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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Ged Melia shares the inspiration behind his new book, Liverpool, and his creative writing process.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Ged Melia about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the story of his new book, Liverpool.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I have had a multi-layered career as a chartered accountant, general manager, and management consultant. After taking an early retirement I now involve myself in book related projects, buying, selling and writing; local history, and some voluntary work with the Prince’s Trust.
Married, we have two adult children, a daughter who is a scientist at Oxford University, and a son who works in software development for a company supporting many of the better-known brands of the internet. I live in the North West of England just outside the village of Edgworth on the West Pennine Moors.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
It has probably always been a bit of an aspiration. The challenge has been in working out exactly what I wanted to write about first.
When did you take a step to start writing?
As a manager I was often the one asked to write reports. When a press release, speech, or presentation was required, it would often be me who would write it. In that sense I have always been a writer. My first book was a management text, a kind of ‘how to’ guide. It was pragmatic choice of spending time during a lean (work) period after the 2008 banking crisis. But even then, I had started to form some ideas about writing something more creative, or imaginative; a novel.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
My first book took about a year, although my first novel took about 18 months.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
‘Liverpool’, my third novel and latest book, was written on an almost back-to-back basis after my second. In terms of writing around 4 months, although I wanted to leave it a year and possibly edit it with a fresh pair of eyes. That was around 2 to 3 months earlier in 2023.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Liverpool?
Researching the Irish experience in Liverpool during the 1840s and 1850s. Outside of some references in history text books, I could find no one who had attempted a ‘warts ’n’ all’ storytelling approach. I felt that I could tell the story using half a dozen facts from my own ancestors’ lives.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Liverpool?
Creating believable characters within a credible story. While it is a fiction, I wanted to make it read like the story actually happened. I also found it a challenge to write something that was a palatable, even enjoyable read, but which did not diminish the often-horrendous experience of living through the 1840s in Liverpool.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
‘Liverpool’ is a two generations family tale so there are several family member protagonists. Contemporary events and living conditions heavily influenced the way I framed the main characters in the story.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
While not deliberately intending to create an antagonist, one or two naturally emerged during the course of writing. The inspiration originated through reading about the sort of things people engaged in to put food on the table, often illegal.
What is the inciting incident of Liverpool?
Given that it is a generational tale there is more than one. The initial catalyst for the tale is the change in attitude from the landlords in Ireland – they found that it was more profitable to raise cattle and sheep than sub-let to tenant farmers. It provokes the initial journey. Another is the impact of the Irish ‘Great Famine’, while a third might be the arrival of a relative in the family orbit. There’s usually a roguish character somewhere in my novels.
What is the main conflict of Liverpool?
In my first novel, ‘Family Business’, it was a personality conflict between two brothers. In ‘Liverpool’, the initial chapters of the book are more ‘family vs. the world’, at least until ‘Uncle’ Patrick arrives and provokes a certain amount of discord. His methods of putting food on the table are on the wrong side of legal.
Did you plot Liverpool in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
Broadly speaking I tend to have a plan. If, for example, if I have facts to work with, I will map out a storyline that (credibly) links these facts. I’ll then order them into a chapter framework.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Liverpool need?
All of my books have been self-edited. I am conscious of word count and now try to work towards an 80,000 to a 100,000 words budget. My first novel was 135,000 words and perhaps could have been edited. I had a lot of documentary detail on a court case and, well, probably went a little overboard in covering it – almost full chapter. By the time I started writing my second I had taken any advice thrown at me and took a far more disciplined approach.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Start and don’t stop until your first draft. It’s too easy to break off a chapter 3 with the intention of getting back to it ‘later in the year’. I would also write because you have something you want to say, or a story to tell. Publishers like stuff that is ‘on trend’, although I would suggest that you write because you enjoy the creativity associated with the process rather than because a publisher says ‘write about this because it I’ll be able to sell it’.
For me writing is very much about the story. I do respective those who take a ‘literary fiction’ approach, but I also find that if you do that you can risk retarding the plot and/or increasing the word count. Write from the heart and tell your story. Any grammar, syntax or style issues can usually be resolved through later proofing, or employing a copy editor if you feel the manuscript needs it. And don’t be afraid of mistakes. I’ve been told that my writing has ‘improved’ since my first novel. We are all on that journey whether we know it or not.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I am on the committee of our local history society, Turton Local History Society. For the past few months I have been writing a 5000 historical year timeline for our area. As for novels, I do have a few ideas floating around in my head. I have been mapping out a sequel to my first novel, and I do have some still rather vague notion of creating something set sixty years from now, following a timeline where events in the past century followed a slightly different path. At the moment I am still mapping out a ‘future history’.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am very happy with my second and third novels. Were I to write my first novel again, I would perhaps have made a few changes given what I have learned over the past few years. Still, those that did read ‘Family Business’ seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed it, so there is always the possibility that I could have written something less appealing. Writing has definitely been worth the effort, even somewhat cathartic – I always wanted to write stories. It would be nice to sell a few more books, but I really don’t worry too much about it. I just enjoy the creative process of telling a story through writing.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Each novel has a set of sub-links: https://dmscollectables.co.uk/novels/
All three novels are available on all the major websites.
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