where I was satisfied. I guess I worried that if I continued in the circumstances as things were, ultimately I might not end up doing justice either to the pupils I was teaching or to readers who were kind enough to support my books.
Lucy’s mother is her boss why would this present a problem? What is her mother’s position?
Lucy’s mother is an Assistant Chief Constable which means she’s right near the top of the career ladder. She made a conscious decision when Lucy was a child to leave Lucy with her dad. For years Lucy has assumed this was purely to build her career and, as a result, this has damaged their relationship. In Little Girl Lost she gained an insight into an alternative reason for her mother’s leaving, but one which, in Lucy’s mind, is no less forgivable. Parent –child relationships are difficult enough at times – how much worse would it be, I reasoned, if your mother was your boss.
The title Someone You Know: What warnings or red flags should go off for young people when they read your novel and understand the title?
The book is very much about how these are those willing to exploit others in whatever way they can. From the start, Lucy has always been earmarked for the Public Protection Unit rather than CID (which would traditionally investigate murder and so on). PPU is a unit which focuses on the vulnerable in society and those who are at risk of exploitation. Sadly, young people are part of that group. Perhaps having four children myself, I’m very aware of how trusting kids are. Lucy is my response to that – someone who’ll stop at nothing to protect those under her care.
Would you ever pair your Devlin and Lucy in the same novel?
The two series of books are optioned for TV by two different companies so it would complicate things hugely if there was a crossover. In the first draft of LGL, Lucy calls Devlin at the very end to ask his help on finding someone who has crossed the border. The final line was Devlin introducing himself. And of course they do exist in the same fictional universe – Jim Hendry, Devlin’s counterpart in the North, appears in LGL. They have met once – I wrote a short story last year for BBC Radio 4 as part of Derry’s City of Culture 2013 celebrations where they work together on a case involving a body found in an ancient stone ring fort in Donegal. It was a one off – for now.