This much I know: Alan Glynn

I wasn’t a sporty kid.

Weirdly, I remember liking the physical sensation of writing, and anything to do with it, from an early age. I enjoyed the feeling of the pen in my hand. I didn’t pick up a book until I was a teenager.

I didn’t always know I’d be a writer, but, looking back, it is the only thing I ever expressed an interest in. I do remember thinking it wasn’t very realistic, but there was never a real alternative.

After Trinity, I went to New York and worked in magazine production. To say I worked in publishing makes it sound a bit grand. Then, I taught English, as a foreign language, in Verona for five years. The perfect career for all aspiring writers — it allows you to travel, work part-time, and have plenty of time left over.

My writing process varies, depending on what stage I’m at. At the start of a novel, I spend a lot of time on the internet or staring at the walls and out the window. When I’m in the middle of the process, I need to lock myself away for a few months. I rewrite constantly as I go. I inch forward; I could write 15 drafts of each sentence.

For years, I sent manuscripts out in envelopes to publishers and got rejected. I got an agent at age 37. Two books later, I still had nothing published. I kept going. I’m not sure if it was down to self-belief as much as desperation, as there was nothing else I could do.

I was able to give up teaching when The Dark Fields was published and optioned by a film studio. I’m lucky; my first son was born at the same time.

When The Dark Fields was optioned, I knew they’d hire a well-known screen writer, so that the film could get financed. There was no question that I’d write it. I was a bit anxious about how it would turn out, but kept reminding myself ‘it’s my book and their movie’. It turned out to be a very positive experience, as the screenwriter was very respectful and kept me in the loop.

I’ve a good work/life balance, divided between writing and family. We have two small kids, so I get up early, before they do, get some work done and then write solidly while they are at school. Of course, having a fully supportive wife helps — she works in a language school.

My favourite advice is from Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no-one knows what they are.” So true; each one of us has got to find our own methods.

I’ve never taken part in a creative writing course. They might be useful for technique and structure and to give you motivation — but you can’t teach talent.

Raymond Chandler, F Scott Fitzgerald and JG Ballard are amongst my favourite writers.

Plenty of crime can’t be described as anything else — there is a whole bunch of detective fiction and procedurals — but I think my stuff could be categorised as both thriller and crime. I didn’t think of my work in those terms at all, but having a genre helps with marketing the books.

I have no spiritual beliefs to sustain me; I don’t believe there is life after death.

From an early age, I had an innate sense that what I was being taught and fed didn’t add up. I get sustenance from great works of art, music, the achievements of others.

My idea of misery is not being able to write.

If I could change something in our society, I’d eliminate the whole concept of money. That would change everything. It really is the root of all evil.

Alan Glynn’s new novel, Graveland, is just out. His debut novel, The Dark Fields, was made into the film, Limitless, starring Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper and his previous book, Bloodland, won the Irish Crime novel of the Year in 2011.


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