I am super excited today (and I must be as I never say ‘super’ anything!) to be joined by Caimh McDonnell, author of the fantastically funny Dublin Trilogy, today. Caimh has allowed me to pester him with questions about the authors and books that have influenced him and his writing. Enjoy!
Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
The first author whose work I absolutely fell in love with was Terry Pratchett. While his early works were really an affectionate pastiche of the fantasy genre, the Discworld series developed into so much more than that. I’ve been looking forward to the moment when my nephew is old enough and I get to give him his very first Terry Pratchett book.
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
My handwriting has always been so phenomenally bad that as a child I was repeatedly tested for dyslexia and other forms of learning difficulties. I didn’t have anything but educators still kept putting me in the ‘pass stream’ as every time I got given an essay question to complete, nobody could read the answer. Essentially, the ‘pass stream’ in Ireland at the time meant you didn’t go to university. Thankfully, my mother is a formidable woman and she constantly battled to get me put back into the top stream. I ended up getting a degree in electronic engineering as there was no essay questions involved in it. While at university, I got to sit down in front of a PC with a word processing facility for the first time and suddenly people were able to read what I was writing.
What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
Typically most of the novels I like to read either fall into the crime or sci-fi genres. Having said that, quite a lot of the ‘reading’ I do is actually audiobooks. I can often spend 16 or so hours in a week driving to gigs and I fill that time by devouring audiobooks. I think the influence of that can be seen very clearly in my writing. I write to be read out loud and I believe dialogue is usually the best way of conveying information. I have also read hundreds of TV and film scripts as I’m completely self-taught as a TV writer. People have said that dialogue is my biggest strength as a writer and I guess if you’ve spent as much time as I have forensically examining the work
of Aaron Sorkin, that’s no great surprise – not that I’m anywhere close to his level.
If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
Almost certainly sci-fi. I’ve written quite a few short stories and I think that form works brilliantly for the sci-fi genre. I like taking a weird idea and having fun with it. I do have a couple of very odd sci-fi concepts that I do intend to try and turn into novels somewhere down the line but probably not for a couple of years.
Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
As I mentioned, Terry Pratchett was a massive influence on me. I also remember reading Michael Marshall Smith’s classic ‘Only Forward’ and it completely blowing my socks off. As soon as I discovered the work of Christopher Brookmyre, I rocketed through everything he had ever written and I’ve been a devout fan ever since. I think you can see the massive influence he has had on my work. Some reviewers have been kind enough to compare my debut novel to him and that has been really humbling as he is a big hero of mine.
Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Christopher Brookmyre obviously and until his tragic passing, Terry Pratchett. To be honest, I’ve not read Sir Terry’s last book yet – I think a part of me doesn’t want there to be no more Terry Pratchett books left in the world that I haven’t read. I’ve oddly met quite a few people who have done the same. It might be the most beloved unread book on the planet.
Mark Billingham is a firm favourite and I would also add Dennis Lehane to that list. I saw the film ‘The Drop’, which is based on his short story of the same name a couple of years ago. I was breaking up a long drive to a gig and I only went to it as I’d missed the film I meant to go and see, best traffic jam ever! I was so impressed I googled the author and I couldn’t believe that he’d written so many other books that Hollywood had already turned into films. The only thing that surprises me about the genius of Dennis Lehane is that more people don’t know who he is.
Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Dennis Lehane’s ‘Gone Baby Gone’ pulls off an incredible ending that I think is one of the very best in the history of crime fiction. It is a great book all the way up until that point but, without giving any spoilers, I remember being caught wonderfully off-guard by the ending.
Also, Don Winslow’s ‘The Power of the Dog’ is a tremendous read in general but there is a scene in it describing someone being trapped in a skyscraper in an earthquake that is the most visceral piece of writing I think I’ve ever read. My last flat was on the 14th floor, if we hadn’t moved already, we would have to move now. Incredible writing.
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be
careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
There is a character in my debut novel called Bunny McGarry who kind of steals the show. Several people have asked me if he is based on Brendan Gleeson, the very fine Irish actor. Oddly, while Brendan would be incredible in the role for the movie (and please somebody, make the movie!) the truth is that the only reason the character of Bunny is a big broad shouldered man as described, is because it was changed very late in the process as I was worried the person who provided the inspiration for the character was far to recognisable to people who knew him.
I will also admit that the character of Phil Nellis in my books is heavily based on my friend and fellow comedian Phil Ellis. In fact, I did it specifically to annoy him.
A huge thank you Caimh for taking part.
The first two books in The Dublin Trilogy are out now. If you haven’t read them yet, you are missing out! You can read my review of A Man With One Of Those Faces HERE and The Day That Never Comes HERE.
About Caimh McDonnell
Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats.
His writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created. He was also a winner in the BBC’s Northern Laffs sitcom writing competition.
During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).
Connect with Caimh