Today I’m privileged to welcome a very special guest and friend to Writers With Vision. Celebrated author Gerry McCullough is here to talk about her Angel Murphy thriller series.
Me: Welcome Gerry, I’m glad you could make it. Where did you get the idea for the character of Angel Murphy from? Is she based on anyone you know?
Gerry: Angel’s character has actually changed quite a bit from when I wrote the first version of Angel in Flight some years ago. Originally she was nothing like so tough – even wimpish in some ways. However, I completely rewrote the whole book a year ago and decided that my heroine needed to be brought up to date. Now she’s a 21st century woman who’s determined, after her marriage break down, that she isn’t going to let anyone push her around ever again. I think of her as a little like Lara Croft of Tombraiders, or Modesty Blaise, strong minded women who rescue themselves and don’t wait around for the hero to do it.
Me: There are now two Angel Murphy thrillers, Angel in Flight and Angel in Belfast. Which one did you enjoy writing the most and why?
Gerry: I enjoyed both, in different ways. It was fun writing the original Angel in Flight – not quite such fun rewriting it. But I felt quite a bit of satisfaction when I had finally made all the changes I wanted. I loved writing Angel in Belfast, especially describing local Irish places. I’d only written about a third when I went down with bronchitis, and wasn’t fit to do anything, including write, for around two months. After that, I was pushing myself very hard to finish the book quickly and make up for lost time, which wasn’t so much fun. But I did still enjoy writing it, and felt pleased with it when it was finished.
Me: I thought it was interesting that you re-introduced characters from Belfast Girls into Angel in Belfast. Do you plan to do this with future Angel books?
Gerry: Yes, I do. People keep suggesting that I write a sequel to Belfast Girls. Up until recently I’ve felt no creative urge to do this. However, using Mary Branagh in both Angel books, and mentioning Sheila and John, has made me realise that maybe a sequel isn’t as impossible as I’d thought!
Me: Have you ever been to Greece? You made the place come alive in Angel in Flight so even people, like me, who have never been can get a real sense of the country and its culture? Also why did you choose Greece above other foreign locations?
Gerry: I’ve been to Greece several times, and have always loved it. I wanted an interesting setting, but one which I knew about first hand. I think it’s always better to write about places you know – which is most of my books are at least partly set in Belfast.
Me: What do you most like and dislike about Angel as a character? Is there something of you in her literary makeup?
Gerry: I think it’s hard to write about a character unless there’s at least some of you in that character. So, yes, Angel has some of me in her – her love for Greece, for example. The thing I like least about her is that she stayed with a violent husband instead of walking out straightaway. She was hoping to make her marriage work. But too many women do this, and end up badly injured if not killed. The thing I like about her is that in spite of this bad experience she managed to turn her life around and become the feisty, successful woman she now is, while still caring about other people.
Me: Where did you get the idea for the Angel in Belfast plot? For those of you who have not read the book yet, it is intriguing and has great action scenes.
Gerry: I actually had the idea for the opening scenes in my head for years. I really don’t know where it originally came from. I changed the details each time I remembered it and thought about it. The picture that stayed with me was of a young rock star being driven to overdose by the paparazzi. And of his tearful sister approaching her friend Angel on the steps of the BBC, asking for help. Originally the plan was for revenge, but I decided against that. I also changed the sister to a friend, and used the character Mary Branagh for this. It was my husband who suggested that it might be better if the rock star didn’t actually die, but hovered in danger throughout the book. When I came to write it, as usually happens with me, the rest of the story came about, scene by scene, as I wrote.
Me: Do you think Angel’s romance with Josh will last the distance?
Gerry: Angel has been very badly hurt by her first marriage. Josh is a kind and considerate man as well as very attractive. It could work out – but I can’t really say yes or no to this question, since I haven’t written that part of their story yet.
Me: Angel in Belfast refers to Northern Ireland’s troubled past. Do you think Ireland will ever completely move on from those times?
Gerry: The country has already moved on a lot. It will take time before the hurts are all healed. But I think there’s a real desire for peace in the majority of people and a resistance to going back to the bad times. There’s more money around, which helps in some ways, and a great resurgence of the Arts – writers, poets, artists, actors. playwrights and musicians, all producing great work. I really do hope we are past the worst.
Me: How many Angel Murphy thrillers are you planning to write and are you working on the third one yet?
Gerry: I have at least two more in my head, and see no reason to stop there. But there are other things on my list before I start the next one. Not least is a few weeks to rest and re-charge my creative batteries!
Me: Can you give us a short excerpt from either Angel Murphy book?
Gerry: This is the opening of Angel in Belfast.
It was the howling of wolves. Grey, hungry, vicious wolves, ready to tear the flesh of any living thing in their feeding frenzy. Frankie Fitzgerald shivered and turned the music up louder. But although he was listening with his earphones plugged well in, the noises from outside the cottage kept creeping up on him.
He had come home to Northern Ireland for some peace. This little cottage in the Glens of Antrim, just above Cushendall, was perfect. It was whitewashed, in all the best traditions, and the small front garden, fenced off from the road (road? – it was more of a track!) was full of roses and sweet smelling honeysuckle and many coloured sweetpeas.
This wasn’t home as Frankie knew it. He’d picked the cottage not because it was the familiar place he grew up in, but because it was the other side of the coin, the Ireland that Americans and other tourists dreamed of. A real place. One he’d heard of all his life. One he’d occasionally known on brief childhood holidays. One he wanted to experience for himself. Frankie had grown up in the backstreets of Belfast, surrounded by small houses, streets full of noisy children enjoying themselves at play, a main road, the Newtownards Road, nearby, where the big red buses would take you into the heart of Belfast’s shopping centre. Or on the Newtownards Road itself you could buy anything from a cheap saucepan to a smart pair of ‘designer’ jeans or homemade soda bread. And some of the best homemade ice cream Frankie had ever tasted, before or since. Other parts of the city, Frankie found out later, were brighter, with trees growing along the footpaths and gardens in front of the houses. The city centre itself was lined with trees. But Frankie’s own home was bereft of that sort of beauty. Which didn’t mean that he didn’t love it.
The song which he had written, and which had hit the heights and pulled up his band Raving to reach the pinnacle of success, was the story of Belfast and its increasing wealth and renewal since the end of the Troubles. Snowball. Frankie had found it hard to believe how successful Snowball had been. He had poured all his love for his city into the words and music, and had somehow hit a chord worldwide. Something in Snowball had meant a lot to the people who heard it. It had sold by the millions and had hoisted Raving to the top.
Rolling on, rolling on,
Growing lovelier each day,
Picking up the pieces.
How I love you,
My shabby town…
Frankie pulled out his earphones and hummed the tune softly to himself.
Me: Well thanks for joining me Gerry. Here are some links to where you can catch up with Gerry and buy her wonderful books.
http://www.gerrymccullough.co.uk/ – website
https://www.facebook.com/gerry.mccullough – Facebook personal page
https://www.facebook.com/gerrymcculloughirish – Facebook author page
https://twitter.com/Gerry1098 – twitter
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gerry-McCullough/e/B005F0MZU8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 – Amazon Author page