Friday, June 29, 2012

Historical Fiction Author: David Lawlor

Hi David, I’m so glad to have you on Rachelle’s Window today. I love the tagline on your blog, “celebrating the bit players of history.” Tell us about yourself and what got you interested in these “bit players”?

     Hi Rachelle, thanks for inviting me onto this great site. You’re right, my blog does have that tagline. I think that so much of history is written by the winners and the leaders and that those who actually helped them to make it all happen are overlooked. It is the regular guy or girl in the street who really make the history, so why not celebrate them as well. History, contrary to popular belief, is not written in stone. New facts or stories emerge all the time to put a fresh slant or nuance to someone’s decisions or actions. Those nuances can often come through the stories of the bit players around the mayor event.
   I was brought up in a working class home, my mam and dad worked long and hard as a cleaner and post man respectively to put me and my siblings through college. I suppose subliminally, in wanting to celebrate the bit players I want people like mam and dad to get the recognition they deserve.

Rachelle: Exactly! That's why I wrote Michal's Window. She was a princess, yet people forget that she saved the line to Christ when she saved David's (not you, but King David) life. Of course the bonus of writing historical fiction is giving in to your curiosity of wondering what life was like in another time or place. You’ve recently published a historical novel Tan. With the wide arena of history available to you, what made you focus on this particular story?

David: Tan is set during the Irish War of Independence, which ran from 1919-1921. The Black and Tans was the nickname given to ex-servicemen from the First World War who were recruited as Temporary Constables to try to restore order in Ireland. They soon became notorious for their brutality and ill-discipline.
   To this day the Tans hold a special place in the Irish psyche. They have been demonised (justly) for their actions yet quite a lot of them were actually Irish themselves. I thought it would be interesting to write a story from the perspective of someone who joined this body of men out of desperation and soon was faced with the reality of their actions against his very own people.
   Also, my own family history is full of fascinating stories from this time. My grandfather was very active during the War of Independence and the Civil War which followed, so I think that that had a part in drawing me to this era.

Rachelle: It is certainly a chilling thought how ordinary people could get caught up in situations so horrendous to think about, isn't it? You wonder, what would I have done in his shoes? Your blog is a fascinating collection of bits and pieces from the forgotten and downtrodden. There’s a nugget for a novel in each of those vignettes. Has anything grabbed you again? What are you working on now?

David: I love digging up unusual stories from history and, hopefully, they'll inspire me in my writing. There are certainly plenty of real characters to draw upon, that's for sure.
   I’m currently working on a sequel to Tan, which is set in the battlefields around Ypres, in the aftermath of the First World War. It incorporates a collection of very ordinary veterans from the war, who still carry its scars both mentally and physically, and who decide to return to France to retrieve something precious left behind in the heat of battle. The journey resurrects their wartime memories, and they must cope with this and a few other obstacles that reveal themselves.

Rachelle: Sounds fascinating. I bet there is a lot of survivor guilt and traumatic stress disorder they deal with. You’re an editor of a national newspaper. How has your day job prepared you for writing a novel? Were there obstacles you didn’t expect when you embarked on this journey?

David: The style of writing I use in my day job is very different to that I use when writing fiction. Initially, I did find it a challenge to break out of the newspaper habit of sharp, staccato writing and giving too much of the story up front, but I soon got over that. My job as an Associate Editor with a busy national newspaper did help me when it came to having ‘clean’ copy. My grammar and punctuation are pretty good (at least I think so!) and I can write in short bursts. I generally write on the 50-minute commute to work, during my lunch break and then on the way home again that evening. I try to do about one thousand words a day – sometimes I get a bit more done, sometimes a little less.

Rachelle: See? You are more prepared than the average software engineer (that was my day job). Describe your boyhood. What were your favorite pasttimes? Did you play a lot of video games or with more traditional toy soldiers and board games.

David: I would have had a fairly traditional childhood…I certainly loved those toy soldiers! When I wasn’t reading books or watching movies, I was out hiking and camping with the Scouts. I was never particularly ‘sporty’ – and was usually one of the last to be picked for any soccer match, whenever I did dare venture out onto a playing pitch.

Rachelle: Ha, ha, I'm the one they relegate to the right field. One day a ball came straight at me. I was so shocked and surprised and scared that I ducked! How are you marketing your book? Have you gone to any writer’s conferences? Met other writers in your genre?

David: To be honest I did everything backwards. I wrote the book and only then began learning about social media, which is a bit problematic when engaged in online publishing. I’m catching up, though, especially after a great 12-week ebook publishing course I did with BeCreativeBooks. I set up my blog and am really quite enjoying Twitter. A few nook bloggers have kindly agreed to review my book, I’m doing interviews like this one and I’m using KDP Select with a free promo of the book going out on June 29-30.

Rachelle: Great! Your book is free today and tomorrow. And David, you do know you have my favorite name, right? (Sorry about that, have to put Michal back in her place. She gets a little excited whenever there's a David around)
It’s been great talking to you. I wish you lots of luck in your career and look forward to more stories about the “bit players.”

Tan, a story of exile, betrayal and revenge is FREE on Amazon June 29-30. Be sure to pick yours up today.

David Lawlor is Associate Editor with the Evening Herald newspaper in Ireland and has been writing features, reviews and working as a produciton journalist in national newspapers for 22 years.

David has written three novels and is currently working on his fourth. This is the first novel he has published. David lives in Greystones, Ireland, with his wife and four children.
Twitter: @LawlorDavid


  1. Thank you for this interview, Rachelle. Loved getting to know David and plan on following his blog and checking out his book. I wonder if this is the origin the Black and Tan (Guinness and Bass Ale)?

  2. Love reading about another writer of historical fiction. WWI is such an interesting time. I'm headed off to look at your blog, David. Good luck with your free days. I look forward to reading TAN.

  3. Thanks for this great interview, Clare. I think the main reason most history is told about the leaders and famous. It's refreshing to see an important story from Everyman's POV. I am heading right over to Amazon to get my copy of "Tan."