SUMMER/AUTUMN 2015 / VOL 15 ISSUE 2
Books
 

Belfast Child
An Interview with Featured Author 
Greg McVicker

By Kimberly Ellingson


In his book of personal reflections and poems, Through the Eyes of a Belfast Child, featured author Greg McVicker recounts his childhood in Northern Ireland during one of the darker times in Irish history. I sat down with McVicker and discussed his story, his writing process and what it was like to finally return home. 

KE: Is this your first time in Milwaukee?

GM: I actually have friends in the Milwaukee area, so Iíve been in and out of here for the last ten years, but this is my first time seeing such an extravagant cultural event celebrating all about being Irish. 

KE: What is your book about?

GM: Belfast Child takes you through my experiences as a young lad growing up from 1970 when I was born to 1985 in Northern Ireland. We were an Irish Catholic family; although my siblings and I were all given English names by my Mum so we could blend in, we were often identified by our school uniforms and started hearing the very derogatory terminology cast against us which we had no understanding of because we werenít involved in any of the political movements. We were just an Irish Catholic family, but again they targeted us as a result of a lot of the ethnic cleansing that was going on.

The book itself takes you through a memoir and autobiography of my life starting at the age of 15. I carry you through different segments of my life, up until 2005 when my mom had passed. And I bring you through that section up to learning how to stand on my own two feet as somebody who is now living life as a social worker and working with several marginalized populations and people who have had their own very traumatic experiences in life

KE: Have your experiences growing up helped you in your career as a social worker?

GM: Tremendously. Seeing all the racism and the discrimination that went on, and seeing all the marginalized populations I work with now in child and family services. I try to help people overcome some of the barriers that they face and social circles, environment circles, basically any part of daily living. I let them know that I from a very rough place, a war myself, a political war and Iím still standing here today telling my own story.

KE: What was your process for writing this book? How did you decide to write it?

GM: Iíve been writing poetry. I always wanted to be a musician and I started trying to write songs. I always thought my songs began as poems, and no matter how much work I put into them it was always a poem. So Iíd been writing poems for 15 years and one day, a colleague of mine had been reading my poetry and said "why donít you write a book, Greg?í So in two weeks the first draft of Belfast Child was written. 

My dog of 16.5 years died in my arms, so my coping mechanism was to write. Within two weeks the original draft went from 42,000 to 72,325 words. And then I just kept writing after that. The editing process was the absolute horrible part of writing a book. Writing was the easy part. They stripped 13,000 words out to make it the book that it is today. 

Although it was submitted and accepted for publication and the story had ended about the Belfast Child, the very next day that I got it back from my editor and publisher there was actually a world event, the death of Nelson Mandela, who also aspired for global change and for us to recognize who we are as human beings and so I had to write about that. My publisher was like, "Greg you canít do that you canít write no more. But I felt it had to be said.

In true Irish fashion, you get to the end of the book and you think youíre done, but thereís a whole other conversation waiting for you. 

KE: Where are you living now?

GM: Iím living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Thatís where we immigrated to in 1985. I was homesick for 18 years and really didnít want to live in Winnipeg, I wanted to home. A lot of the story itself centers around my desire to go home. I thought everything was frozen in time. I came back as a man, but all my friends were also grown as well. That was one of the biggest cultural shocks Iíve experienced was seeing that everybody had also grown up and time hadnít stood still. 


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