Written by JJ Barnes
As part of my author interview series, I have spoken to author Jack Byrne about his writing process, including his book Under The Bridge.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I was born and raised on a council estate in Liverpool, my father came across from Ireland after WW2 and my mother was born in Liverpool but her parents were also Irish. My grandfather was in the Merchant Navy and died supporting the Normandy landings. I left school with no exam results and went to University when I was forty. Like most workers I had jobs but no career, I have also been involved in a couple of businesses, some more successful than others. I am married have two kids, two cats and a dog.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I have never ‘wanted to write a book’ at various points I started writing as a means of understanding the world around me. The first time I was 16 and began a biography of my father, a house painter. Although my dad was an unexceptional man, he was part of an exceptional movement of Irish people to the UK after the second world war. I guess my debut novel Under The Bridge published this year Feb 2021 is the culmination of that project. The book is not about my family, but families like mine. The novel is set in and of Liverpool the home to The Beatles, great football teams, and a new mystery that deals with issues of class, nationality and identity.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I’ve always written but was never in a position to have it published. I began writing again seriously when I realised the option of self publishing existed. I published a book of short stories on Amazon The One Road, to try the system out for when my novel was finished. Luckily Northodox Press liked Under The Bridge and saved me the task.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
My first book is unpublished and is on the shelf next to me. My first published book took about a year to write and then I gave myself a year of approaching publishers and agents before self publishing. Northodox were literally the last people I was going to approach before going down the self publishing route. So two years from start to contract, then a further six months before publication.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
I am writing faster than the rate of publication, book two and three of the Liverpool Mystery Series are complete, I am currently writing book four. There is no date for the release of the second book yet. My hope is that it will be within the next year.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Under The Bridge?
All my books are crime/mysteries but they all deal with social issues that are a part of our daily lives. As well as immigration the first book deals with strikes on the docks in Liverpool and how we won the things that are being taken away today. Things like permanent contracts, overtime pay, fixed 8 hour days, the right to a contract, not zero hour, fake self employment, fire and rehire. My books are part of the cultural recognition that we need a better world.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Under The Bridge?
I work very hard on the plots, making sure that each book has a mystery at the heart of it that keeps the reader turning the page. In Under The Bridge a body is discovered on the first page on a building site. If you like your crime dark and historical this will suit you.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
The people around me growing up and today. I always feel a part of me is in every character the good and the bad. I like that my characters are so real people usually say they are like X and Y in their own lives.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
The same, the main difference between good and bad are the life experiences they have had, the opportunities taken or missed, At the moment my main protagonist is awful but weirdly attractive.
What is the inciting incident of Under The Bridge?
The discovery of the body sets the plot alight, but there are turning points for each of the protagonists too.
What is the main conflict of Under The Bridge?
There are many, but for the main protagonist ‘who he is rather, than who he thinks he is.’
Did you plot your book in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I didn’t plot in advance of writing, the plot develops as the story and characters do. I have a very rough outline at the start, of location time period, characters, and events. The exciting thing is the process of writing, it is here the best ideas come for me, as I am tapping away at the keys.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Under The Bridge need?
I now have some very good friends who help with formatting and correction of the first draft. The publisher made some extra format changes but the writing and story structure were untouched.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Sit down and start writing, it is only through that process you will find out if you have a story, and if you are the one to tell it.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
The Liverpool Mystery Series will be four books in total, one published, three to come.
Prequel. The One Road short stories with characters and locations from the series. Available from Amazon now.
Book 1 Under The Bridge is available now. – A love letter to Liverpool with a touch of Peaky Blinders. Through good bookshops as they say or firstname.lastname@example.org and of course Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble.
Book 2. The Morning After. – An Inspector calls and a coming of age drama.
Book 3 Fire This Time – A death in police custody, Liverpool Football Club, and Global warming.
Book 4 The Wicklow Boys – Where history comes to life.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, even if I had self published I would be proud, but having it recognised by others is a great feeling.
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