Brian McGilloway is remarkably successful - and equally as modest. He blushes as he reveals that his book ‘Little Girl Lost’ has sold in excess of a staggering 300,000 copies.
He remains cautious about his future as an author.
“You’re only as good as your last book,” he says, and he admits he is nervous about how his latest release ‘Hurt’ will be received.
Although his seventh novel, ‘Hurt’ is only the second of his books to feature a female lead DS Lucy Black, and the second of his novels to be set in his native Derry.
But it follows hotly on the heels of the “unexpected” success of ‘Little Girl Lost’ which soared to the top of the Amazon Kindle charts earlier this year - more than two years since it was first released.
In fact when Brian first sat down to write this sequel, he feared ‘Little Girl Lost’ had not hit the right notes with readers.
“It was difficult to write this book against the heaving disappointment of ‘Little Girl Lost’ having disappeared from view without much of a response. I wasn’t sure people would want to read more from DS Lucy Black.”
And perhaps it had been a risk to write a female lead. Brian had enjoyed great success and critical acclaim with his previous books, all featuring a male lead in form of Inspector Benedict Devlin.
He admits the ‘Lucy’ books are also a great deal darker in tone than their Devlin counterparts. So as he sat down to write ‘Hurt’ he wasn’t sure it would ever see the light of day.
However, earlier this year - for reasons Brian does not yet fully understand - the book started to climb the Amazon charts, finally hitting that coveted number one spot.
It continues to sit high in the Amazon charts - and has garnered in excess of 1200 reviews - with an average 4.5 out of 5 rating.
“I was just incredibly lucky,” Brian said. “It does come down to luck. There are so many great writers out there - but I was lucky. People read the book and wanted to share their thoughts on it and on it went from there. I do feel very blessed.”
Indeed on the success of ‘Little Girl Lost’ and his impressive back catalogue of Devlin novels, Brian signed a deal for two more ‘Lucy’ books with Constable & Robinson Ltd.
‘Hurt’ will receive a launch both in Derry (tonight at the Verbal Arts Centre) and in London. But aside from the glamour of getting his getting his latest book out there, Brian admits that researching ‘Hurt’ was at times difficult and distressing.
The book - which follows on indirectly from ‘Little Girl Lost’ - deals with the very topical and disturbing issue of the abuse of children within the care system and with the grooming of vulnerable young people.
“It was difficult. I wanted to do enough research to write the story accurately but not so much that I would left carrying around some very distressing information in my head.”
His starting point was a report compiled by Barnardos in 2010 on internet safety - a report he describes as “essential reading for any parent” - and this was followed by chats with people within the social work profession.
At the same time news of the Rochdale care home scandal started to break.
‘Hurt’ opens with the discovery of the body of a 16 year old girl on the train line on the way into Derry. The only clues to the dead teenager’s last movements are stored in her mobile phone and on social media - and it soon becomes clear that her ‘friends’ were not as trustworthy as she thought.
Brian says that while ‘Hurt’ works a standalone novel, readers of ‘Little Girl Lost’ will notice some of the strands - and the fallout - from book one carry on through this latest release.
“In a lot of crime fiction, the book ends and everything is dealt with - cleaned up and all the loose ends tied. Life is not like that - it does not work in that way. Crime and violence have an impact which lasts far and beyond the initial event.”
As a man himself Brian admits that writing a female lead has at times been a challenge - but he wanted to write a new type of female crime lead.
“In a lot of crime on television, the female leads are quite masculine - when you think of the likes of The Fall - but I wanted to make Lucy more relatable.”
Running the early drafts of the book past his female agent and also his wife Tanya he was able to weed out inconsistences - and the result seems to work. Or at least in excess of 300,000 readers on Amazon seem to think so.
‘Hurt’ is launched tonight as part of the Killer Books Festival at The Verbal Arts Centre.
For the full programme of events ‘like’ the VAC on Facebook.