Monday’s Friend: David O’Brien
I’m pleased to have David O’Brien on the blog today as the first guest of 2016. Welcome, David!
DOB: Thanks for having me on your blog today, Sara, and giving me the chance to answer a few of your questions.
SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?
DOB: I suppose when I was around seventeen or eighteen. I’d written a lot of poetry by then, and had a few short stories, but I started to write one what was a lot longer, and it turned into a novella, which in time became my first published novel, Leaving the Pack. I knew there was no going back to just reading stories, then.
SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?
DOB: I am a big fan of Hemingway, but I don’t think he’s really influenced my work in that I have long since given up trying to emulate his writing. I do try to cut back as much as I can on the second and subsequent drafts so I can leave as much unsaid as possible, but I am wordy writer in the first drafts.
My first novel was inspired by Whitley Strieber’s Wolfen, and some streets in my unnamed city are given his name. Another of his books sparked an as yet unwritten novel.
In terms of my writing career, I’d like to follow in the footsteps of Richard Adams, who had the luxury of writing long books on very different types of subjects, each with a really engaging story that one didn’t want to end.
SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
DOB: My advice would be simple: keep writing. That’s the only way forward. Nobody can teach you how to write, really. If you want to be a writer, you can be one just by writing. You don’t need to go to classes or get a degree in fine arts. You might have to discard 90% of your work for the first decade, but it will get better. By the time you’ve done five or so, you’ll see what was wrong with your first, and you can fix it. And keep sending finished things out while you write more stuff. If your first novel is getting bounced back at you, go ahead and start your second, but keep giving that first one the odd throw now and then. It’ll help you keep editing it, keep refining it, and someday it might hit the right place.
I didn’t have anyone say that to me, but I was on my own and I figured out pretty quickly that if I was to wait to have my first novel published before I started my second, I’d never write another. So I had five novels finished before I got the first accepted for publication. It took twenty years for that to happen. All bar one of those five are published, now, though.
SJT: You are from Ireland, and now reside in Spain. Have your experiences living in different countries had an impact on your writing?
DOB: I also lived in Boston for seven years in between my two stints in Spain, and yes, each new place has affected my writing. A new city, and especially country, is a real boon to a writer, I think. It gives you a new set of locations. You have a new place that is exotic to you, that you see with the fresh eyes of an outsider, much as a reader would if they were to visit one day, and have more likely visited more of the tourist sites and important areas which a reader might be interested in than actual local people have (in Dublin I’ve never visited the Guinness Brewery, the most popular tourist attraction in the country!). At the same time, however, when you live in a new city you garner enough local knowledge and deep background information that you can give that authenticity to the subject matter – at least without having to do a whole lot of research!
New locations also make some stories pop up in your head; the new jobs and new experiences are great idea fodder. As well as my published novels set in the British Isles, and imaginary places, I’ve one unpublished novel set in Madrid and one started that takes place in Boston. Under the name JD Martins, I have three erotic romance novellas set in Pamplona, Madrid and Boston, the first two of which have been published and the latter will be hopefully this year.
Meeting lots of new people also gives you ideas for characters, and a good base for the characters’ voices, their accent and back-story. I’ve characters from Boston, Seattle and Madrid, as well as places I’m more familiar with Ireland, England and Scotland.
As an aside, leaving one place can make one nostalgic and more likely to get around to starting and finishing that novel which was inspired when one first arrived…
SJT: Tell us about your new release.
DOB: Last summer I had two novels published under my own name – a YA paranormal called The Soul of Adam Short and a contemporary romance with a bit of mystery set in Scotland, called The Ecology of Lonesomeness. I’d rather not say too much about the latter, because I don’t want to give away anything about the plot, except I spent a few weeks in the Highlands when I was younger and I’ve done my best to capture the essence of the Great Glen, which I remember well.
The idea for Adam Short came to me when I was at a junction on my bicycle and felt a strange presence. I wondered what would happen if a ghost car went through you – while it might not affect your body, would it affect your spirit, the ghost within you? We’d all like to believe we have a soul, something that lives on after we die – what if it left before you’d died? What would that be like? I explored the idea and invented an English town around that junction where a boy had such an experience.
You can read the blurbs for both below…
SJT: Your list of published work seems to cover a wide range of genres. How would you describe your writing? Who is your target audience?
DOB: Eclectic? Erratic? Unfocused? I do have a wide range of genres – even more so in the books as yet unpublished, and unwritten!
What unites all my books, as much as possible, is the natural world, and some science where appropriate. My characters are all usually aware, or made aware, of the non-human life around them. A few of them appreciate it as much as I do. Some of my books are what I’d like to describe as biological, or ecological fiction, if that genre existed – a science fiction that is not about physics and astronomy and space, but of speculative biology. A kind of scientifically-coherent explanation of the supernatural or paranormal. Thus, my werewolf novel explains how a werewolf myth could have been created around a race of people who have a slightly different physiology to the rest of us, and Peter and the Little People explains how elves or Leprechauns could actually be real…
Sometimes I wish I had a narrower target audience, but I don’t have one, really. If I could come up with stories that only appealed to one group of people I might give it a shot. But my audience is just readers in general – those who like to read good stories no matter what the genre; hence wishing I could follow Richard Adams’s footsteps. I read widely myself, and the story comes first, the marketing after – it has to be that way to do justice to the story or the novel won’t come out right. So the story that came to me, which ended up as The Soul of Adam Short, was just perfect as a YA story, since teens were going to be the protagonists. The idea that Leprechauns were real but hard to spot just had to be for children. But I think (hope) that they appeal to adults too. The adults who’ve read Adam Short thus far have said they didn’t feel they needed to be teens to fully enjoy the story. I’d like to think my books are all at least a little thought-provoking as well as entertaining.
SJT: What writing projects have you got in the works at present?
DOB: At the moment I am going through drafts of the two sequels to my werewolf novel, Leaving the Pack, which will complete the Silver Nights Trilogy. I hope to submit them to my editor at Tirgearr Publishing later this month. We just had a new baby in November, though, so it’s hard to get the time to be sure of deadlines!
My novella One Night in Boston, under the name JD Martins has just been accepted by Tirgearr, and Peter and the Little People should be published by Museit Up Publishing later this spring.
I am also working on a YA novel set in Ireland, about some teens who hope to stop some of the illegal wildfires which were set there last spring. And my long-term project of a long novel set on a pre-Columbian Caribbean island is ongoing… Then there are the usual five or six stories that are floating around my head which I hope to get to sometime soon.
Blurb for The Ecology of Lonesomeness:
Kaleb Schwartz isn’t interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He’d enough cryptobiological speculation about Bigfoot while studying the Pacific Northwest forests. He’s in Scotland’s Great Glen to investigate aquatic food webs and nutrients cycles; if he proves there’s no food for any creature bigger than a pike, then so much the better.
Jessie McPherson has returned to Loch Ness after finishing university in London, hoping to avoid the obsession with its dark waters she had when younger and first discovered lonesomeness. She knows any relationship with a scientist studying the lake is a bad idea, but something about Kaleb makes her throw caution to the depths.
When Kaleb discovers Jessie’s lonesomeness refers not just to the solitude of the loch, he’s faced with an ecological problem of monstrous proportions. Can he find a way to satisfy both the man and the scientist inside himself, and do the right thing?
10% of the author’s royalties will be donated to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund.
Blurb for The Soul of Adam Short.
The cares of life are beginning to cloud fifteen-year-old Adam Short’s carefree existence. Important exams are looming, his girlfriend Julie thinks he’s unfocused, and right now he’s about to be late for the school trip. Neither his teacher, nor Julie, will be pleased if he misses the bus.
Adam has much bigger problems when, in an extraordinary accident, his soul is torn from his body. His body loses all consciousness−reduced to a mere automaton existence: eating when food is put in its mouth, moving when guided, reacting only to touch. Meanwhile, Adam, discovering that ghosts are very much real, is trapped without a body, and stuck in a place from which he cannot freely leave.
Only the untiring efforts of his girlfriend Julie−who had never considered the existence of a soul, and for whom the idea of ghosts is laughable−against the advice of everyone around her, including her parents, Adam’s doctor, and his best friend can save Adam. Will she be able to figure out what has happened to Adam? Even if she does, can Julie helpAdam escape the scene of his accident, and return the life to his body?
10% of the author’s royalties will be donated to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund
THE SOUL OF ADAM SHORT buy links:
THE ECOLOGY OF LONESOMENESS buy links: