Name Brendan Gerad O’Brien
Where are you from: .. Originally from Tralee, on the west coast of Ireland, and now live in Newport, South Wales.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc: Married with two daughters. I left school at fourteen and went to work in hotels in Killarney, then joined the Royal Navy at eighteen and went to the Far East. I spent the first two years between Singapore and Hong Kong and when I got home I met Jennifer, and we’ve been together since. My career took various roads and I ended up as a department manager with ASDA in Cardiff before retiring in 2006 because of a heart problem.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m delighted to say my novel Dark September – an alternate history thriller set in Wales in 1940 – has been accepted for publication with Tirgearr Publications and should be out in October.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I won my first writing competition I was so excited I ran all the way home. I was about eight years old. The Fun Fair was coming to Tralee – our little town on the West coast of Ireland – and apart from Duffy’s Circus which came in September, this was the highlight of our year. Our English teacher asked us to write an essay about it, and I won the only prize – a book of ten tickets for the fair. There were eight kids in our family so everyone got a ride on something. So writing was in my blood from a very young age. I’ve always loved essays and English literature.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I always felt writing was a hobby rather than a career, and to a degree I still do.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book? My head has been full of stories for as long as I can remember and I always wrote them as short stories. I’ve written hundreds but only 24 were good enough to see the light of day. Those were printed in various mediums and also in a collection called Dreamin’ Dreams. Maybe it’s an impatient thing but I like short sharp stories, especially ones that make you sigh with satisfaction. Anyway, when I did decide to try a full novel it morphed into something totally different from what I started out to write. It eventually became Dark September, of which I’m very proud.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I suppose I write in the kind of style that I like to read. I know I’ll never please everyone. Even in our family – all avid readers – there’s a healthy disagreement about what a good style is. My brother has every Clive Cussler book ever printed but I can’t get on with them. I have every Andy McNab book but my brother can’t stand them. So it’s best to write in the style you feel comfortable with.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
As it’s set in Sept 1940 I originally called it Once On A Cold And Grey September. Initially I had good feedback on that but when I put it on Autonomy.com a lot of established writers thought it was a bit of a mouthful. After a lot of jigging about I settled on Dark September.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not consciously, but probably the fact that we learn absolutely nothing from our mistakes down through history. Barely twenty years after the most horrific war in history – WW1 – here we were again doing the same thing and sleepwalking into WW2.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The fear and trepidation is something I gleamed from my parents who drove trams in Birmingham during the darkest days of the blitz, and from my father-in-law who went through the African campaigned and was lucky to escape the attack of Tobruk.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My father-in-law told some horrific stories about his experiences during the war and I imagined how my characters would feel under the same circumstances. But, no, I’m glad to say that there was never anything like that in my life.
Fiona: What books have influenced your life most?
So many it would be hard to whittle it down to just a few. The Wind in the Willows had the most magical effect on me – I lived in that story and still get that feeling whenever I sit on a riverbank – but I can still remember running home from school to listen to Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe being read on the radio. In my teens I got hooked on Mickey Spillane and Zane Gray, but now I have to say that Val McDermid is my all-time favourite. However Ann Cleeves would be a close second …
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Tirgearr Publishing has a nice selection of new writers and I’ll be looking at them as I get the opportunity.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m about two chapters from finishing the first draft of my new book – then the long slog of editing and re-writes.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Two newspapers – the Kerryman and Kerry’s Eye – both did several pieces on my stories over the years. ASDA, when I was working there, did a whole page spread in their customer magazine on my stories, also ESSO in their in-house magazine. So I’d say local media was a great support.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not a career, more a hobby because I love it. If I had to do it I might think differently.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nothing. I did millions of changes as I was refining and I’m really happy with it now.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My grand-uncle Moss Scanlon was a Harness Maker and he had a small shop in Lower William Street, Listowel – a rural town in Kerry that was just a bus ride from Tralee. We spent some wonderful summer holidays there. The shop was a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters who’d wander in for a chat and a bit of jovial banter. One wonderful storyteller who often popped in was John B Keane, and it was a great thrill to actually meet him. I asked him once where he got his ideas from, and he told me that everyone has a story to tell, so be patient and just listen to them. And I was there, sitting on the counter in the shop, when John B’s very first story was read out live on Radio Eireann. I can still remember the buzz of excitement and the sheer pride of the people of Listowel. And the seeds of storytelling were sown in my soul.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My current story is a murder thriller set in Ireland in 1942. A man is shot in a crowded pub, yet no one saw or heard anything. Danny O’Shea is a member of the Local Security Force, established by the Irish Government to assist the Garda in those troubled times. Then O’Shea’s sister is found dead in the town park, apparently after taking sleeping tablets and a bottle of whisky. When his ten year old son disappears the tension is cranked up to another level …
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Actually getting down to doing it and not wandering over to Facebook or checking my e-mail and all the other distractions that always seem more attractive at the time.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Val McDermid – her writing is so smooth you don’t notice it. You fall into the story and flow along in it without the distractions of convoluted writing. To be honest Ann Cleeves would come a close second.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not yet …
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I did, although Tirgearr had the right to change it if they want.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I write the story in longhand then type it on my lap top, and I hate typing. My wife and daughter both said they’d help but neither of them can understand my writing.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Don’t let writer’s block frustrate you – throwing the compute at the wall doesn’t do it, or you, any good. So relax, dose up with copious amounts of coffee and write something – anything – to get the imagination going.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write the best book you can write, and enjoy doing it. Take feedback on board but don’t let it antagonize you. You won’t please everyone and the chances of becoming world famous are against you anyway, so just do your best and be proud of what you do.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read my work. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And I answer all correspondence personally.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Probably The Wind in the Willows – it was the one that impressed me the most.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
DIY – I’m always potching around the house doing magic stuff with a saw and a hammer.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Mostly detective shows like Lewis and Morse, but documentaries like Coast and History of our Streets too. I hate reality shows (X-factor and Strictly etc.) and soaps, so when my daughters stay over I’m dismissed to the dining room with a DVD on the laptop.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors /Music:
Food – Sunday Roast as cooked by Jennifer.
Colour – blue and yellow, sometimes purple.
Music – anything from the sixties, Barbara Streisand, Katie Melua and loads of other stuff.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Painting, though I’m useless at it.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?