Friday, 10 October 2014

Brendan Gerad O'Brien: Dark September

Brendan Gerad O'Brien, welcome to Heart of Fiction!

Brendan comes to us today from South Wales, UK. Born in Tralee, Ireland, Brendan spent his summer holidays as a youth romping around the literary town of Listowel, where his uncle had a harness making shop. Colorful local characters, such as the now infamous John B. Keane and Bryan MacMahon, frequented the shop, giving Brendan his first taste of storytelling.

Years later, and now living in South Wales, Brendan's love of storytelling has given him a staggering twenty-three titles to his name. Today he adds the twenty-fourth!

Dark September is an alternate history as part of WWII. While Germany technically never invaded Britain, we do know of their horrific air raids, but Brendan has spun an interesting element into known history to create a truly engaging story of an Irishman's desire to get his son home to Ireland, a neutral country.

Dark September is a riveting tale with lots of adventure. Danny O'Shea's plight is palpable and one can't help but keep reading to see what happens next, especially as he's suddenly pursued by the Germans and insurgents who think he's in possession of secret blueprints to a new weapon. This is awesome stuff. A must read.

Before we get to the blurb and excerpt, Brendan has had a chat with us about his life on the other side of his monitor.

Welcome, Brendan!

Thank you for taking time from your busy day to chat with us. Let's get right to it. With 24 books out, how do organize your day? What is your daily writing routine like?
I prefer to write in the evening, usually beginning around five o’clock with a cup of extra strong coffee. I break for the six o’clock news, though I don’t know why lately. There’s nothing but doom and gloom all over the world, which isn’t conducive to writing a humorous short story. 
I usually write the first draft in long-hand – scribble, according to my family, which is good because they can’t understand it to criticise it before I’ve ironed out all of the kinks. 
Sometimes, when I’m in full flow, I’ll take my iPad to bed and carry on writing there. Jennifer isn’t always pleased about that as the tapping on the key pad can be a bit irritating when she’s trying to get to sleep, but mostly she supports my need to finish a piece before I forget what I was trying to say. 
Some writers swear they carry a note book so they can jot down ideas as they appear, but I could never get into the habit of doing that. But I see stories everywhere and I let them bounce around in my head until I’m sure I can actually make something of them. That way, when I sit down to write, I more or less know what I want to say. Unfortunately they don’t always work out as I imagined them and they get filed under B for bin – but I don’t throw anything away. There must be a thousand discarded bits and pieces in my attic. 
Right now I’m on the last two or three chapters of my latest full novel. A murder mystery set in Ireland in 1941, it features Garda Sergeant Eamon Criddle investigating a shooting in a crowded pub. A man dies, but no one noticed a thing. The next day the sergeant’s step-daughter is found dead in the town park. Is there a link?
I totally understand the tapping of the keys from writing in bed. Drives the hubs mental. I've heard about the notebook thing too. When I have one, I never use it, and when I don't have it, that's when I need it! I've solved the problem with a notepad app on my mobile phone. ;-)

When you're not writing in bed, where do you write. Please describe your writing space.
I’ve got a nice cosy corner in the sitting room where I do my serious typing and thinking in peaceful isolation. If I’m writing in long-hand I usually sit in the conservatory, and if I’m just typing up stuff I’ve already written by hand then I’m happy to sit in the kitchen where I feel less isolated and more included in the normal activity of the house. Also it’s nearer to the kettle and biscuits. 
 Oh, yes! Tea and biscuits are a must for the best storytelling!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
Walking is probably our favourite pastime. We try to go for at least a mile walk every day. We’re lucky to have some wonderful places here in Wales within easy distance – Tredegar House, Roath Park, miles of the Monmouth - Brecon Canal. We go to Bristol, Hereford, Abergavenny and Bath regularly too, and we love to wander the old streets and alleyways that are soaked in some wonderful history. 
Reading would be my next choice. I love thrillers. Tom Clancy writes some great stuff. I like Andy McNab – I’ve got all his books – and I’m particularly impressed by the writing style of Ann Cleeves (of Vera and Shetland fame) and Val McDermid (Wire in the Blood). I’m working my way through the Tirgearr authors list and I love Mary T Bradford’s book My Husband’s Sin. 
DIY has to be my next love, though the house has been pulled about so much over the years it’s as near to our ideal home as we can get it. So any work now is just tarting up the paintwork and minor adjustments.
You're preaching to the choir when you talk about Wales and places to go walking. I've spent my share of time in Brecon, Abergavenny, Hay-on-Wye, and most of North Wales, and other locations. Also Hereford. You and I could chat hours about Wales, and Ireland, I'm sure!

Thank you for taking time from your writing schedule to chat with us.

As always, there's a free book on offer today. All you need to do is comment with your email address to put your name into the draw for an ebook copy of this book. If you can't wait, just click here to grab your copy.

• • •

Germany invades mainland Britain. Irishman Danny O’Shea’s house is bombed and his wife killed. His young son Adam has learning difficulties. Terrified of what the Nazis will do to him, O’Shea decides to take him to neutral Ireland.

Penniless and desperate, they head for Fishguard. But on an isolated Welsh road they witness an attack on a German convoy carrying the blueprints for an awesome new weapon that was discovered in a secret laboratory near Brecon.

German Captain Eric Weiss, responsible for the blueprint’s safe transfer to Berlin, knows his job, even his life, depends on getting it back.

But, following a major disagreement amongst the insurgents, the blueprint disappears. Then O’Shea goes to the aid of a dying woman - and both the Germans and the insurgents believe she’s told him where the blueprints are.

Suddenly O’Shea is separated from his son and catapulted into a world of betrayal and brutal double-cross. Pursued by both the Germans and the insurgents, his only concern is to find Adam and get him to safety.

‘Did you hear the latest rumour, Danny?’ he asked. His eyes were disturbed, wide and anxious, as they darted from O’Shea to the newspaper and back to O’Shea again.

‘Do you mean about …’ O’Shea felt his throat tighten as he struggled to find the words. He really didn’t want to think about it, but at the same time he desperately wanted to know what was really going on. Leaning over, he rubbed a hole in the condensation on the steamed up window. Outside, the lights from the tram flickered on the curtain of rain that came in waves along the pavement. ‘I heard something on the wireless before I came out about him being …you know?’ he eventually managed to say. ‘But I’m not sure what I believe on the radio anymore.’

‘Well, there’s nothing in the paper about it.’ Elwyn rattled the wet pages as he tried to separate them but they only stuck together more and started to tear. ‘They’d have to put in the papers, wouldn’t they? What d’you think, Danny? Wouldn’t they have to put it in the papers if there was any truth in it? Or do you think it’s just another pack of lies from that lunatic Lord what’s-his-name? D’you think it’s just another one of his tricks to upset us, like? Make us panic?’

O’Shea gave a furtive look around at the other passengers. The tram was full as usual and the steam from their wet clothes misted up the windows.

He recognised most of the men. Practically all of them worked down in the dockyards. The few women on board were heading for the nice warm tax office. It was obvious from the way they held their hands tightly across their bodies that they’d heard the rumour too. So they’d be only too aware of the dreadful consequences if it turned out to be true. But nobody spoke. Today there was no idle chatter, no swapping gossip behind gloved hands. Everyone felt the tension that hung like a fine mist in the air, so they just sat there in silence and looked out of the windows, their faces blank and their mouths drawn into thin, anxious lines.

A deep, desperate sigh rippled up from O’Shea’s chest and he couldn’t swallow it in time so he tried to block it with his hand. What in God’s name was he doing, going to work at a time like this? If the omens were so obviously terrifying, why wasn’t he at home with his wife and child? They’d still be lying in bed, sound asleep and unaware of the drama unfolding around them.

• • •

Brendan Gerad O’Brien was born in Tralee, on the west coast of Ireland and now lives in Wales with his wife Jennifer and daughters Shelly and Sarah.

As a child he spent his summer holidays in Listowel, Co Kerry, where his uncle Moss Scanlon had a harness maker’s shop, which, sadly, is long gone now. The shop was a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters. It was there that Brendan’s love of words was kindled by the stories of John B. Keane and Bryan MacMahon, who often wandered in for a chat and bit of jovial banter. Most of the ideas for the stories in the collection Dreamin’ Dreams originated there, and some are based on actual real character - though Brendan would never admit it, simply because he couldn’t afford the ensuing litigation.

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  1. Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Brendan, and congrats on the fresh release of Dark September.

    Please, tell our readers, where did you get the idea for this alternative history story?

  2. Actually, the original story was set in Poland. I had a pal in school whose grandfather was Polish and he had a horrific time trying to get his family out of harm's way when the Germans invaded. But I realised that you should only write about what you know, and I knew nothing about Poland. So I decide it could be an alternate history story and set it in Wales. Names and places had to be changed, but most of the action bits worked just as well in the UK as they did in Poland.

    1. That's a really interesting fact. Thanks for sharing that with us.

      Why did you decide on alternative history, rather than just setting the book in a country where Germany had invaded? Invaded as in, men on the ground rather than just the air strikes? What was it that said to you, I must write this story in this setting?

  3. Familiarity, I suppose. I spent two weeks camping on the Brecon Beacons years ago and I imagined how it would have felt being pursued by enemy soldiers when you're cold and tired and with no place to hide. Then I imagined how a father would feel if his child was in mortal danger too. I realised that I didn't know the lie of the land in other European countries as well as I know Wales and Ireland, so I transferred the scene to the UK in an alternate era.

  4. Great premise, Gerad,
    I have a friend in Boston whose father and aunts were actually sent to Poland by the Germans before the war, because their father was Jewish, and when Germany then invaded Poland, it was their salvation, because nobody there knew they were Jewish.
    I also have a great scrawl that could have been used as code during the war - it's amazing how much people like to peer over your shoulder!
    Best of luck with it!

  5. Hi David, how're you doing? Those were such dark times we'll be writing about them for years ... my father-in-law had some amazing stories to tell about his war in the middle east. I wish I'd written then down ...

  6. Hi Brendan, your book sounds really good. I wish you the best of luck with it. Daithi