Q. First of all, tell us a little about yourself? What sort of background do you come from?
I was born in Crumlin, a village in Northern Ireland to poor working class parents. One year later the family moved to Singleton Street in Belfast. I had four siblings. My mother was a housewife my father worked in engineering.
Q. What prompted you to start writing?
I had time on my hands after taking early retirement and would often recall my childhood and youth in Belfast. My family prompted me to write them down.
Q. What would be your criteria for a good story?
A story that is believable, that grips the reader right from page one and is sustained to the very last page. Something that is original and vibrant.
Q. How did ‘Says You Says I’ come about?
After telling my son and daughter many stories of my childhood and youth in Belfast, my son suggested that I should put it in writing, initially just as a hobby in my retirement. I did this at first with pen and paper, and then moved to working on a laptop, using the internet for general research and sending email enquiries regarding publication.
Q. Where do you find your inspiration? Are you influenced by anything in particular?
My inspiration came from observing the many diverse and interesting characters I grew up with. North Belfast after the Second World War was blighted by severe poverty, but if anything this allowed people’s human spirit and character to shine all the more. Everybody was a character, many of them were unforgettable. In my book I try to bring them back to life, if only for a few fleeting moments.
Q. Do you get much support from family and friends? And is that important to a writer?
It is very important to a writer. I get immense support from my family, especially my son whose literary and academic background helped to make this book possible.
Q. Have you any advice for aspiring authors? Is it ever too old to start?
If you think you have a talent then go for it. You are never too old: look at me – I was in my early sixties when I started to write, and with some application and hard work I got my book published and have enjoyed positive and critical feedback. This has encouraged me to work on the sequel to Says You, Says I and to keep writing.
Q. What are your plans for the future? What can we expect from you next?
My book “Says You, Says I” ended with the words “But then that is another story.” I am currently working on that story, and it takes up where Says You, Says I, left off as I board a ship taking me out of Belfast and into a life of adventure as a merchant seaman travelling around the world. The book is a reflection on travel, on being from Belfast and will also contain my reflections on returning home between voyages. It will also discuss Belfast identity and examine how family relationships change with time and distance. Because of my contact with many foreign cultures, I also reflect upon what makes us human and what we all have in common.