A Novel Experience

This is an interview with me in this week’s Clare People newspaper

Crusheen man Darragh McManus has just had his latest novel published. Of course, there’s another one due out in January and he has the bones of many others well underway. It may all sound like hard work but creative writing is actually a very satisfying experience, the author tells Claire Gallagher.

DARRAGH McManus has to write. In fact, he maintains he is addicted. With as many as 10 fledgling pieces of fiction in various files on his laptop, a novel in the shops this week, another due out in January, and work ongoing on a book for young adults, it is unlikely he will be taking the necessary steps to give up his fix anytime soon.
The Crusheen author, journalist, father and husband lights up as he discusses idea after idea, each as varied and unique as his approach to the world of literature.
This man isn’t a tortured soul writing from the depth of despair. Rather, he is quite happy writing books, articles and columns, while spending quality time with his Lisdoonvarna-born wife Majella, their young son and soon-to-be baby number two.
Neither is he a conveyer-belt writer churning out whatever is the popular fiction of the day, with all the associated stereotypes.
No, Darragh McManus is not a stereotypical writer, or even a stereotypical man. He writes a column for a women’s magazine – U Magazine – and features for the RTÉ Guide, while all the time providing features, articles and opinion pieces for the Irish Independent and the Sunday Times.
Likewise, the heroes in his novels are not the usual clichés. In his new novel, Even Flow, now in shops, the main male characters do not follow convention.They are a group of vigilantes who inflict violence and fear, yet they are also modern men with a sense of social justice.
“I suppose our generation would be very inspired by feminism and gay rights and the ‘new man’ thing or whatever. I had things in my head that we tend to think people involved with feminism and gay rights are wimps, with no sense of humour and are uncool. I thought, I’m going to create a gang of bad-ass guys who are all of those things but are also feminist and pro-gay rights,” he says.
His second book, coming out at the end of January, he describes as “a noir detective book with all women”.
“I was reading that there aren’t any good female characters in crime writing or movies, so I thought I will create a book that has nothing but female characters in it,” he adds.
Even Flow is not Darragh’s first experience of the publishing world. About five years ago, he wrote a funny and ironic GAA book, GAA Confidential. He admits to having written “tons of things”, including a literary novel 10 years ago that received some nice comments from publishers, but nothing more.
“I never wrote anything at all until I was 28. I always had it in my head that I would write but I never actually bothered doing it. Most people start in their early 20s with short stories and things and then they try it, but I literally started writing a novel. It was okay, it was pretty decent,” he says.
“The best time for me to write fiction is in the morning, because you are more awake and you are fresher, and then journalism in the afternoon. Not that it is easier, but it is easier – you don’t need to be as awake.” Greeted with a raised eyebrow, he laughs.
“But the way life is, deadlines usually come in the morning, so a lot of times you have to do an article by one, so I do my writing then in the afternoons,” he adds.
As he settles into adulthood, he now has the discipline for writing, which may not always have been there and may also have left its own scars on the psyche.
“I’m quite disciplined and I think it’s because I have a deep-rooted fear of my own laziness, because I was pretty lazy in school. I was very good in primary school, I found things came very easily to me so I kind of got lazy in my life. So then in secondary school, my IQ level came back to the norm but I remained lazy. I got an okay Leaving Cert and an okay degree. I was on the dole then for a while so I think somewhere in my early 20s I had a realisation I had to stop messing around. So I became quite industrious but there is always this fear that, oh my God, if I don’t do this today, I might not do anything and I have wasted the day completely.
“I am not one of these people with a bolt of inspiration where I am going to write at 10 o’clock at night. I am tired and I want to sleep. I put notes in my phone if there is a good observation or if I hear a good line.
“I don’t mean to take the glamour or mystery away from creating fiction. It is a cool thing to do, and it is a really satisfying experience, especially when you are sitting down and staring to type. You are not just typing like that” – he hits the table randomly with his fingers – “you are actually thinking. It starts to write itself as you write yourself into it.
“It sounds mercenary but I want it to be financially viable for me to write books. I will always do it anyway, which is a curse and I always thought until about a year ago I am not one of those kind of people, I would be able to stop.
“Honestly, the more you write, the more ideas that come into your head, not just for that story but for other stories. I literally have maybe 10 files for different books with several thousand words of notes on each of them. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the time to write any of these books.”
And that is not to mention the tens of hundreds of ideas buzzing around in his head.


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