Hey there everyone.
Welcome to yet another classic installment in the Author Interview series.
For tonight’s entertainment, please let me introduce award-winning stand-up comedian, author and acclaimed TV writer Caimh McDonnell, as he talks to us about his inspired debut Crime Thriller book, along with what motivates him to write and he shares some cracking writing advice.
Without further ado, on with the show!
Hi there Caimh, so happy that you could join us as our special guest today.
Let’s start with your debut novel “A Man With One of Those Faces”. This is a crime thriller that instantly caught my attention with the additional characters alongside protagonist Paul Mulchrone who finds himself on the run from a would-be assassin with nobody to turn to except a nurse who has read one-too-many crime novels and a renegade copper with a penchant for violence. Already this set up is bringing out a huge smile to my face. Tell us more about the story arc of your book, how you came up with the idea for it and what sort of crazy, thrilling capers your characters are going to throw at us as Paul tries to make it out of his predicament alive and kicking.
I had the name A Man with One of Those Faces as an idea for a short story for ages.
I had the idea of someone who regularly gets confused for people he isn’t due to the fact that he is the absolute average of what a late 20’s man would look like in Dublin. I decided he would use that burden to his advantage by visiting old folks in hospital and just pretending to be whoever they wanted to think he was. It was a nice idea but it lacked an inciting incident. Then I hit on the idea of one of his patients trying to kill whoever they thought he was and soon a whole novel’s worth of ideas were exploding in my head.
It ended up being a sort of three-hander amongst the three main characters and soon the original idea behind the novel became something very different.
I also see you have written for acclaimed television programs, along with being a Short Story writer and stand-up comedian. What is your view on writing for these mediums versus writing a novel, do you feel that your previous experiences have built you up to tackling a novel and have you mined these experiences for your debut or have you always harboured the desire to craft an amusingly unconventional crime thriller?
Everything you do has some kind of impact on you. I’ve worked on a wide variety of TV and animated projects and you learn how to make things happen quickly as TV needs to move fast. Dialogue is also the very best way to impart information and I like to think that’s the great strength of my writing. I taught myself how to write dialogue by just reading every single movie or TV script I could lay my hands on. I highly recommend for any form of writer to read as many scripts as possible. Great movies do dialogue wonderfully because they have to, nothing drives a story as well.
If your novel was to be made into movie (or even a TV series), who would you cast in the lead roles?
One of the three main characters, everyone thinks that it is based on Brendan Gleeson. In reality, that character had an entirely different build until the very last draft of the book and then I changed it as I panicked that it too closely resembled the man he is actually based on. That’s not to say Brendan Gleeson wouldn’t be perfect for the role now.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
Long passages of nothing but description I find a bit tedious, which is why I tend not to do them as much. Those can be the hardest things.
The easiest things are I guess the dialogue and the jokes. I’ve been writing comedy professionally now for 15 or so years, I think certain things just flow pretty easily, especially when you feel like you really know the characters and you can hear their voices in your head.
Who are some of the authors and historical figures that inspire you?
So many. Christopher Brookmyre and Terry Pratchett are probably the two biggest although I’m also a massive fan of people like Dennis Lehane and Mark Billingham.
What sort of research do you do to write your books?
My books are set in Dublin which is my home town but I’ve lived in England now for 16 years. I’ve actually gone back on several trips and actively walked around Dublin, both reminding myself of things and seeing parts of it I’ve never seen before. I think knowing it really well and then removing yourself and coming back is a wonderful way to see a city. It gives you perspective and intimacy at the same time. Oddly, my writing process has probably made me more homesick than I’ve been for years. I like to think Dublin and the feel of the people is like a character in the book.
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
When I was in school I had appalling handwriting, in fact I still do. Nobody could read what I was putting on paper whenever I had to do an essay or any kind of writing exercise. In hindsight, I don’t think I realised at the time just how frustrating that was. I got pushed into engineering because teachers could tell I was good at maths because they could see I got the answer right. I think I enjoy writing so much now because I can prove to other people but more importantly myself that my words have value. I can create a world and it is mine to control. I absolutely love that.
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
This answer will annoy some writers but honestly, I don’t believe in writer’s block. I learned my chops cranking out kids TV scripts, nobody gave a damn if your creative muse wasn’t in the mood that day, you had a deadline and people were counting on you. I refuse to think of myself as an artist as I think that cedes control to something ‘other’. I take pride in being a craftsman because that implies you are in control and there is a correlation between success and hard work.
You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Believe in yourself, avoid cider and get a pension.
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
I don’t really have free time. As well as the novels, I regularly work as a stand-up, I write for TV things and I’m making a podcast with a friend of mine called Gary Delaney. What I do for fun is my job!
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
The follow-up to A Man With One of Those Faces is nearly done. Its called The Day That Never Comes and it might well get me into trouble with a few people. Once that is done, I have a great big bag of ideas that I’m just mad keen to get stuck into. I really want to make it into a series as I love the characters.
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
I’ve been very fortunate in my life to be around some incredibly people who made a big success of themselves as writers/performers etc. The one thing they all have in common is they worked their arses off. Never mistake the appearance of effortlessness for that being the reality. Forget luck, forget natural talent, hard work will beat both of those things in the long run. Although obviously, if you can also be talented and lucky too, you’ll probably have a better pension plan.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for your time Caimh, we look forward to enjoying your work for many more years to come 🙂
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 a winner in the BBC’s Northern Laffs sitcom writing competition.
During his time on the British stand-up circuit, he has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He regularly supports Sarah Millican and Gary Delaney on tour and has also brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).
You can connect with Caimh on the following Social Media channels:-
You can buy Caimh’s book here:-
(It is reduced to 99 pence/99 cents on Amazon Kindle from 16th November to the 22nd November)
If you too would like to be interviewed on my blog at TooFullToWrite and you have a book or a series of books that you would like us to chat about then fill out the Contact Me form here with your details and we can arrange a future interview slot.
Still want more? Well, Caimh’s protagonist Paul finds himself in a massive dilemma full of hilarious twists and turns in this entertaining take on the crime thriller genre. For more articles relating to the theme of ‘Dilemma’ then check out the links below:-
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