Paul is really good at introducing himself, so I'm going to let him take the floor right away. We'll get to the questions in a minute. Please welcome to Nifty Newly, genre-crossing polymath author Paul McDermott.
Hi Jeremy, many thanks for the opportunity to chat with you today!
One thing you’ll have to accept is the indisputable fact that we invented spellings on this side of the Pond, and I have the honour to be a fully paid-up member of the Grammar Nazis and the Punctuation Police.
According to Chinese Astrological charts I was born in the Year of the Tiger, Month of the Panther. As a direct consequence, I have a cat’s tendency to roam, do my own thing. I love my home town, Liverpool but spent most of my working life elsewhere. This included about 20 years in Scandinavia & N. Germany. I trained as a teacher and taught every standard school subject, but curiously I taught very little English all the time I was abroad. I’m ‘native-fluent’ in five European languages – six at a push, mainly because the Jesuit Head Teacher at my Alma Mater insisted on foreign languages being taught by native born teachers. This was reinforced when I went on to Liverpool University, where my English tutor (another Jesuit) was fluent in no less than FORTY-THREE languages! Trivia fact: this year, in the FIVE Universities located in Liverpool there are students from 95 different countries.
Here’s a poem I wrote inspired by this stat. (NB. Line 4. words beginning "ll…" in the Welsh language have a distinct sound. Try 'sounding' something close to 'hklemon' for 'lemon' and you're getting close)
One Hundred Cocktails
A heady mix, bubbling with energy, sure to slake your thirst
The raw ingredients culled from every corner. Who came first?
Welsh Druids settled on the Mersey's banks, and with their songs
They made their mark and lleft their llilting llanguage on our tongues
Norse seamen chanced upon our shores and chose to settle down
Adding names like Kirkdale and Formby, parts of the growing town
Cæsar thought he could rule the world with his fearsome Roman legions
To Britain he came, and yes, he saw – but he couldn't quite conquer this region
Their lasting gift to us was surely the hypocausts: public baths and improved plumbing
A thousand years ago, who would have seen such 'mod. con.' luxuries a-coming?
Certainly not the noisy lot, our troublesome neighbours in the North
Whom Hadrian stalled with a half-built Wall to prevent them sallying forth
“Aye” and “haud yer wheesht” cannae be so hard tae unnerstan' ye'd think
Still we'll sing “Auld Lang Syne” and bid welcome the New Year with drink
Their vowels and growls rotate, mutate, becoming one more aspect
Of the local lingua franca, the proud and inimitable Scouse dialect
Enhanced by the music and laughter of the Irish, forced into exile
When Famine and Death laid waste their green and pleasant isle
The language alters subtly, sometimes from day to day
Marvel at the expresso speech of the Italians down Scottie Road way
Contrast that with the slow, thoughtful reflections handed down
By the Elders enjoying a game of Mah-Jongg in Chinatown
The oldest community in Europe – perhaps the world?
Sparkles anew every year, when banners are unfurled
To mark Chinese New Year, as the Lion Dance
Unleashes fire-breathing Dragons, and children prance
A kaleidoscope of colour, creed and culture from so many different lands
A hundred Cocktails? No! At very least, a Thousand!
1. What's the title of the book you're currently working on?
My latest book is currently AT the printers and will be available before the end of May 2017. The Spear of Destiny was inspired by the years I lived in Scandinavia (mostly Denmark). I had the honour and privilege of meeting and talking to a number of people who were active members of the Danish Resistance Movement [mødstandsbevægelsen]. These incredibly brave folk have never had the recognition they truly deserve and I have attempted to redress the balance a little by raising awareness and offering sincere thanks. I’ve kept close to the recorded facts as we know them, but I’ve altered the names: these patriots have earned the right to have their anonymity preserved.
2. How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre?
The first book I had published appeared in what ultimately became my final year of teaching. The family ‘rogue gene’ [arthritis] made it impossible for me to continue teaching – Drama, Music, PE, English, climbing stairs between lessons … I’d been pontificating in the staffroom about the poor quality of childrens’ books. Head of Dept. challenged me “if you think you can do better …” Six months later, hey presto! Johnny Dupl’eau was published by a small local Indy publisher. It’s the tale of a band of not-very-good pirates and their escapades, intended as the ‘lead volume’ of a series. The publisher has since ceased trading, but I have 2 more complete yarns and I’m looking for a new publisher.
I’ve experimented with writing in a variety of genre. Two exceptions: I don’t feel I know enough about the subject to attempt writing a Western, and Smut – however you dress it up by calling it ‘Erotica’ – doesn’t interest me.
The Chapel of Her Dreams sounds like a Romance, and there’s a simple love story in its pages, but the main thrust of the tale is Celtic myth & legend. It’s inspired by research into my own family history. This book is the first volume of a planned Trilogy. Book 2 is almost ready for first draft editing.
Plague Sally is a historical fantasy, set in 13th Century Britain during an outbreak of the Black Death. Sally is a gifted healer, but when she cures people of the disease she is accused of being a witch and must run for her life.
Classic Act Books has pencilled in another historical of mine, provisional date is still TBD but hopefully before Christmas. Working Title: Perori, Peacebringer. Perori is a musical instrument (a lute) with magical powers. Her bard, Easten, uses her to complete a quest. This has also led to a sequel, which I’ve started writing.
Rocking Horse Droppings. Like buses, you wait for ages then two come along at once …
This is a childrens’ book. Published on World Book Day [March 2nd] it tells the tale of a group of friends who go to a local park to play cricket and find themselves transported to Liverpool, 1941 during the Blitz…
I have on file completed mss in several genre. Chronological is as good a listing as any other:
Disaster scenario: a new powerful strain of the Rabies virus in the UK.
Political satire. Liverpool/Merseyside lose patience with an incompetent London government and declare the region an Independent Republic.
Global Warming is about to destroy life as we know it – one last chance to save the earth
International drug-smuggling scenario spreading over Ireland, UK, Denmark, Sweden and Germany
Craig [central character] has to ‘go off radar’ because he owes money to the ‘wrong people’ – loan sharks. How does he survive with NO money, no resources, no place to stay?
I also write music: I’m working on a YA “rock opera” and the scripts to a couple of short plays (none of which have yet been performed). One of the plays is a commissioned work for a local history group who have asked for a play about a group of Tourists learning the history of one of Liverpool’s oldest streets. Earliest records of Liverpool are based on seven streets (which still appear on the map) spread around the docks.
3. How do you come up with names?
I still remember most of the alphabetical list of names of my class mates from school & university. It’s as good as any other list – unless I’m writing a ‘true’ historical, where the names are a matter of record.
4. How do you come up with ideas?
A lot of my inspiration comes from Dreams – the Trilogy beginning with The Chapel of Her Dreams is one example.
I keep a stack of notepads at the side of my bed and frequently scrawl a few almost-illegible words when I half-wake in the middle of the night with an Idea.
I also try to base work on events and people I read about in the local press & media.
5. Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important?
Originality. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s Savoy operetta The Mikado one of the characters says he is merely “intending to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.” This verbiage is actually pretty good advice.
6. What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction?
In The Spear of Destiny I’ve kept very close to the recorded facts of the sinking of U-534 but I decided to add the Spear. I did this because of Hitler’s known weakness, superstition. He believes he has found a powerful secret weapon which he can use to turn the War in Germany’s favour. This light drizzle of fiction in what is essentially an account of historical events is my way of adding an original slant to the yarn
Think that’s me done for the night, Jeremy – once again, my thanks for inviting me!
Thank you, Paul! Happy writing! To experience more of Paul's work, he's kindly offered us a sample from The Spear of Destiny for your reading pleasure. Be sure to check out the links to his websites and social media pages, as well as links to where you can purchase The Spear of Destiny. Enjoy!
In 1945, U-boat Kapitän Herbert Nollau must deliver a weapon which will turn the war in Germany’s favour. His orders are delivered verbally. There will be no written records... and no witnesses.
Alone, far from home, hunted by the Danish Resistance and the might of the Allied Forces, he must obey either his final Orders…or the inner voice of his conscience.
Überlojtnant Herbert Nollau stood with his Zeiss nightglasses glued to his eyes, impervious to the rain whipped across his cheeks by half a gale. This howled almost exactly at ninety degrees to the tide, which had just reached the full but had not yet begun its retreat. His command craft, U-534, sat uneasily at anchor, dipping at bow and stern in the current, yawing appreciably as frequent Force Ten gusts buffeted her broad flanks. Low, heavy rainclouds hunkered closer, seeming to settle on the upper branches of the natural pine forest which spread untamed, unculled, across the low hills of Schleswig-Holstein.
An identical pair of black Opel staff cars bracketed a canvas bodied Mercedes half-track transport wagon, all three vehicles picking their way carefully along an unmarked country road. The headlights were taped down to the size and shape of a feral cat's vertical slits, acknowledging the strict rules governing all traffic during the hours of darkness. The road to the harbour just outside Lübeck was neither tarmac’ed nor enhanced with any form of lighting. The drivers were obliged to steer cautiously around every twist, using the gears and brakes more frequently than the accelerator.
"Amateurs!" he thought to himself, as the three sets of headlights crawled slowly closer.
He blanked the thought as soon as it intruded on his consciousness, forcing himself back into State-approved Wehrmacht thinking, based on purely practical matters directly related to carrying out current instructions, with maximum efficiency, without question. He pulled the collar of his oilskins closer around his throat in a futile attempt to prevent the rain from seeping through, soaking his uniform. Raising his night glasses once more, he cursed the weather, the Wehrmacht and the world in general, feeling more exposed and vulnerable with every minute that passed as he waited for the convoy of lights to crawl closer, carrying the equipment which he had been ordered to collect. It bothered him that he was expected to set sail immediately, and await orders concerning his destination by radio once he had cleared the bay and entered Store Bælt: technically, that section of the North Sea was neutral Danish waters, and if he were to remain on the surface for any length of time in order to receive orders …
As the lights snaked around another pair of curves and began their final descent to the shoreline and the jetty where U534 was waiting, Herbert Nollau realized that he had on board a much more powerful sender/receiver than any other U-boat: in fact, not just one but two radios equipped with the Enigma cryptographic programme had been installed, ostensibly for testing. With a sudden jolt, the deceptively young-looking Überlojtnant realized that this technology was far more sophisticated than that which had previously been regarded as the best in the world: apart from being guaranteed unbreakable as a code, it could also send and receive radio signals without his craft needing to surface.
He shook his head to clear the worst of the pools which had formed in the upturned brim of his sou’wester and made his way down the ladder bolted to the side of the conning tower, aiming to be waiting on the quay before the three vehicles wheezed to a halt. His mechanic’s ear analysed and diagnosed a list of faults he could clearly identify from the laboured chugging of each engine. Furious at this indication of inefficiency, a corner of his mind decided that he would have had the senior officer responsible for each vehicle court-martialled, if the decision had been up to him. In spite of the horrors he had witnessed in three years of naval warfare, he shuddered. His orders, distasteful though they might be, were crystal clear …
Two gaunt, silent shadows slid with simultaneous choreography from the rear seat of each of the Opels: their sleek black trenchcoats almost touched the planks of the jetty, glistening in the starlight as if the officers wearing them had been marching for hours in the rain rather than just stepping out of a warm, dry car. Nollau fired off his most formal salute: the four SS-officers responded with a world-weary, bent-elbow half-salute and pointedly refrained from returning Nollau’s “Heil, Hitler!” One detached himself for a moment and gave a hand-signal to the driver of the canvas-sided truck. The driver immediately hammered his fist twice on the bulkhead behind his seat. Four soldiers appeared over the tailgate of the wagon and began to manoeuvre something long and heavy out of the cargo space.
Turning to face his command meant that Herbert Nollau had to turn his back on the four staff officers. Somehow he managed to do this with an insolence which stated quite clearly that, as far as he was concerned, they were barely worthy of his contempt.
He placed a small, shrill whistle to his lips and blew, one long (but not overloud) blast. Within ten seconds, the deck was populated by about twenty matelots, standing at ease, who somehow contrived to arrive from nowhere and in total silence. Close to the bows, and just for’ard of ’midships , cables were deployed from two small jib cranes. Within seconds, the submariner crew were on the jetty, taking the unidentified cargo from the shoulders of the four soldiers and hoisting it with ease onto the foredeck, thence by some lightningfast legerdemain out of sight below decks. The crew had followed, leaving Überlojtnant Nollau as the only member of the Senior Service still on the jetty. At a silent gesture from one of the anonymous black trenchcoats the four soldiers climbed back over the tailgate, into the truck. After about four attempts, the driver managed to coax the engine into life and began to back and fill, facing back the way he had come.
As he completed the manoeuvre and gunned the engine to set off up the hill, the four SS officers opened their trenchcoats to reveal the muzzles of rapid fire MP40 machine pistols. With one accord they raised their weapons and sent round after deadly round of ammunition into both the cab and the rear of the vehicle, holding the triggers steady. Before the hail of bullets ceased, the fuel tanks of the wagon exploded, sending flames soaring high into the night sky, setting small fires in the tree tops as they lost their intensity and curled back towards the ground.
Suddenly, Herbert Nollau’s orders seemed fractionally less dishonourable.
Having emptied their weapons, the four executioners appeared to have rediscovered some of their habitual swagger and pride. Crashing the butts of the now-empty weapons against the rough wooden planking of the jetty they raised their right arms to the fullest, and screamed: “Heil, Hitler!” as their heels crashed together in perfect unison.
Sick to his stomach at the pleasure his countrymen took from the callous murder of fellow Germans, it was all Herbert Nollau could do to raise his arm, bent-elbowed, in the less formal salute he would never under normal circumstances have accepted from others nor used himself.
About the Author:
My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/paul.mcdermott.7737
Also: www.whimsicalpublications.com and www.writerschatroom.com
The Spear of Destiny is available at:
Publisher’s website: http://www.classactbooks.com/component/virtuemart/historical-fiction/the-spear-of-destiny-detail?Itemid=0