Here is a previous Author In The Zone interview with Belfast writer, Gerry McCullough. Gerry's debut novel, Belfast Girls, has just been released by Night Publishing. It is available here.
Gerry McCullough, born and brought up in North Belfast, has been writing since childhood. Belfast Girls, which will be brought out by Night Publishing in September or October, will be her first full length novel to be actually published. Gerry has had over forty short stories published to date, both in magazines and in anthologies, as well as two broadcast on Radio Ulster, including several prize winners. Gerry is married to singer/songwriter and Media Producer Raymond McCullough, and has four children, so when she’s not writing she loves spending time with her family and friends.
Hi Gerry. Is Belfast Girl your first book?
Belfast Girls is not the first book I’ve written, but it’s the first to be accepted by a publisher, and I’m really thrilled about it.
How long did you spend writing it?
How long is a piece of string? The book was written over a period of about six months, but then it was edited, revised, and, after a break, completely rewritten. I’ve continued to edit it until quite recently. So the answer is six months, or several years, depending on how you look at it.
Can you tell us a little about the book?
Belfast Girls is the story of the lives and loves of three girls from different religious backgrounds, who become friends as children, and remain so. They experience the last years of the troubles as children, and then, as adults, the new, emerging Belfast of money, drugs, and gang warfare. The plot contains a kidnapping, a drug overdose, a prison sentence, a shooting, the life of one of the girls as a fashion model, and much more. It’s not just a romance, by any means.
Tell us about your route to publication?
About nine months ago I put my book up on the Harper Collins site, Authonomy.com. I wasn’t offered a publishing deal by Harper Collins, but several other publishers saw the book on site, liked it, and offered to publish it. I thought Night Publishing was the best of these, and am very happy to have signed a contract with them.
Have you an agent or tried to secure the services of one?
I have had an agent for several years, Bill Jeffrey of the Wordsmith’s Forge. It was on Bill’s advice that I put Belfast Girls on Authonomy.com, so I owe my present success to him, and I’m very grateful for that. Bill is an enthusiastic and supportive agent, and has encouraged me consistently.
Who else, if anyone, has helped you along the way?
I owe a lot to my husband, Raymond. Raymond set up and maintains my website, put me on Facebook and set up a group page for me there, reads and edits almost everything I write, and has been a constant support and help; all this, while living his own very busy life, producing, among other things, Celtic Roots Radio. I don’t know where I’d be without him!
How will you market your book?
My book will be marketed by my publishers, although I’ll do everything I can to help. Night Publishing is one of the new ‘indie’ - independent - publishing houses, and they sell online, and market online. As I’m sure you know, more books have been sold through the Internet than over the counter in conventional bookshops, during the last decade, so this is certainly the way of the future. Just as iTunes gave an enormous boost to ‘indie’ musicians, so online sales are creating a great move forward for 'indie' publishers, allowing them to operate outside the major publishing houses. Night Publishing will be producing an actual paperback book, not just an ebook, but it will be sold on Amazon.com, etc.
Do you write everyday?
I aim to write every day, when it’s feasible. When my daughter got married last week, I certainly didn’t write on that particular day! My strategy is to reread and edit the work done on the previous day. This is an easy way in and works against ‘writer’s block.’ Then I move on from where I left off, feeling close to the book again by now, and write about another thousand words.
What's the last book you read?
I’m currently rereading Agatha Christie, one of my favourite authors. I read a lot of detective stories, although not the blood and guts type usually. I also love Barbara Pym, P.G. Wodehouse, Jane Austin, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien - the list is endless, but perhaps that gives you some idea.
When is the book released?
The book will be released and available for purchase now.. I don’t have an actual date yet. I’d be happy to let you know at the time! As I said above, it’ll be on Amazon.com, and probably on other outlets.
Where do you see your writing career in ten years?
I hope in ten years to have published lots more books, but who knows? And to be known worldwide would be nice. Selling through the Internet means that I can reach people in America as easily as here. I know from the comments left on my book by American readers on Authonomy.com that Belfast Girls, and indeed anything about Ireland, is likely to be popular in America.
What advice have you for new writers?
My advice to new writers is, ‘Keep writing! And don’t let people put you down. Every writer gets hundreds of rejections to one acceptance. It’s important not to give up. You’ll get there in the end.
Thanks Gerry. That was very insightful, especially the little twist of fate that got you found on Authonomy. It must have been a great feeling. Hopefully you'll speak with us again in the future and let us know how Belfast Girls is going.
Thanks, and all the best.
Please support Gerry by filling some of your Christmas socks with here new book.