A Moment With… Barry Kirwan

I am very pleased to be welcoming Barry Kirwan back to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for his latest novel, When The Children Return. This is the second book in the Children of the Eye series. 

Ten years have passed since the Axleth invaded Earth and a few hundred humans escaped aboard the ship Athena, piloted by the Artificial Intelligence who calls himself Ares. Now, the refugees approach Earth, determined to take back their home. But something has followed them from deep in space, and as war breaks out on Earth, humanity must decide who is the real enemy. 


I have reviewed the book below but first, Barry is here to share his writing process with us. Over to you, Barry.


My friends, family and colleagues all know I have a full-on day job, so the question they all ask, is when (the hell) I have time to write? I usually joke that I have a clone and a time machine, although I can’t quite recall which came first…

More seriously, I don’t sleep that much. You could call it insomnia, but I have no trouble falling asleep. It’s just that several times a week I wake up really early, like 3 or 4 in the morning. It’s actually a really great time to write, because nobody is emailing you, it’s dead quiet, and my mind is lucid, full of possibilities, whereas later in the day, frankly it’s knackered, and needs to veg out in front of Netflix or something. That early in the morning I’m writing in the kitchen, a cup of tea once an hour. If I have a good idea, I can’t type fast enough, and my tea goes cold…

Often I work in brasseries in the morning (e.g. from 7-9am), as I live just outside Paris, and the coffee is good, and the noise and bustle somehow stimulates my mind in a different way, maybe because I have to focus. I need to have the idea of the chapter, at least how it begins, and what’s at stake, before I can start. I never just start writing, hoping that somehow it will be good. It won’t be, not for me, it’ll be rubbish. So, I have to have the idea, a direction, and then I see where my fingers take me. I also need to have a sense of urgency, because I aim to write very pacey novels, and that is not just down to tricks; I have to feel that way when I’m writing.

I’m mean to my characters. A lot of crap happens to them. If they could meet me I person in the real, I don’t think I’d last long. But I do suffer with them, and can get quite emotional when I’m writing, which can be awkward when sitting in a busy brasserie, shedding a tear into my espresso macchiato. It’s rare I put tears on the page though, rather I leave it understated, and usually the reader gets it, and they feel it too when a character is having a really rough time, or gets killed off.

I write the whole book, only going back over earlier chapters once or twice if I realise I have to change something major. I don’t use tools like Scrivener to keep up with all the characters in my head, what they look like, their peccadilloes, the timelines etc., even though I have a lot of characters. I don’t use such tools as I figure the reader doesn’t either, and if I can’t keep them all in my head, what chance does the reader have?

Once I get near the end I usually hit a block, because I decide the ending isn’t good enough, or is too much ‘on the nose’, or too much ‘deus ex machina.’ It usually takes a month of banging my head on the brasserie table before the ‘aha’ moment, and then I set new typing speed personal records.

I then go through the whole thing a few more times, with a few weeks in between so I can look at it with semi-fresh (probably bleary) eyes. I have two readers I trust, who read everything. And then when I think it’s ready, I send it to a freelance editor, usually someone from outfits like Cornerstones or Jericho Writers. I wait like an expectant father until I get the feedback. I don’t react immediately, instead waiting a week or two before I start to address all the issues. Then I send it to my copy editor. She has loads of questions that I answer. Then I send it to a completely different editor, see what comes back (hopefully less suggestions than the first), make the changes, sit on it a while, polish the writing one last time, then back to the copy editor.

Once it’s done, I still wait a while, read it again a couple of times, and then set about publishing it via Amazon KDP. Then more waiting, a launch and a blog tour, and praying that it sells and gets great reviews before the inevitable not-so-great ones (there are trolls out there, believe me!) can smother it while it’s still in the crib. The stress of a book launch gives me insomnia, and there’s only one cure. You can guess, right? start writing the next book.

This process used to be two years, but now it’s a bit less than one. I also publish thrillers (J F Kirwan) via traditional publishers, and then the process is a bit different and not so hectic, but that’s another story…


About Barry Kirwan:

I grew up in Farnborough, England, home to the fast-jet Red Arrows, and started writing when still at school, a weekly satirical thriller called the Adventures of Blackie the Cat for my classmates. I then got hooked on academic writing for my day job (preventing disasters in nuclear power plants, oil rigs and aircraft) and published four text books on human error. It wasn’t until I moved to Paris that I started writing fiction again, with the Eden Paradox released in 2011. It was intended to be a one-off, but I got a lot of fans demanding more, and so it went ‘epic’, a space opera of four books.

After an accident with my back and two subsequent operations, I was laid up for a long while and couldn’t scuba dive – my other passion – so I wrote a thriller about a spy who was also a scuba diver, and the Nadia Laksheva series was (to my amazement at the time) snapped up by HarperCollins. They asked me to use a pseudonym, which is where the initials J F came from, borrowed from my late father, who loved thrillers.

Although I keep my work and fiction separate (some of my colleagues aren’t convinced) the fiction is always influenced by my psychological training, and an unending fascination with how the mind works, and how it can go off the rails. This most clearly comes out in my two new series, Greg Adams (The Dead Tell Lies) and Children of the Eye (When the Children Come).

My favourite scifi authors range from Asimov and Clarke, to Brin, McDevitt, Hamilton, Asher and Reynolds. My favourite thriller writers are Baldacci, Child and Nesbo. My favourite moment as an author is when I’m sitting with my laptop with an espresso macchiato, wondering what comes next in a story, when suddenly it arrives, and I can’t type fast enough.

Say hello via my website, Twitter and Facebook.

When the Children return is the second novel in the Children of the Eye series. Click to buy When The Children return via Amazon UK and Amazon US.


My verdict on When The Children Return. 

When the Children Return picks up ten years after the events of book one, When the Children Come.

Nathan, Sally, Raphaela, Lara and Ares are making their way back to earth aboard the Athena to attempt to defeat the Axleth and take back earth.

However, danger lurks nearby and it will take everything they have to survive, even if it means trusting the enemy.

I was so excited to be invited onto the blog tour for When The Children Return. I read the first book in this series back at the beginning of the year and I really wanted to know what became of all these characters.

Having been in space for ten years, the overwhelming sense of tiredness is almost palpable. Many of the ships passengers, like the reader, wonder what happened to those who remained on earth and are haunted by memories of what their parents did to siblings. There is a strong sense of revenge and determination that threads through this novel.

If you’re new to this series, I recommend that you read book one first otherwise a lot of book two might not make sense. In my opinion, it can’t be read as a standalone.

This book was just as compelling as its predecessor and as moreish. I read it in pretty much one sitting.

The twists and turns in the plot continue and I was never sure where the story was going to go.

I continued to root for Nathan and Sally as they made a stand for earth.

The description of the Athena is so vivid, as were the descriptions of the cities on earth that I could really picture the setting and feel the tense atmosphere that surrounded these characters. It was interesting to me to see how the dynamics change between Nathan and Sally.

Barry Kirwan continues to thread unrelenting danger, suspense, tension and action.

If you follow this blog regularly, you’ll know that I don’t like to give too much away.

When The Children Return is a thrilling, fast-paced novel that had me reading into the early hours.

If you’re looking for a new sci-fi series that has psychological thriller elements, I recommend these novels.

Bring on book three.

(Thank you to Barry Kirwan and Rachel’s Random Resources for the advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.) 


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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