‘It’s always interesting to see the world through the eyes of another person’

This week, we chatted with author Brian Gallagher about his latest book Winds of Change.

Could you describe Winds of Change in five words?

Fast-moving, thought-provoking entertainment! (Not sure if that counts as five words or three!)

Who was your favourite character to write in Winds of Change?

Probably Clara.  Her life, as a member of the gentry, is the most far removed from my own life. It’s always interesting to see the world through the eyes of another person – one of the main reasons, I think, why we read fiction in the first place – and I enjoyed immersing myself in her world of privilege. The fact that that privilege was being challenged by the Land League made Clara’s position tricky, especially when her eyes were being opened by her secret friendships with Aidan and Molly. I like to see a character evolving over the course of a book, and I enjoyed making that journey with Clara. I also liked writing the scenes with the Tobin twins. Nobody likes a bully in real life but, as an author, writing the more villainous characters can be fun!

Did you have to do a lot of research?

Loads. Before writing a word of the book I spent weeks researching the period. Obviously, that meant reading up on what was happening in 1880s Ireland – and indeed the wider world – but it also meant studying things like fashions in clothes and discovering what was the popular music of the day. I loved immersing myself in old music-hall songs and Percy French tunes. And that’s one of the dangers with research. It’s really enjoyable, and you can easily find yourself doing too much of it – and actually using research to put off the evil day when you have to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and start writing the book. So it takes a bit of discipline not to overdo the research, and also to resist the temptation of ‘getting value’ for the hours spent on research, by inserting more historical detail into the novel than the story actually requires.

Did you find out anything that surprised you while researching?

I knew that my own family had a police background, and when I explored the family tree – much like Garrett in the book – I found that some of my ancestors had served in the Royal Irish Constabulary. I didn’t draw on their personal stories, but still, it gave the project an extra edge to know that my ancestors had lived through the kind of dramatic events that feature in Winds of Change.

What is your writing process like? Do you write 9 to 5 every day or do you write sporadically when you get inspired etc.?  

If I wrote only when feeling inspired I’d work for about a month each year! No, I’m a firm believer in having a regular daily routine. I like to be at my desk at 9am each morning, and once I’ve crossed the landing into my office, I’ve officially gone to work. I take an hour for my lunch, then work again until about 5.30pm or 6pm. During that time I take frequent short breaks, and I’m flexible about my work hours, but generally speaking I work office hours, five days a week. As for inspiration, on some days you certainly feel more inspired than on others, but I don’t wait for inspiration. It’s more a question of starting work, and the inspiration kicking in as you get into the scene that you’re writing.

Did you enjoy writing in this time period? 

Very much so. It was an era of huge conflict in Ireland – which makes for powerful raw material for a writer. Also, I felt that it was a period that hasn’t been covered a great deal in fiction, so it was interesting for me – and, I hope, my readers – to explore new ground.

What was your favourite part about writing Winds of Change?

Typing THE END, after 54,053 words! I also enjoyed telling the story in two different time periods. I had done this in another novel, Arrivals, and a lot of people seemed to like it, so I used the technique again in Winds of Change, which I think gives the story an extra dimension. I liked too the challenge of making the Parkinson family somewhat sympathetic, when the temptation might have been to present the landlord class as outright villains.

If you could travel to any time in history, when and where would you go?

Provided I wasn’t a martyr or gladiator, Ancient Rome would have been an interesting place to live. Or maybe the excitement of New York in the Roaring Twenties, with skyscrapers shooting up and the Jazz Age taking off. Or London at the time of Charles Dickens. Or Vienna when Beethoven was composing masterpieces. So many possibilities, but, alas, only one life to live…

Brian Gallagher, July 2021

Winds of Change is available to order from your local bookshop or here.