Martin, I’m delighted to have another interview with you. When you asked me to review your new book, “My Name is Hardly,” I was pleased you asked and enjoyed your story very much. The premise for your story is completely different from anything I have read before. Could you tell your audience a little about book?
Hi Stephanie, it’s great to be able to talk to you. Thanks for having me!
“My Name is Hardly” is the story of Gerald “Hardly” McDougall, one of the characters from my first book, “My Temporary Life”. I wrote about Hardly’s life while he served in the British Army. Hardly was a loft-sitter, a spy who sat above the homes of ordinary folks, on ordinary streets, trying to garner information on the comings and goings of the Irish Republican Army. Without giving away too much of the plot, Hardly ends up in the loft, or attic, of a house where the IRA Provos are very, very close. Although some of the story takes place while he’s in the loft the actual novel covers twenty years of his life. And, thank you, it was a book that became a bit of a self-discovery as I wrote it. During my research, as I was learning about the time of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland I was discovering things about myself at the same time. It’s interesting to put yourself in your character’s shoes and wonder what you would have done in a specific situation.
Hardly is an intriguing person, how long did it take you to develop his character? Was he based on a real person?
I joke that I’ve now lived with Hardly for over three years. Through the course of the two books, I’ve been with him when he was physically abused as a young lad, I was there when he lost his virginity, and I was there when he made the single decision that defined him as a man.
Hardly is based on several people and I’ve had many readers tell me that they were Hardly or that they knew Hardly. I’m writing about him again in the third book of the trilogy and although he isn’t as prominent in this book I am enjoying being able to write about him once more.
I have never heard of loft-sitters before reading your book. How did you come across them and what was some of your research involved in learning about them and what their purpose was?
I hadn’t heard about them until a few years ago either. Then I met a retired British soldier who was a loft-sitter and he told me about some of his experiences. His stories stayed with me and when I wanted to write Hardly into that situation I tried to find information on other loft-sitters. There was virtually nothing out there. Finally, I found a newspaper article that was a story about Brit soldiers running from the attic of a building in Belfast when a fire alarm went off. They had been stationed up a loft and when the alarm sounded they were evacuated into a waiting military vehicle. According to the newspaper story, when an IRA spokesperson was interviewed afterwards he claimed the IRA had always been aware that soldiers were stationed in lofts “up and down their streets”. That part really interested me. Soldiers were snuck up these lofts in the middle of the night, with the help of homeowners who were sympathetic to the Brits. So, here they were, sitting-ducks, not knowing whether the homeowners would change their minds and shop them to the IRA or whether the Provos would find them themselves. It was a precarious position with no way out. The only exit was back down and out through the house. And, to top it off, the IRA may very well have known they were there the whole time.
As part of my research I contacted the UK Ministry of Defence. Unfortunately they didn’t respond until after the book was published, but they did confirm that there was further information on loft-sitters and it was available through their Freedom of Information act. At this point I haven’t pursued it.
Also, as part of my research I had an ex-newspaper reporter who reported from Northern Ireland during the time of The Troubles fact-check my manuscript. He confirmed that he remembered stories about soldiers stationed up lofts, and in some of the old tenement buildings they could even wander from house to house up there, as there were no dividing walls between some of them. The soldiers stayed up there for several days, eavesdropping on conversations as neighbors visited down below. Rarely were there actual IRA members below them but the mothers and fathers of the boys involved in some of the bombings were sometimes there, and from time to time they’d let something slip in a conversation, and that’s what the soldiers were looking for.
And, finally, once the book was published, I received a couple of emails from a woman whose husband was a loft-sitter during this time. The information she gave me is confidential but I can tell you that he confirmed all of my facts also. And, as a very nice by-product of it all, she thanked me for helping her to understand what he was faced with during his tours of Northern Ireland. She said they’d both read my book and it had helped them have some productive conversations about a time that until now they’d chosen to ignore. That alone made it all worthwhile.
There are several elements to your story that I found to be well written. For example, a little romance, politics, spies, military scenarios, and a fine balance of the human condition during these events taking place. In your mind how do you bring it all together in a nice package? Where there any challenges?
It’s just telling a story. I like hearing a good story and that’s what I try to write. I read a sci-fi book a few months ago and that’s totally not a genre I enjoy but the story was just so darn compelling. Readers have told me they feel the same way about Hardly’s story, and the fact that it reveals little known facts about a time in recent history makes it even more interesting I think. And yes, the challenge was trying to make the setting and people and story as authentic as possible. Most of the story takes place in the mid nineties and that’s a very recent time of course, so I spent many hours trying to make sure that when a reader opened up their book or turned on their kindle, they felt as though they were actually there.
How long did it take you to write your story?
This book took ten months to write. I initially was going to continue writing about Malcolm and Heather, the two main characters from “My Temporary Life” but readers emailed and messaged asking for more about Hardly. So, I was happy to oblige.
What would you hope your readers come away with when reading your story?
I would hope that they see this book as a balanced opinion on a very complicated conflict.
Thank you for chatting with me about your book. Now on the more personal side. How many hours a week do you spend on writing? Do you have routine?
I try and write every day but unfortunately some days that just isn’t possible. As you know, Stephanie, I’m self-published so a lot of my writing time is devoted to promoting my books and trying to find ways to expand my reader base. My routine varies but most days I spend several hours in front of my computer and I don’t mean that to sound like a chore because it’s not. I have the best job in the world.
What is your favorite literary genre?
I enjoy stories, well-told stories. And, I like books that can’t be classified, or are at least difficult to classify. Most of those fall under the heading of literary fiction I suppose.
Are you currently reading anything right now? If so, what book?
I just finished “The Prisoner of Heaven” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and now I’m reading Laurie Boris’ book “Don’t Tell Anyone” and believe it or not I’m also reading Caesar the Dog Whisperer’s book. We have a new dog joining our family shortly and I’m trying to learn how to be the “pack leader”.
What do you so when you are not writing or reading?
I run. I have a group of friends and we run a couple of times a week. Sundays are our long runs. I ran a marathon last year but this year I’m concentrating on half-marathons. I ran a half last Sunday and it was lots of fun. Our new dog enjoys running too, apparently, so it looks like I’ll have a new running partner.
Paperback or e-book?
You know I truly love my kindle. I’m reading so many more books since I
got it but I still love the feeling of a print book too. I packed up a few
boxes of books recently, clearing them away before the new dog arrives, and I
paused and held onto several of my old books as I packed them away. For me,
it’s not just the feeling of the book, but it’s the feeling the book gave you when you read it too, and I don’t get that as I page through the books on my kindle. So, I need both in my life-print and e-books.
On average how many books do you read per year?
When I’m writing I don’t read any. Right now I’ve just started a new book so I’m finishing off my current reads. So, it varies. Once I’ve finished this book, by late Spring I hope, I’ll start reading a couple of books a month again.
Thank you Martin!
Thanks again for having me, Stephanie, that was fun!
In a press release, Amazon referred to Martin Crosbie as one of their success stories of 2012. His self-publishing journey has been chronicled in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Martin’s debut novel, MY TEMPORARY LIFE, has been downloaded over one hundred thousand times and became an Amazon bestseller. MY NAME IS HARDLY, his second book, was written following reader requests to hear more about Hardly, the beloved character from MY TEMPORARY LIFE.
Martin was born in the Highlands of Scotland and currently makes his home, with his partner Jacquelyne, in Cloverdale, British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada. The third book in the MY TEMPORARY LIFE Trilogy is due to be released in Spring 2013.
My review for, “My Name is Hardly.”
When Martin Crosbie approached me about reviewing his latest novel,” My Name is Hardly”, I was delighted and curious about his new story, so I agreed to take a look. I’m a reviewer for historical fiction, so this was a change for me. Having interviewed Martin previously about his novel, My Temporary Life, for indieBRAG and hearing nothing but wonderful things about his work I knew I made the right decision.
This story centers on his protagonist, Hardly, who served in the British army and becomes a loft-sitter-spying on IRA Provos. I found myself really intrigued with Hardly, he is a complex character who has had many struggles in life. Including an abusive childhood from his mother and his surrogate father. There were many scenes in the story that reached out to me and really had me thinking about choices we make in life and living with the end results.
Crosbie’s plot is engaging, sophisticated, thought provoking. He gives you a wonderful blend of romance, politics, spies, military scenarios, family life struggles and a fine balance of the human condition during the events that take place. I’ve never heard of loft-sitters before reading this story and I‘m interested in exploring more about this subject. Crosbie’s zeal and dedication to his writing shines through his novel. I highly recommend reading this unique and captivating story.