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Layla’s Song by Paul McCracken

Writing.ie | Magazine | Tell Your Own Story | Writing & Me
Paul McCracken

Paul McCracken

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I started writing at the age of nineteen after attending a short five day film making course for the unemployed. I was the nervous, shy and quiet kid but I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd with this opportunity. So I put myself out there and came forward with my own short film script. I got to lead my own project and was helped by two others attending the course who became my actors. I independently directed, shot and edited my own short film. The owner of the studio was impressed by the material once overlooking it during the editing stage. He was a bit shocked to hear that I had no formal training in film making, it was all down to my own raw talent and what I absorbed from watching and learning about movies.

I had always been creative, wanting to be an artist since primary school but now I saw another path. Towards the end of the course, the owner of the small film studio encouraged me to start writing my own material, so I did. I started to learn the craft of scriptwriting and continued to after securing a full-time job a few months after the course. I became obsessed with writing. I started writing my own scripts.

The flame of writing fizzled out for me when work started to take over but it was reignited a year later when I was put out of work for two weeks with a hand injury. During that time, I wrote what came to be (and still is) my best script. I entered it into an international screenplay competition in Los Angeles. I kept my writing a secret from family and friends in a bid to avoid any negativity. It was Christmas eve when I got my competition score back. I was desperately seeking validation that the script was maybe “OK” but the score I got back blew me away. I got 84%. That was when everything for me was validated. It was as good as I thought it was in a sense. That’s when I started to take writing very seriously.

I wasn’t afraid to let people know about my writing any more because I had that competition score to me up.

A year on from that, I entered the script again, redrafted as well as a new script. They both made the quarter-finals.

From then I started to pitch both scripts to agents, film companies, producers etc. I also did a little bit of freelance work. Adapting novels into scripts. There were a lot of projects that seemed promising such as writing for a number of web series’ but all of them fell through due to either funding or scheduling.

I began to wonder if my work would ever see the light of day. I wanted more than anything for people to see my work. That’s when the idea of turning to writing novels started to niggle at me. It appeared to me as being a giant challenge to write a full length novel and I wasn’t sure if I was capable of doing it. I got a concept for a plot, a new script, but I decided to make it into my first novel.

With that novel, I acquired an agent and a publishing deal. It has been a long road to publication but it will hopefully be out this year. It is called The Last Rains Of Winter.

The Last Rains Of Winter is the first story that I wrote that was based locally, in Northern Ireland. It became rushed towards the half way point as I found out that my fiancé was pregnant with my daughter. I completed it a month before she was born.

With a family now and a full-time job, time became increasingly more scarce. I contemplated walking away from it but I soon learned that I couldn’t give up on it. I had too much belief that I could make it in the industry.

Just before my daughter’s first birthday, I began to write my latest novel Layla’s Song, a kidnap thriller set mainly in Belfast but also going as far as Dublin. When coming up with the concept of the book, I was thinking about what scared me most, what was my greatest fear?

I remembered a quote by one of my favourite authors, Richard Laymon.: ”Horror writers are specialists in the worst case scenario.”

Although horror isn’t my genre, my greatest fears had changed since my daughter was born. My greatest fears were no longer about myself but rather about her. That’s where I got the inspiration to write Layla’s Song.

The start of the story came very quick to me. I didn’t do a complete outline of the story but rather making small notes either on the laptop notepad or my own notepad about key scenes further along the narrative. I wrote it all as it came to me. Making it up as I went. The third act was when I started to question myself a lot. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to tie it up. Did I want a straight forward happy ending? Something bittersweet or something else entirely? Most of all, I didn’t want it to be predictable.

While I am promoting Layla’s Song and awaiting the release of The Last Rains Of Winter, I am also working on my next book.

My current work in progress is a murder/mystery. It takes on a more rural theme, set in Northern Ireland. It follows a private detective who takes an interest in a case after the death of a friend. The case becomes more complex as it soon becomes clear that he is dealing with a serial killer with a particular M.O.

(c) Paul McCracken

About Layla’s Song:

How far would you go to save the ones you love? In this gritty and fast-paced thriller, Michael and Carl are two estranged brothers that must come together to raise the £100,000 ransom on Michael’s daughter, Layla.

Michael’s worst fears are realized when his criminal past catches up to him. His daughter is kidnapped by his old gang, who are intent on getting back what Michael owes to them. With the help of his estranged brother, Carl. They must find a way of coming up with the ransom within five days. Michael’s journey will take him the whole way from Belfast to Dublin.

‘I’ve always seen Northern Ireland to be a great setting and backdrop for stories that could reach a worldwide audience. I wanted to create an exciting and engaging story which is set here.’ – Paul McCracken, Author of Layla’s Song.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Paul McCracken grew up in the Castlereagh area of east Belfast where he also went to school. Ever since he could hold a pencil, he wanted to be an artist and no-one, not even the school career advisor, could tell him otherwise.
In spring 2011, he enrolled in a film making course through the Prince’s Trust, where he impressed the owner of the studio through the raw creativity he displayed. The studio owner encouraged Paul to write his own screenplays. With new-found confidence and ambition, Paul learnt the craft of screenwriting and got to work on his very first feature film, writing a full-length film script in the space of a week. The script would go on to score highly in an international screenplay competition, based out of Los Angeles.
Years later, after entering competitions, pitching, submitting and doing some occasional freelance scriptwriting, Paul wanted to find a way to get his work into the public eye. Writing a novel was a challenge that seemed daunting but also exciting. Having first thought of converting his best script into a novel, he decided to come up with a completely original story. The novel would secure Paul an agent as well as a publishing contract. Paul is now 27, still a factory worker who moonlights as a writer, hoping that his writing will be his lottery ticket out of the factory. He has a daughter who is coming two. She is the inspiration behind his new novel “Layla’s Song”, a kidnap thriller set in Belfast.

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