Novelist Brian Gallagher on writing historical fiction, getting the detail right and talking to kids in schools
Who or what encouraged you to write? So, have you written all sorts of different work? How did you start on historical fiction?
I fell into it by accident. I brought my kids to Kilmainham Gaol one day and I saw something about the Invincibles — the group that stabbed to death the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the Phoenix Park. I read that they had smuggled the knives used in the stabbing in the skirt of a pregnant woman. I thought it was like something out of a thriller. I decided to weave fictional characters around it in my novel Invincible.
How do you get the historical detail right in stories?
I immerse myself in the period in the library, and I look at films and listen to music. My recent books, including the latest, Spies, have been for older children and young adults. I have gone through 20th-century history and taken major events, and then told stories about them through the eyes of young characters.
Do you get to meet your readers?
I go into schools and give talks about the nuts and bolts of being a writer. In my books I try not to be preachy about historical events. I don’t say who is right or wrong. I let kids come to their own conclusion.
Which books would you take to a desert island?
The Best of Myles by Flann O’Brien and Strumpet City by James Plunkett.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?
I’d love to be an architect.
Yes, short stories, stage plays, TV drama, novels for adults, and novels for older kids and young adults. Emotionally naked: in one essay Pine details her fouryear odyssey of pregnancy, infertility and miscarriage
We weren’t encouraged to express ourselves at school. I became interested in writing later when I joined a drama group. We were doing a Seán O’Casey play and I thought that this was my world. That’s when I wrote my first play.