Novelist Brian Gal­lagher on writ­ing his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, get­ting the de­tail right and talk­ing to kids in schools

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - BOOKS - KIM BIELENBERG

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.

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