[img_assist|nid=4318|title=Damian McNicholl|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=175|height=143]Damian McNicholl’s successful novel, A Son Called Gabriel, tells the poignant story of a boy coming to terms with his sexuality within the bosom of a family that’s hiding a dark secret from him in conservative Northern Ireland. Gabriel’s story is beautifully written, full of humor and insight that evolves as Gabriel learns about relationships both intimate and political. Mr. McNicholl spoke with Philadelphia Stories about writing, reading, and enjoying his new home in Bucks County.
Tell us a little bit about your evolution from lawyer to fiction writer.
Since coming to the US, I worked at a law firm and in the legal department of a New York City title insurance corporation, yet always felt unfulfilled being an attorney. During the commute from my home in Bucks County to the city every day, I began to read books about creative writing, did lots of writing exercises, and then wrote a first novel that’s as yet unpublished. A Son Called Gabriel is my second novel.
[img_assist|nid=4319|title=A Son Called Gabriel|desc=|link=url|url=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1593150180/qid|align=right|width=175|height=260]A Son Called Gabriel is a semi-autobiographical tale. Can you offer any advice about fictionalizing real events, and finding the necessary distance to create a fictional voice based on real events?
Some of it is semi-autobiographical and those parts are what I call fiction rooted in experience. My advice is to strip truths to their essence and then decide how best to present those core facts given the needs of the story, the characters and the novel’s setting. The passing of a sufficient amount of time is what provides the necessary distance.
A Son Called Gabriel taps into the unique coming of age story of discovering sexual identity in conservative Northern Ireland. How do you think this story has touched your readers?
Many people, particularly mothers, remarked that they felt I examined the matter of Gabriel’s sexual confusion during adolescence very honestly, as well as the issue of school bullying. While the novel deals with more than coming-of-age issues, their remarks make me particularly happy because I believe a lot of fiction has the ability to educate as well as entertain and I thus know my book has struck a chord.
You are working on a second book. Do you find a second novel easier to write than the first? Why or why not?
I’ve found UNUSUAL STEPS just as demanding to write because I opted to use a third person point of view rather than the first person used in ‘Gabriel’, though I’ve had enormous fun because it’s got a London flavor and some of the characters and plot are offbeat and eccentric.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
After the research ends, it’s a case of sit and write. I don’t outline my novels because I find it too confining, but I do write out a brief history of the main characters. Doing their histories gives me the essential direction I need. I don’t write every day unless you’d consider my blog as writing, which I suppose it is, really. But once I’m in writing mode, it’s 9 am through 5 pm hours.
What do you like to read?
I love novels rich in setting and character, dark comedies, and well-crafted nonfiction.
Has your current home in BucksCounty influenced your writing like Ireland did in A Son Called Gabriel?
Absolutely! I’m working now on my first novel set in the States–no surprise that the location happens to be Bucks County with jaunts to Philly and NYC– and I’m paying great attention to the landscape, flora and fauna, and types of people living here. Living in America has already affected my writing enormously because I write in American English now.
Can you offer any advice to the many creative writers who are trying to juggle work and family, yet want to write fiction or poetry?
I’ll offer this to all aspiring writers whether they’ve got families and work commitments or not: spend some time with yourself on a regular basis, write with passion, write regularly, and always dream of seeing yourself well-published.