Monday, February 16, 2015


DEAR TEEN ME, by Michael Gibney.

Michael with his dog, Toffee. 1997. Age 15.
Dear Teen Me,
Oh what to say. You are full of dreams and faith and have not yet experienced the sharp pain and fear from disillusionment. I do not wish to be negative so please take everything I say as a positive. Trust you, you know what you're talking about. I need to warn you of such things and then I will get to the good stuff coming your way. First of all you are in High School and by now you know that it's only primary school amplified. Don't expect any support from your teachers at High School nor to find any ambitious creative types amongst your peers, there are none to be found and this will make you feel more isolated and alone (and even if there were, they're either too afraid they'll get laughed at and mocked by the conservative teachers who would out them in class for daring to have such high expectations or they've already gotten a fair dose of criticism from the school for having a dream that they've already given up.) As you are probably well aware of, you're in a small town with a very limited population and a lot of narrow views from narrow minds. You're from the City, so already you are not like them. Nothing's going on because your local town your parents brought you to is run by the blandest, bleakest form of grim religious conservatism you'll ever come across. But don't worry, in a really weird way this helps you become an extreme artist and instead of putting you off your dream, it will ignite the sparkling wire to your ambitions. Oh, by the way, your hero (at this time) Kurt Cobain does something really stupid which will really upset you, but you'll take even greater inspiration from his art and his music. 
Michael practicing chords. 1994.

Michael Gibney in 1996
Don't expect many friends here. Most will laugh behind your back and stick the knife in but that's okay. It's only their self-projection onto you and you'll soon realise later when you run into a few classmates in the future, (especially the bullies) that they all actually really respected you. You'll wonder why you never got bullied, yet all the other poor souls did. Well, your humour and rebellious ways and image serve as a protection to you. The Bullies are actually afraid of your 'weirdness'. Be careful not to disclose any personal ambitions as the teachers aren't there to back you or encourage you. They're only there for the paycheque and to feel superior and abuse any little dose of power they can to satisfy their power trip.  
Just ride it out. You'll suck at most things because of the uninspiring environment that you're in but you'll make the best of it. It's not all that bad. The food in the cafeteria is good and you'll get to ditch assembly most of the time when you hide out in the music rooms. Actually, you'll get to diss a lot of phys-ed when you're in the music rooms too. Just stay on the right side of the head music teacher Mrs. Rea as she can be very hot and cold while going through her menopause. 
You can get paid a few pounds forging and faking sick lines by parents because right now you have an amazing talent for different styles of signatures which the jocks will ask you for. But this won't last. Probably a good thing it was only temporary talent and technology takes over in a few years, otherwise you may have been tempted to commit fraud as an adult if you got desperate enough. 
You won't be good at most subjects. But you have always loved art and it's in this class you can relax and have fun, especially when the only teacher who is not a condescending moron encourages you to believe in yourself and is your biggest fan. You'll not only love him, but the entire school ends up loving him because he is not like the others. He is your friend and supporter. The only one. The rest of the teachers are jealous and dislike him, which only makes Mr. Patton that much cooler. Because he is an artist first and teacher second. 
Don't sweat the dreaded exams. But I must warn you, you're totally crap at Math. Don't beet yourself up about it. You never will be, even when you get to my age. Your brain just cannot function that way, no matter how hard you try, it's just wired to  excel in creative and artistic ways. Oh, and because your left handed some teachers won't cut you slack on your poor handwriting but you'll be deluded into thinking there's nothing wrong with it when in fact it does look pretty awful dude. You're going to do average on your test because you've always been average. Please look at this as a good thing since you managed to get average grades in a poor public school whose teachers were below average in every sense. It is not your fault, it is theirs and their bad attitude. You won't be surprised you pass art, but they refuse to give you the top grade because you refused to stick to their boring ass criteria. It's not all bad, this grade helps you get into college. You fail Math, and you try and repeat it twice after. Don't. It's a waste of your time. Remember your brain I told you about? You're just not academic. Accept it rather than let it make you feel dumb. You're not. You pass history, taught to you by your grandfather, this is why you risk writing a paper on JFK and the US Governments involvement in the Vietnam war in the late 1960s. You never studied it in school, but you know a lot more about it than the 'Larne Gun Running' of Irish history. Because you choose to the Vietnam War over the nonsense they taught you in school, you pass History with flying colors. They fail you at English, but alas, you resit it and you get a higher grade than you were aiming for. I feel they're just jealous of your creative writing ability, even back then. 
Michael Gibney (center) at his High School Formal (Prom).
You're going to leave that hell hole of a high-school after and go straight into one of the best years of your life. The 16 to 17 cross over. You'll finally meet friends who are like-minded as you are and into the same music and similar love of movies and creative things, but still, you'll soon find non of them are dreamers like you and non of them want to risk anything or go out on a limb and attempt to create something or start a career as you do in music and film. But it will be fun. Prepare for a lot of tedious work and this is where you will learn about the internet, printing, scanning, photography, editing and technology. And the house party's are fun. My advice is don't get that factory job. You're only going to miss out on more partying time in your youth all for the sake of a little extra cash. Not worth it. Year three of college is going to suck. The first year was a blast but now you're not well liked and apart from a loyal friend, who will stick by you for the rest of your life, the rest show themselves up for who they are. It is you, David, Neil and Louise against the rest of the class. Expect the silent treatment for sticking by your morals. It will drag in. You'll skip a lot of classes and wonder in the end how you ever obtained your diploma in the end. But at least you do. 
Michael Gibney age 18.
New York City, 2000.
After the third year of college being so drawn out and crummy, you will want a break from education. You're tired of being broke and you want to earn some money as well as work experience, so you're going to forfeit going back to more college and will put off a degree in politics in favour of your talent as a drummer. You'll gig in a few bands before joining up with your dysfunctional and jealous brother. I wish I could tell you not to and avoid any dealings with him as best you can as he's simply not reliable and comes with a whole bag of drama, but if you don't you will miss out of a life changing and life changing experience. So book the tickets, still go to Los Angeles and meet the best friends of your lifetime who will love and support you for the rest of your life. You will meet people who treat you like family and the Americans are not like your Irish friends who let you down, the Americans are solid and have such a better sense of humour (plus they don't come with all that jealousy garbage). Be mindful of your brother. He's manipulative and out for number one. So, he will use you and others for his own personal game. He ends up fitting into those types found in Hollywood quite well, but he's still your brother so love the good side of him and try and not let the bad side of his character affect you so much. You're better than that and he's really not worth worrying about. Your family will take his side on everything if you rant about him so learn to be quiet and know that one day, he'll show his true side to them and they won't like it. Just forgive him and move on. Oh, by the way, you never go back to college. Just thought you should know, but you travel more than anyone in your family so, you can't have your cake and eat it too. 

(Left) Michael Gibney. (Middle) Sam Gibney (Right) Singer/Songwriter Grant Lee Phillips.
Outside Largo Bar. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, February, 2002.
Age 19 (one month shy of 20th Birthday).   
You will go through the motions of Los Angeles for the next ten years or so. You'll get close to a record deal only for fate to cruel snatch the dangling carrot away from you. This is good because all those famous bands and rock stars you met and rubbed shoulders with will be broke too when the music industry implodes and only major labels pushing cheesy reality TV shows will get all the cream. The Music Industry will sicken you to the point you walk away from it, but you didn't fail, you just didn't want to sell your soul for such a shallow existence of begging for a shot. You will have had an incredible experience nonetheless and by now you'll have recorded in top recording studios with a top producer and will have made friends in a very famous Composer who will support and befriend you to the end. After you walk away from the band you will go back to Ireland and be in limbo for four years and have a nervous breakdown that will see you leave your dysfunctional family to live with a family of Jehovah's Witnesses, (good people) but their religion doesn't manage to stick with you and you do a lot of soul searching after you leave their home six months later.
The Three Thorns is book 1 of 7 of
The Brotherhood and the Shield series.
Available from online retailers on
paperback & kindle 24th February, 2015.
May I suggest do not party and go clubbing, you end up taking too many drugs because you are depressed and the only reason you are depressed is because of the drugs you are taking to help you suppress the depression temporarily. This is a vicious cycle you go through for four years and is the ultimate dark tunnel of your young adult life. You will suffer heavy depression and even contemplate suicide. But you get through it and conquer the depression. Things DO get better than you could ever expect ... so hang on in there. You've a lot to live for and look forward to. After you get to the light at the end of the tunnel you will go back to your first love and talent for creative writing that those English teachers were always so envious of you for and you will keep writing until you finish your first book, The Brotherhood and the Shield: THE THREE THORNS. At this point you will move to Canada and work there back and forth both at jobs and on your novel.

Michael Gibney at the Pyramids of Egypt, Cairo. 2013

You will travel to Egypt and work on more writing there. After that you write three more of the same children's series you believe will one day become a movie and a huge phenomenon and you still do, even when you get to my age. It will take several years and will not be easy but you are determined enough to take all the rejections that come your way. Instead of them discouraging you, they actually help you fight on until you get your first agent. She plays a part in teaching you a lot about the industry and plays a small role in changing your intended trilogy to a six book series, soon to be a seven book series once you find your new and best agent. The best agent in the world. 
Oh and you will meet and fall in love with a Japanese girl named Adele and will dump your current girlfriend because you can't get Adele out of your head. I won't spoil the ending for you because I don't even know it yet, but trust me when I say, you've so much ahead of you to do, experience and see. Keep writing. To entertain the world of readers with your stories is in your blood and a huge part of your destiny. Don't sweat the small stuff kiddo. 
Michael Gibney with life long friend from LA, Luke Neil.
Belfast, 2012.
(Age 30)  
Love and hugs, 
P.S. Prepare to spent huge amounts of time on your own but it'll be for the greater good and you'll produce a great quantity of work. And you'll also be heartbroken after your dog Toffee dies. You'll think you can never love any other dog again, but this is only temporary to better things to come. You go on to own two dogs who will be the dogs of your life and will get you through all the dark days and struggles you face. You'll know what to name them. I give you a hint one is after a Poet and the other is a revolutionary. :) 
Che and Dylan. Michael's Corgis. 

Michael Gibney is a full time Author and artist whose interests in world politics, literature and the love of film encouraged him to do his studies at the early age of 16 within the media and journalism field. Through his studies at college and the BBC, he developed an instant passion for creative writing that exceeded his love for media, art and music. His influences include Irish writer W. B. Yeats, and Belfast born author C.S. Lewis.
He spends most of his time writing and painting within the United States and the United Kingdom.
His debut novel, THE THREE THORNS, comes out Feb 2015 from Tantrum Books. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Keep tabs on his thoughts about writing, publishing and events on his website.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Q&A with Author 

What is The Brotherhood and the Shield? 
Without giving too much away, The Brotherhood and the Shield tells the story of a group of orphans growing up in a borstal home in London at the turn of the 20th Century. The series centres around three main characters - Benjamin Brannon, Sebastian Cain and Tommy Joel and their progression from childhood to adulthood.
In The Three Thorns, the orphans struggle to survive in tough upbringings before terrestrial forces call upon them for help from a world beyond their own, which offers answers to their past. They discover this new world called Abasin that has been overrun by a false king who has ruined most of what was good and magical about it and are landed with the burden to put things right due to a birthright each share. 
The characters form a Brotherhood together and are helped by many of Abasin's last survivors, most of them magical creatures. Through their journey to rid the new world from evil, the Brotherhood meet friends and foes. Some set out to protect and train them into warriors, while others are on a mission to hunt them down and kill them. 
Not all things are what they appear to be in the story of The Brotherhood and the Shield.

What inspired you to begin writing?
I believe it was my overactive imagination that got me 
started. I visualise characters and storylines very vividly which I owe a lot to film for. My love of movies inspired me to write. 

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The schools there were very drab and bleak, which was the inspiration for the scary orphanage of Gatesville in The Three Thorns.

Has your background had any effect on your writing?
Definitely. I think this is why The Three Thorns is very Irish in a sense, even though my characters are mixed. Maybe there's a little bit of Irish myth and folklore in there. You never know until you read. 

Where you always interested in writing for Children?
Honestly, no. For me, the decision to write fantasy for a debut was more to do with the powerful visual aspects of it. I found there were limitless boundaries in the fantasy realm compared to other genres of fiction. 

How does your material differ from the likes of other fantasy novels (e.g. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of Rings Trilogy, Lemony Snicket’s, His Dark Materials Trilogy?)
I'd say its heavy realism makes it unique. The Brotherhood and the Shield storyline is very dark and deals with more tragedy than the comparisons mentioned. It also incorporates science-fiction which I don't think has been attempted before in a Children's fantasy series such as this. 

Do you consider this book to be as good as or better than any of these famous fantasy titles?

Ha. Ha. Oh boy. Talk about being put on the hot seat. I've always felt that the reader is the true critic, so that will be up to them to decide. However, I will say I never wrote The Three Thorns to be ‘as good as’ or to be better than anything. 

I wrote The Three Thorns to be its own thing. I wanted the story to be as individual as possible. That is my goal in my storytelling. I want to offer something that hasn't been offered to the public before; something new that pushes the boundary, if possible. 

Do you aspire to be the likes of such authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis etc?
In someway. It would be nice, for sure, but the book is the star. 

Do you have any particular influences for writing the novel?
Yes. This may seem odd but most of my influences are certain film-makers and contemporary painters and photographers rather than writers. I'm more inspired to write from visual art than I am with literature. 

How did you come up with the idea and basis for The Three Thorns?
It was very strange how it happened. But I feel that discussion is for another time. 

Did you start out writing a children’s book or was it something that developed?
Hmm. The whole subject of abandonment narrowed this particular book for a younger audience, but as I got to book 3, The Lost Prince, it progressed into something else. It became both a children’s series of struggle and victory and an adult book of reflection and loss. 

How did you come up with the main characters?

Some of my main character’s have been based on real people I have met. 
The less central characters I created myself. 
A lot of the second book deals with one particular character that I believe most readers will relate to. His initial character in The Three Thorns is that of a loveable heroic underdog but his character changes later in the story.

What makes you think this book will be marketable?
Everyone loves to escape in a good book and I feel its the strong story in The Three Thorns that will excite avid child readers as well as entertain a wider and more varied audience. Plus the love of the fantasy genre is already worldwide with a massive international fan base that's constantly growing.  
I've felt for a long time The Three Thorns is the right type of rare story that these fans are crying out for. 

For a 7 book series, did you have everything planned out from the beginning?
At the very beginning there was a main concept of a trilogy in very basic terms but the complexity grew with the writing when more and more ideas came. 

What’s in store with the future books?

I do not want to spoil anything or give away too much. All I can say is that The Three Thorns is a great foundation for what is to come. 

Any specific challenges in the writing?

Some. I want to make sure it flows quickly and easily. When I write in relation to the child characters in my book, I am writing for the younger readers and I try and give them enough terminologies rather than patronise them and keep it too simplistic. 

When I write subtle innuendos (some based on real life) using the adult characters in my book, I am writing to relate to the adult reader more so. Thankfully, that proved natural.

Who is the main Character of The Brotherhood story?

All I wish to say is that it won't be who the reader thinks it is.  

Whom in the Brotherhood and the Shield do you most identify with?
Well, not the villains that’s for sure. I identify with Benjamin Brannon as throughout the story Tommy and Sebastian have their own struggles with their duty to fight for their friends and save the goodness of Abasin whereas Benjamin’s fight is within himself. That is why I feel more connected to his character as he deals with a lot of sadness and carries the biggest weight of the three characters.