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Kevin Brophy Talks to Joe McCoubrey About Another Country & Writing Longhand

Writing.ie | Magazine | General Fiction | Interviews
Another Kind of Country

By Joe McCoubrey

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Kevin Brophy has somehow flown under the radar when it comes to successful Irish authors. At 65 years of age he should by now be a household name, but when you chat to this modest Galway man you soon begin to understand why his light has been hiding behind the literary bushes.

Here’s a man who doesn’t have a website (something he hopes to put right in the near future), couldn’t tell you anything about Facebook or Twitter, and – wait for it – still writes long-hand on large notepads! Mention the use of computers and keyboards and you can almost see the veil of disinterest drop over his features.

None of that, however, has stopped Brophy from churning out his second major fictional work, Another Kind of Country, part of a lucrative deal he earned from the London-based Headline Publishing Group. His first venture with them, The Berlin Crossing, has had widespread critical acclaim, a pattern that is sure to be replicated by this latest offering.

Both novels are rooted in East Germany in the days before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. So, how did a writer from the West of Ireland get the material needed to construct stories told with the kind of authority and emotion that can come only from an in-depth knowledge of those dark and dangerous times?

Kevin Brophy. Picture courtesy of Paddy Lydon©
Kevin Brophy. Picture courtesy of Paddy Lydon©

The answer is relatively simple. Brophy has spent a large slice of his life as a touring English-language teacher in Germany and Poland. Along the way he started to gather in the knowledge and understanding of the erstwhile German Democratic Republic.

“Over the years I met and socialised often with many people who had lived their lives in East Germany. I was struck by how fondly they remembered their time behind the wall, and how they appeared to be having a rough time adjusting to the new unified Germany.

“It seemed to be a case that they had been committed to a system and when that system collapses, what do you do next?”

In those casual and fascinating conversations the seeds of a novel were sown for Brophy. Like most authors, he found that the ideas beginning to germinate were taking him off in numerous directions, with ample material for more than just one stand-alone novel.

“I’m one of those writers who know where the story is going, but I allow it to change. I let the characters take over. I think it makes for a more interesting time for the author, and, I hope, for the reader.”

But what about the trials and tribulations of writing 100,000-word novels in long-hand?

There’s a glint in the eye and a warmth in the Galway brogue when Brophy replies. “I never got used to computers, and at my age there’s little need to worry about them. I love scribbling across pages. I can write the paragraph in my mind before transferring it to paper, so I don’t need to put lines through what I’ve written or be worried about constantly scrunching up a page and starting again.”

“It can be slow because I take trouble with my sentences. I usually manage between 500-1,000 words each session.”

How long do these sessions last?

“I try to write at least four days a week. Writing is hard work and I always find it difficult to start in on a new session. The least distraction is a nice excuse to put it off, although when I do start I can lose myself totally for hours at a time.”

Brophy gathers up his completed notepads and delivers them to a typist who puts together his draft manuscript. After corrections and editing, the manuscript is then finalised for despatch to his publishers. “It can be expensive, but it’s a process I’m used to,” he confides.

Writing has been in Kevin Brophy’s blood from an early age. He has dipped his toe in the water off and on over the years, but never found the time, until now, to devote the time needed. “Writing was all I ever wanted to do, but I couldn’t afford to do it full-time. I had to make a living.”

Brophy grew up in a military barracks. His chequered career includes stints as a postman, barman and businessman, before he eventually settled into a career as an English teacher, one that took him on his travels to Europe, and developed his love of Germany. He spends three or four months a year there, presiding over residential courses for business leaders anxious to apply the written English word to all their marketing materials, presentations and emailing. He also rubs shoulders with university dons, helping them to prepare their academic articles for publication.

Back in Galway, he loves to catch up with his family and friends, tour the countryside with his German partner Lisa, and make time for his writing.

There’s an extra glint in his eye when the subject switches to his family. His son Adam is a columnist with The Irish Times – you can catch up with his column “It’s a Dad’s Life” every Tuesday – and he has two daughters, Sarah and Georgia.

What’s next for Kevin Brophy?

“I can’t imagine a time when I won’t be writing. I’ve never wanted to do anything else, so I will just keep going.”

He is already working on his next book – no details for sharing yet – and will spend the spring and summer in his beloved Galway, probably hunched over a notepad, carefully gliding a well-worn pen over blank pages.

Kevin Brophy’s books are available in hardback and softback, with Another Country due to hit the shelves in paperback the next few months. There are also now Amazon Kindle versions. His first novel has been translated into Polish, and he’s hopeful that a German translation will follow soon afterwards.

(c) Joe Mc Coubrey

JOE MC COUBREY, is a former Irish newspaper editor who is now a full-time action thriller writer. In the early seventies he was working in the Civil Service based at Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland Government, and was watching behind the scenes as some of the country’s most momentous events unfolded. These were the early dark days of the ‘troubles’ – events that reverberated around the world, and somehow served to push him towards his real passion of writing. He became a newspaperman, started his own media business, and took a front row seat as history was played out in Ireland.

His short action story Death By Licence has been published by Master Koda Select Publishing. His debut full-length thriller Someone Has To Pay is being released on September 3rd 2012. A second full-length actioner is at the editing stages, and work has started on an Irish crime thriller.

You can visit him at: http://joemccoubrey.com/

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