Ronan appeared on the RTE Radio 1 Arts Show. To hear him talking about Confessions of a Fallen Angel and his writing influences, click on the link below.

RTE Radio 1 Arts Show - 24th January 2008

 

 

Sunday Post

 

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Confessions of an Obsessive Writer

When Ronan O’Brien started writing a novel as a hobby, he had no idea that it would soon be snapped up by a leading publisher. Nora Cleeve finds out more.

DUBLIN solicitor Ronan O’Brien hopes to court a new army of fans as his debut novel hits bookshelves. For over two years Ronan (33) dashed home after a round of prison visits, court hearings and police interviews to pen another chapter in his first book. Confessions of a Fallen Angel is set in a tough suburb of Dublin and is packed with earthy humour, romance and tragedy in equal measure. Ronan’s debut is being billed as a cross between The Lovely Bones and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha but he never seriously set out to be a writer. “I read a lot of books and after finishing a very average one I felt that I could do better so I decided to give it a go. It was an experiment really as I didn’t have any aspirations to be an author at that stage but I got an idea and I was like a dog with a bone. It’s about a guy who has a near-death experience as a child after an asthma attack, and afterwards he is cursed with the ability to foresee the deaths of the people he loves the most. After failing to save his childhood friend from drowning his life goes into freefall but then things look up when he meets his beautiful wife — until the visions return. As the book unfolds, the plot turns on what he does with that information.”

What started as a hobby became an obsession. “There was a time when it was the last thing I would think about at night and the first thing that popped into my head in the morning. I knew that the novel had grown into something more than a hobby when I found that I didn’t want to go out on Friday nights because I didn’t fancy trying to write with a hangover the following day.”

Like great authors before him, Ronan had to endure a stream of rejection letters. “The publishing industry is harder to break into than the Bank of England. There are so many books published every year that it’s very difficult to stand out from the crowd, and it’s almost impossible for a debut author to write a bestseller.”

Sceptre are proudly hailing Ronan as one of the new stars of their publishing stable and they’ve paid him a six-figure advance to prove it. Wife Rita may be his number one fan but Ronan’s dad Tony, a retired teacher, comes a close second. “He’s ridiculously proud and has invited everyone to the book launch — even former neighbours going back 20 years,”says Ronan. “But it’s nice to be able to make your parents proud.” Ronan’s knowledge of the legal world meant he needed no research into Dublin’s criminal underbelly and his colourful CV helped create his cast of characters. “My narrator in Confessions of a Fallen Angel is a barman, and I worked as a barman myself during the Edinburgh Festival one year. I also spent a summer abroad in America as a student doing every job from kitchen porter to park ranger. Then I worked as a computer programmer in Dublin despite the fact that I wouldn’t know a binary loop from a hula hoop. Eventually I ended up working in criminal law when I got a bit of sense and focused on what I really wanted to do.” Ronan landed on his feet early on. “When I decided to become a solicitor, I sent out lots of CVs and I had quite a few interviews. I just wanted a job in a law firm and I wasn’t fussy about which one, but I struck gold when the boss of a firm called Garrett Sheehan & Partners interviewed me and offered me a job. Once I started working there, I knew that the only area of law that I wanted to work in was criminal as it’s the most interesting.”

At the heart of the book is a love story that will leave you blubbing into a tissue. So is Ronan a born romantic? “Yeah, I’m definitely a romantic,” he confesses. “I met my wife three years ago and we got engaged after just five months and two days. I proposed in Paris on the banks of the Seine by the Eiffel Tower.” What’s more, Ronan wooed Rita with his very first manuscript.“The book came up in conversation on our first date and she was dying to read it, so on our second date I lent her a copy. Thankfully, she loved it and said it made her laugh and cry. She also said that the way I wrote confirmed that I was a true romantic!” With book number two already under way, can Ronan see himself turning his back on Dublin’s Four Courts? “That’s a tricky one because I love the day job working in criminal law. If I hated it, things would be a lot simpler. I’m probably going to try to take a year’s career break from the office so that I can get a feel for what it’s like to be a real writer. I would definitely miss having the craic with my colleagues and I might slowly go a bit mad, just sitting at home all day trying to come up with interesting stories. Roddy Doyle is a writer whom I have huge respect for, and he only gave up his day job as a teacher upon the release of his fourth novel, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha which went on to win the Man Booker prize, so I think I have some way to go before I walk out of The Four Courts for the last time.”

Success really hasn’t sunk in yet.“I feel like any minute they’re going to ask me to send in my CV and then realise they’ve made a terrible mistake. But until that happens, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.”

-Nora Cleeve
Sunday Post, 3rd February 2008
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Copyright © 2010, Ronan O'Brien Photo: Bob Dixon