BBB: What inspired you to become a writer?
BS: As a kid, I always loved movies and television, especially things that had to do with intrigue, crime, suspense, mystery, espionage, etc… anything with action really. I was always drawn to stories with unexpected twists and turns but which also had characters who bore their souls and showed their human side. Also, I read a lot of George Orwell – his characters always resonated with me, especially how they always struggled with society, our institutions, governments, and their own thoughts and beliefs. As an adult, I read anything from crime, to espionage, to terrorism, to history to war novels, and these subjects often got my mind swirling with ideas – to the point that I would daydream stories, turning them back and forward in my head over and over again. Eventually, I started to jot down ideas and themes for books and short stories.
BS: I wanted to write an action packed thriller that wasn’t the typical murder, spy, detective, mystery story that had been repackaged over and over again a thousand times. Irish Blood came about because I had kind of a different background than most people, which gave me a unique perspective and story to tell. I was born in Belfast and my parents left for the United States in 1970, when I was two years old. My family life was vastly different than most of the people in my neighborhood. We lived in a row home in Philadelphia like a lot of other people but my parents always kept us really close to our Irish roots and a lot of very interesting Irish characters. My brother, my sister, and I all grew up with an incredible sense of Irish pride and were raised to believe that we were different – not better than others – but different in the way we viewed our connection to Ireland – to never forget the struggles going on at “home” as my parents called it. Although Irish Blood is a fast-paced fictional thriller set in Ireland and America in the late 90’s, many of the events that take place in this book are loosely based on my own experiences or those of people I came across in my life growing up as an Irish kid in the US. Most of the characters are based on individuals I met first hand, was told about, or read about since I was a young boy.
In addition, I wanted my story to touch on Irish American sympathies for “The Troubles” in Ireland, and the interplay between the FBI and those suspected of running guns to the IRA from the US in the 1980s and 1990s. It was important to me that the story also subtly revealed the transformation of Northern Ireland over the last fifty years, without hitting the reader over the head with a history lesson. I have been back to Ireland three times since I left and each time I came back with a different perspective. At age five, I was an innocent and clueless child led around by hand in a war torn land. Oddly, I still have memories of that. When I was fifteen, my parents took me to Belfast again and I returned to the US, rebellious and enamored with the IRA, totally enthralled by anything involved with the fight for Irish freedom. Just a few years ago, when I was forty, I took my own family back to Ireland and returned to a country that seemed newly healed due to the vision of men convinced that open discourse rather than violence could bring about peace. These trips influenced me a great deal and sort of compelled me to write the book.
BBB: Tell us about your main character, Mick McKenna.
BS: We meet Mick McKenna on what is probably the most horrible day of his life – the day he buries his wife, Sarah. The book begins by telling the story of Sarah’s death while the couple honeymooned in Ireland and the difficulties our hero encounters thereafter as he tries to deal with the reality that she is gone and has been murdered for reasons he cannot even begin to understand. Early on, we find Mick dealing with some fairly typical post-traumatic stress, which causes him to irrationally head back to Ireland to seek answers. Mick travels in some Catholic circles that eventually lead him to those most afflicted by The Troubles. Meanwhile, he struggles with an extreme amount of guilt, which stems from his attraction to a young woman named Jillian, who helps him to deal with his grief and to understand the war torn land where his life was viciously ripped apart. As he starts to move toward some sort of rationale for Sarah’s death, the story takes a drastic turn and our intrigue really starts to build.
Mick is a character to whom most Irish Americans will immediately connect. He is proud of his Irish heritage but ends up getting a lesson in love of country that completely transforms him as a person. His journey is one of grief, faith, love, forgiveness, and healing. Through this roller coaster ride, we find out that he’s kind of a badass and also that he’s one smart cookie who has to fight against time, an IRA splinter group, and even the FBI, to protect the people and the two countries he loves.
BBB: What do you think readers will enjoy most about your book?
BS: Readers will enjoy being sucked into the story from the very first page due to both the amount of action involved and also because of a need to find out what happens with these characters who really kind of touch your soul. This is not the type of thriller which has dead spots or chapters that you know the author wrote merely to make the book longer. We get right into the thick of the story immediately and we have action. There are bombings, arms dealing, murder, espionage, and international terrorism, but that is all surrounded by an intense and personal narrative with deeply human characters who we almost want to reach into the pages and help. I’ve had more than a few people tell me that they have cried at parts during the book or that it brought them back to various times in their lives, so I think the story really resonates with people. There’s a lot of sadness and passion woven into the book that keeps the reader’s interest since everyone wants to see if and how that can all be resolved.
BS: Yes. It’s another thriller set in New York City but this time the hero is a young man of Yemeni descent who lost his parents in the attack on the Twin Towers but who is thrown into the post 9/11 world of radical Muslim terrorism. It will explore themes facing young people today who have grown up in the first generation to see and fear terrorism on US soil. Most of us grew up during the Cold War, fearing the Russians half way around the world and some almost abstract threat of a nuclear holocaust. Now, my children grow up in a world where we fear al-Qaeda and individual terrorist attacks that we see on TV every day. It's a topic that a lot of people are interested in right now and I really think my readers will enjoy it – so, stay tuned!
BS: Readers can follow me on:
The Irish Blood Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ByBrendanSullivan
Book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Irish-Blood-Brendan-Sean-Sullivan-ebook/dp/B00BXQ565O