What book has made the strongest impression on you?
Many different books at different times. Probably the first was discovering Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms in a school library full of (to me, at the time) dreary 19th century novels and being amazed that someone could write with such immediacy.
What is your favourite quotation?
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” - E.L. Doctorow
Who is your favourite fictional character?
Paul Christopher in Charles MacCarry's spy novels.
What book has influenced you the most, either in life or in your writing?
See first answer.
What lessons have you learned about life from reading?
Life is full of conspiracies, but I know from journalism that it's mainly full of cock-ups.
Which authors, living or dead, would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
I'd like to find out if Oliver St John Gogarty (aka Buck Mulligan) was as sharp and witty as his contemporaries considered.
What is your favourite word?
On Echobeat…Why did you select Echobeat as the title for this book, or indeed Echoland as the series title?
I was looking for something which had a hint of distant drums, of a place and story that were dominated by distant events, and Echoland seemed to fit the bill.
What came first, your interest in this historical period, an inspiration that brought you the plot, or the invention (or observation) of a character, perhaps Paul Duggan, which you wanted to write a book about?
Part of the plot had been in my mind for some time and came together out of the blue one day, in the way such things happen, with my general interest in the Emergency period.
Why choose to write historical fiction, instead of just history?
Because historical fiction is the best of both worlds, neither the totally blank page of fiction nor the constraints of history. When the research palls, or ends up in a cul-de-sac, you can just make up the rest.
Who had the best spy service operating in Ireland during the war? The Irish, the British or the Germans?
Probably the Irish, in the sense that they achieved the delicate balancing act of helping to keep the country neutral.
A lot of the book consists of Duggan and McClure at G2 trying to figure out why the Germans were bombing Ireland and denying it -- what message the Germans were trying to send -- so that they could help the government decide how to manoeuvre to maintain Ireland's neutrality. In real life, Germany did bomb Ireland back then. Why did they do it? What was the message?
Most of the bombings appear to have been accidents but there was always a sneaking suspicion that some were deliberate reminders to Ireland of what would happen if it threw in its lot with the Allies. The plot of Echobeat links several real incidents although I have no evidence that they were linked in reality.
What is your favourite aspect of writing about Dublin?
Imagining what the city was like in the 1940s and spending a lot of time looking at old photographs.
What are the hardest aspects of writing historical fiction?
Not letting the research take control of the story, and side-stepping anachronisms in descriptions and speech.
Do you feel closer to Dublin having written multiple novels with Dublin as the setting?
Definitely, and I now see some familiar places from a slightly different perspective.
What’s next for you? Can we expect a third Echoland novel?
I'm grappling right now with a plot which has turned into a wrestling match with an octopus.
Echobeat is now available in all good bookshops and also available to buy directly from our website!
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