As a Belfast author, I was shaped by my hometown. Read how Belfast impacted upon me and compare it to how your hometown shaped you as a writer.
Belfast Author: My Story
As a Belfast author, I remember leaving my hometown for the first time. When I was training to be a primary school teacher at Warwick University, Coventry, I flew back home every two weeks to Belfast. I remember sitting in Birmingham International Airport, awaiting my boarding call, thinking how I knew I would be home when I came out of the George Best Airport to see the cranes of Samson and Goliath.
These cranes are etched onto the minds of Belfast’s population as being two monolithic guardians in the world-famous shipyard where the Titanic was built. I know that seeing a skyline in Belfast without these two yellow cranes would feel alien to me, and I hope the day never comes when the cranes leave us.
Growing up in Belfast, I have to say that it has helped shape me as a young author and a person more than I ever thought as a young writer. Through my Young Writers’ Type Cast Blog, I ask young authors questions about their background and what shaped them to become the writers they are today. Therefore, it is only fair that I undergo the same process, isn’t it?
It is only in the last year or so, as I think over my previous thirty-four years, that I respect how the capital city of ‘Our Wee Country’ has made me who I am. Like the shipyards of Harland & Wolff, many people born and bred in Belfast have been forged, hammered and riveted together by the setting of this city.
Many of us novel writers from around the world possibly look at their home town or cities as a place they cannot wait to escape. Many younger creatives and artists look to the cities of London, New York, LA, or Paris to be their adopted home as they carve a life or reputation in one of the creative industries.
All I ask is that you take a moment to reflect on your home town or city. Think of how it has impacted upon you as a person and, in turn, as a creative, author, dancer, or an actor. What positive and negative impacts did it have upon you growing up in those formative years and, as a self-published, indie, or traditionally published author, how did it shape your craft?
Throughout my author and creative writing blogs, I want to help share my views and experience of writing, whether you are writing as a beginner or are experienced at novel writing. It doesn’t matter, I feel we can all learn from one another.
By sharing our craft, our process, and how we work as creatives, we can:
- Help to hone our process further;
- Get inspiration from fellow writers;
- Feel part of a wider community;
- Feel less alone in a very lonely profession, hobby or past time.
This blog is created with my own suggestions that you may disagree with, and that’s fine. The method of exploring others’ views is where we can learn as authors and see what helps or hinders us. We need to remember that the process is for us to write fiction better or write fiction well.
Read this author blog article to see what you can learn and please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas, processes and craft as a writer. I am eager to hear from my contemporaries and fellow authors, writers, poets, playwrights and screenwriters!
The Elephant In The Room
There is no getting away from the elephant in the room when it comes to talking about growing up in Northern Ireland through the 1980’s and 1990’s – The Troubles.
Like many people of my age and generation, we were the last generation of people to be personally affected by The Troubles. There is no doubt that many people of my generation will see the news reports of people being shot and murdered by paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland as a distant memory. There will be others who still bear the scars of being personally impacted by what happened during those dark days.
I will always remember sitting with my mum eating a bowl of cereal while the evening news was on, and hearing ‘A man has been shot…A suspect device has been found…The security forces have come under attack…’ These news reports were normal for me then and now, as an adult, I can’t help but reflect on the impact that had on me as a child growing up.
When I was younger, I was a very nervous child and always had a worry that ‘the bad men’ would come and hurt me or my mum. This came from personally being held at gunpoint at a very young age and being affected by the memory of a masked man staring down, pointing a gun at me.
When I think of how I approach writing now as a thirty-five-year-old man, I want to remove myself as far away from that experience as possible. Being in charge of the worlds that I created in Hexingham and The Iris Trilogy, I want there to be as little reference as possible to the bloody past of my country. however, it is obvious that my youth and Belfast’s history have permeated my Inside Iris Kindle book and the rest of the trilogy to come.
Looking at the Security Forces in Inside Iris, I know that their almost paramilitary approach to policing the new Britain comes from the masked men who are still painted on walls across parts of Belfast. The faceless men of The Security Forces in Inside Iris clearly come from the imagery of the murals I have grown up seeing. Thinking back now, I am aware how the Belfast of the 1970’s and 1980’s could be seen as a dystopian fiction setting – just read Ciaran Carson‘s acclaimed poem, ‘Belfast Confetti’, linked at the bottom of the article.
I also consider how the people of the new Britain see these Security Forces as a group to be feared and wary of. The ‘police’ of Hexingham and Inside Iris are not considered to be a group to feel safe around. In fact, they are almost feared by the people they are supposed to protect. As an independent paperback and Kindle Author, I wanted this overbearing element to be tangible.
Think about the following:
- How do you feel about the towns you grew up in?
- Did they impact upon your writing? if so, how?
Add your comments in the section below.
Belfast’s New Dawn
Today, I’m glad to say that my home city and my country are much brighter and filled with a prosperity that I never thought I could see growing up. We look out at the ever-changing dynamic of our society and how the shoots of recover that were born from the ceasefires, the Good Friday Agreement, etc. are growing into something much more.
What those shoots have grown into is adding colour, vivacity and beauty to a country that was once covered in scars. Those scars will always be there, in some way or another, but I’m so glad to say that the city that shaped me as a writer is changing for the better.
Where once I knew I didn’t want to write about anything connected to my home city, I now want to explore the place that helped forge me as an author. As I consider a setting for my next trilogy, a series of children’s novels with myth and magic, I want to use ‘My Wee Country’ as the setting. Isn’t that something?
With the help of Game of Thrones and other acclaimed TV and movies, Belfast and Northern Ireland have finally tasted and experienced a New Dawn for their people. As I walk the streets of Belfast and travel to other towns in Northern Ireland, there is a different feel to our surroundings. I see different colours, the air gives off a different scent, and everything I touch has a different texture.
All of this excites me.
As a Belfast author, and the father of two young children, I look forward to them growing up in a society that is not oppressed under the spectre of armalites and masked men. I want them to see, smell, and touch the same dynamic, prosperous place that I experience by their side.
Think about the following:
- Are you as inspired and excited by the town you grew up in?
- If so, how do you feel it excites and inspires you?
Add your comments in the section below.
Belfast Author: The Takeaway
Yes, Belfast has shaped me as an author and as a writer. Its past has impacted upon me and scarred me as it did thousands of others throughout The Troubles. However, my town is evolving, changing, and rising like a phoenix from the rubble and ashes of the past. I can only imagine what the future may hold and how Belfast will shape future authors and writers.
I sit in my office, just outside Belfast, and plan content for my SG Fiction author blog and my SG Fiction YouTube Channel. As I do this, I think of how I can help children and young people write and create stories that can help inspire those around them. The young people I want to teach to write and give ideas to, will be the authors of tomorrow. They will be the ones who move from Belfast described in ‘Belfast Confetti’, by Ciaran Carson, to a Belfast of their imagination – our Belfast of the future.