Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Interview with writer Jane McCulloch

Writer Jane McCulloch joins me today and we’re chatting about her novel, which is based on a true story, The Brini Boy.

Welcome, Jane. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.   
I spent most of my life working in theatre and opera, for which I wrote and directed. This work took me all over the world and I was lucky to work with many famous people including Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Timothy West, and Patricia Hodge, and in the world of opera, Jessye Norman and Sir Thomas Allen. Over 40 years, I ran two companies, English Chamber Theatre and Opera UK. Four years ago, I retired from both and began writing fiction. Since then I have written a trilogy of novels and this year published The Brini Boy, based on a true story. All my work is published on Amazon.

Please tell us a little bit about The Brini Boy.
It is 1919 in Plymouth Massachusetts. Trando Brini, a promising violinist and the child of Italian immigrants, is 13 years old and living quietly with his parents and their lodger, Bart Vanzetti. This is not a good time for Italian-Americans. Assassinations and bombings committed by a handful of Italian Anarchists on US soil has resulted in a tense climate of suspicion and paranoia. When known Anarchists Bart Vanzetti and Nick Sacco are arrested for their alleged roles in a fatal holdup, Trando knows for certain his friend Bart Vanzetti is innocent, because he was with him at the time of the robbery. Thus begins seven years of trials and appeals during which Trando, his community and a growing number of political activists and famous intellectuals, challenge a biased American Justice System. It is a struggle between David and Goliath, in which the ‘Brini Boy’ must risk everything – his musical career, his first love and the life of his dearest friend.

What was the inspiration for the book?
I came across the Sacco and Vanzetti case several years ago. It is a notorious miscarriage of justice and a compelling story, but what struck me most was that a boy of 13 went through a long ordeal on the witness stand to give his friend an alibi, and when that failed he stood by him through seven years of appeals to get the guilty verdict reversed. He never gave up, in spite of being threatened and having his musical career put in jeopardy. There is great tension and drama in Trando’s story, even a love story as well, and through the years of struggle he developed into an exceptional young man.

In this true story of courage, bravery and determination we can more fully understand the America of the present by revisiting its turbulent past.

You can find an excerpt of The Brini Boy here.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next book is in the planning stages – but will be about a war correspondent, who after long years in terrible war zones has returned to England and is trying to adjust to a life at home.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started writing at a very young age, about six! It was verses and short stories at first, then I went on to write plays and a pantomime at school. After leaving drama school I decided rather than be an actress I wanted to write for theatre and direct. Then five years ago, at the age of 72 I started writing novels and am now working on my fifth!

Do you write full-time?
Yes, I do in the sense that I have no other occupation. A book starts with plenty of planning and notes. Once this is completed I write quite quickly. I am not very disciplined in that I write so many words a day, but I usually work all morning and then late afternoon and evening I go over the work I have done and make corrections.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I started out wanting to be an actress but by the time I got to drama school, this had changed. Although I still wanted to work in theatre, it was more as a director and writer.

Since I began to write fiction I think my main aim has been to make the books entertaining and interesting to the reader. I have been careful in trying to avoid making the characters into caricatures.

Thanks for being here today, Jane.

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