Northern Irish novelist, Paul McCracken was born 16th January 1991 in the Ulster hospital, Dundonald, just outside of Belfast. He grew up in the Castlereagh area of east Belfast where he also went to school.
Ever since he could hold a pencil, he wanted to be an artist and no-one, not even the school career advisor could tell him otherwise. He left education with only three GCSE’s and an Art diploma. He tried to make it as a fine artist whilst also trying to find any work to support himself financially. However, the more he learned about the commercial art world, the more he wanted no part in it.
In spring 2011, he enrolled in a five day film making course through the Prince’s Trust charity. He always had a passion for storytelling. During the course, he impressed the owner of the studio at which the course was being held, through the raw creativity he displayed. The studio owner was the first to encourage Paul to write his own material, that material being screenplays. After leaving the course with new found confidence and ambition, Paul started to learn the craft of screenwriting and got to work writing his very first feature film.
After securing full time work later that year, he found a renewed inspiration to write again and wrote a full length film script in the space of a week. Paul kept on writing other projects as well as continually editing the first script, but he kept the fact he was writing close to himself as he didn’t want to face any negativity if he were to tell anyone. The script would go on to score highly in an international screenplay competition, based out of Los Angeles. It would then place in the quarter-finals of the same competition for the next two years in a row, accompanied by another screenplay that Paul wrote next.
Years later, after entering competitions, pitching, submitting and doing some occasional freelance scriptwriting, Paul wanted to find a way to get his work into the public eye. Writing a novel was a challenge that seemed daunting but also exciting. Having first thought of converting his best script into a novel, he decided to come up with a completely original story.
In 2018, he self published his debut novel, Layla’s Song.
In 2020 he secured two book deals with two different English publishers. The Conrad Press and PM Books (Imprint of Holland House Books). The first of these books was Where Crows Land, a detective thriller set in Belfast and published by The Conrad Press.
My thoughts: this was an interesting sci-fi story about two women on either side of a division. Cleo has joined the resistance and with her team of fellow rebels plans to strike a blow against the rulers of Denestra with a mythical item she’s been given a map to find. But her former ally and friend, Fhey will do anything to stop her.
A lot happens in a short space of time, the rebels are betrayed and pursued in their ship, Equinox, the device is retrieved then stolen, and we learn about why Cleo switched sides.
The ending felt a bit rushed, perhaps it could have been a longer book or even a duology so there was more room for the story to expand. But it’s a good space opera and has interesting ideas and characters.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.