Interview with Sam Millar
First of all I have to say that this is the very first article on this blog whichs gets an English translation. So if anything is missspelled or unclear – blame me, it’s all my fault 😉
Sam Millar war born in 1955 in Belfast/ Northern Irland and had an very eventful life so far. At the age of 8 his mother left the family and Millar himself left the school at the age of 15. On January 30th 1972, the infamous Bloody Sunday, Millar was in Derry and witnessed the shooting of 13 unarmed protesters by British paratroopers. Millar became a member of the IRA and was arrested in 1973 for the first time. Released from prison three years later he got arrested again the same year. Millar didn’t drop his beliefs but became one of the Blanket Men.
When he was released again in 1984 he illegaly immigrated to the USA where he did several occasional jobs for his living. Finally he was able to live his dream by opening his own comic shop. In the year 1993 he had the opportunity for a robbery on a cash in transit depot owned by the company Brink’s. It was the fifth biggest robbery in the United States history. Millar got arrested again and transferred to back to Ireland. In 1997 he was released. He started writing his biography „On the Brink’s“ when he was still in jail. It was released in 2003. Today Millar lives in Belfast and is the author of several crime novels.
- 2003: On the Brinks. (biography)
- 2014: extended re-release
- 2003: Dark Souls
- 2005: The Redemption Factory
- 2006: The Darkness of Bones
The Karl Kane-novels:
- 2008: Bloodstorm
- 2009: The Dark Place
- 2013: The Dead of Winter
Now enough of my words, let’s start with the core of this article, our detailed interview with Sam Millar.
first of all I want to say „thank you“ for taking the time to answer us a few questions. I’m sure some of our readers know who you are but some surely don’t. So would you please be so kind and introduce yourself in a few words?
1) Sebastian, allow me to thank you for inviting me to this discussion. I am very honoured.
For those who do not know me, I am an Irish ex-political prisoner who has turned his hand to writing crime books, stage plays etc. Published in many countries in Europe as well as North America, I have been fortunate enough to win numerous literary awards. Recently, my memoir, On The Brinks (True Crime, in Germany) has been acquired by an American movie studio. I am also the author of the Karl Kane books.
Q) I am following your facebook account for a while now and it seems like you’re still a very political person. I can imagine that this causes a lot of trouble for you and your books in the UK? How are the reactions from other European countries?
2) Yes, I am very political and make no apologies about that. I have seen too much injustice in my life to be anything other than political. As well as having my country occupied by an armed and foreign army, I could not live with myself but to expose what goes on in my country. As far as my books being sold in Britain, I get a lot of hostility from the British press. On The Brinks was banned in Britain, but that was the best honour they could give me! They must be afraid of it. Thankfully, countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Canada and USA, have welcomed my books, and have been very good to me with support.
Q)Many people aren’t even aware that the Northern Ireland conflict is not over yet. You’re one of the few who stil talks about it in public. After reading „On the Brinks“ and some of the articles you share on your Facebook account I started to read more about it on Wikipedia and Google. Was that one of the intentions you had when you wrote the book? Animate people to start thinking, reading and get more information on their own?
3) The north of Ireland has become more oppressive than it ever was. People from outside think all is well here. That is understandable because most of the information comes via the propaganda from the British media. However, you may be shocked to know that interment without trial is still practiced here against Irish men and women, and used against Irish nationalists who speak out against Britain occupying my country. I have had threats against me by the political police PSNI, warning me that I should stick to writing, and keep quiet. But I will never do that.
On The Brinks has been a wakeup call to many countries on what Britain was doing to the political prisoners in Ireland, torturing and degrading them daily, under the orders of Margaret Thatcher. Britain is always great at wagging its finger, having the audacity to lecture other countries about torture and human rights, while they break every rule. It’s great seeing their arrogant hypocrisy exposed.
Q)Do you think it’s important to man up for ones believes in public even if that might mean to lose readers and of course money.
4) Yes, I lost too many good friends murdered by Britain to keep quiet. I think most Irish writers are cowards, more concerned about selling books in Britain that they are about exposing British terrorism in the north of Ireland. I have been told so many times that if I shut my eyes to what is happening in the north of Ireland, I would have so many doors opened for me to sell more books. To hell with that! My people expect me to be their voice, and their voice I will remain. Besides, who the hell needs Britain to sell books when you have Germany, France America et al.
Q) When you look at your personal background, is there something that you would like to change? Except not getting caught of course ;-).
5) Yes, getting caught would be top of the list! No seriously, I have made so many mistakes in my life, it would take all day to write about them. The biggest mistake I made was clowning about in school and not taking it serious. It wasn’t until I left school that I actually got an education!
Q)Your vitae is not the average authors vitae. You have been a political activist, you have been imprisoned, you have been charged for criminal activities. You started with writing a biography, now you’re writing thrillers. How does that fit together?
6) I’m living the dream I had as a kid to be a writer like Stan Lee (Marvel Comics). I’m a big collector of American comic books, since I was about 8 years old, when my father always brought me comics back from his many travels to New York. I remember telling my father when I was a kid that one day I would live in Queens New York, where Spiderman lived, and have my own comic book store. He laughed, but it came true.
I learned more from comics than I ever did any teacher at school. My memoir, On The Brinks, has recently been acquired by an American movie studio, and while I am excited about that, I am more excited that On The Brinks is to be made into a graphic novel! My whole world has gone full circle starting and finishing with comics.
Q) When was the first time you started thinking about writing „On the Brinks“?
7) When I was in the penitentiary in America. It was quite a violent place, so I began writing each day in my cell. I wrote to stay sane, never realising that one day it would be printed around the world.
Q)You’ve released seven books so far. Did you think about writing more than just your biography from the start? Was it a big difference from writing about your own life to writing a thriller?
8) I wrote one book before my memoir called Dark Souls. After I wrote On The Brinks, I did not know if I would be able to continue writing, if I had the stamina to be a writer, and if people would continue to support me by buying the books. Thankfully, they have and I continue to write. I’ve also wrote a successful political stage play called Brothers in Arms. It was very controversial, but became one of the biggest selling plays ever performed in Ireland. Sadly, it had to be cancelled as political fights were breaking out each time it was screened.
Q) You have been in Braunschweig in 2013 and last year for public readings. How important is it for you to get in touch with your readers? And are the readers over here different from those in your home country? And will you return to Germany some day?
9) When I first got invited to Germany (Berlin) I was very nervous. I did not know how the German people would react to me. But within minutes of meeting people in Berlin I was so happy, they made me feel at home. Of course, Germany has been very good to me, and I never forget that. I would go back any time I am invited.
Q) Warner Bros. had plans to make a movie from „On the Brinks“ then politics stepped in and it was cancelled. Are there any news on a new attempt to bring your book to the moviescreen?
10) When Warner bought the rights, I was so excited I could hardly sleep or eat. Then I saw the script. It was terrible. The typical Hollywood bullshit. I was very disappoint. Then George Bush stepped-in saying the book glorified terrorism (bullshit, it condemns British terrorism) and Warner got cold feet, and dropped the film. It was the best thing that ever happened because it would have been a terrible film. For the last two years I have been negotiating with movie studio Focus in America (http://www.focusfeatures.com/). They are a terrific movie studio, and I’m hoping this is the one to do On The Brinks correctly. I signed the contract yesterday, so once again I am very excited not eating or sleeping!.
Q) When I look at Karl Kanes background I can see some similarities to your own life. How much of your personality did you put into Karl?
11) Quite a bit. His dark humour is mine. The rest is from my father. He was exactly like Karl, always fighting for the underdog and fighting against injustice wherever he saw it.
Q) Of course there are some „classic“ questions I used in most of my interviews. The first one is: do you have any idols?
12) Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikers. My father.
Q) How does a day in your normal life look like?
13) Life is never normal in Belfast! I get up early and go to bed late, writing as much as possible. I have been gifted with the ‘writer’s disease’: insomnia. I also try and do some voluntary work with people who have mental health problems. My mother suffered from mental health, and walked out on us when I was 8, and I never saw her again. I hated her for deserting us, until I started working with people with mental health. Then I realised this was what she suffered. I felt ashamed of myself for hating her, but what do you expect from an 8 year-old kid?
Q) How do you work? Do you use a computer or a pen? Do you have a special „writing place“? How long do you need to finish a novel? What inspires you?
14) I work at my desk, usually with one of my two cats at my side trying to prevent me from writing! I used to use a pen, in longhand, but it was taking too long, so I now use a PC. I usually take 14-18 months to finish a novel. I do a lot of book signings in different countries Europe, so that takes me away from writing, and I need to catch up when I return home.
Q) What can we except from Sam Millar in the future? Are you working on any new projects?
15) at the moment I am working on two novels, one is a Karl Kane book, and the other a political thriller which will be very controversial here in Ireland, when it comes out. I also do book reviews for publications in New York. I always try and review books of lesser known writers, to try and give them publicity instead of the usual names you see all the time.
Q) Are there any projects you dream to realise?
16) I’ve wrote the screenplay for my first Karl Kane book, and the feedback I’ve been getting back from the TV studios is positive. I would love to see Karl on the screen. I think he would make a great character (but of course, I would say that, wouldn’t I!).
Q) Do you read a lot? Are there any authors you would recommend?
I try and read as much as possible, especially new writers. I have to admit, I read comic books every day, and have so many of them, I’ll probably be long time dead before I finish reading all of them. I would recommend two new crime authors I met recently, both great people and terrific writers. Jenny Rogneby author of Leona ( a breath-taking original novel). You may already know Jenny, because the book became a bestseller in Germany and she was covered extensively by the media in Germany. The other writer is Jax Miller, author of Freedom Child. This book has just taken Europe by storm, and rightly so. She has also been nominated for numerous literary award.
Well, that were a bunch of questions, I guess that’s it now. As usual in my interview the famous last words belong to you. Thank you again for your willingness to answer our questions and the kind communication.
Many thanks, Sebastian and friends. Thank you for giving me the time to spread a few words. You are very kind.