I am very pleased to welcome David J O’Brien, author of Five Days on Ballyboy Beach, on the blog today. You can read my review here.
David is a writer, ecologist and teacher from Dublin, Ireland, now living in Pamplona Spain. He has a degree in environmental biology and doctorate in zoology, specialising in deer biology and is still involved in deer management in his spare time.
As an avid wildlife enthusiast and ecologist, much of David’s non-academic writing, especially poetry, is inspired by wildlife and science. While some of his stories and novels are contemporary, others seek to describe the science behind the supernatural or the paranormal.
A long-time member of The World Wildlife Fund, David has pledged to donate 10% of his royalties on all his hitherto published books to that charity to aid with protecting endangered species and habitats.
Welcome, David. Tell us a little bit about you…
I am a scientist by training, a poet by nature and a novelist by design (and a long slog!). I was born in Ireland and moved away after my PhD in deer biology was completed. Dreams of working on predator-prey interactions in the Pacific NorthWest have been put on hold by marriage with a Spanish woman who’s not keen on the cold (though she did manage to live in Boston for seven years, but that was her career!), or the wilderness.
Since I now live in Pamplona, Spain, with access to wonderful scenery and lots of wildlife, and a weekend house in the countryside where our two kids can see cows and horses and traipse through wheat fields, I’m not complaining. I have several writing spots that allow me stare out and stretch my imagination across the hillsides.
A recent facebook questionnaire told me that I have 50-50 left and right brain tendencies, so my walking the line between cold scientific logic and romantic fantasy doesn’t freak me out so much anymore. I like to write novels that take a subject which is considered mythology and treat it as if it were a scientific fact, then play at how it would actually be in our real world. So far I’ve written about werewolves, ghosts, leprechauns and the Loch Ness Monster, though the leprechaun book is not out until later this spring.
I also write contemporary stories, in which I like to let the characters enjoy, or at least become aware of, the wider, wilder world around them. Five Days on Ballyboy Beach was one of those.
Your inspiration for Five Days on Ballyboy Beach?
I had written a short story about some friends talking about the people they’d kissed and their memories, and when I showed it to a friend, he said he thought there would be more to the story, so I started to wonder what would have happened next. I’ve been on many camping trips in the west of Ireland with my own friends, and used some of the scenery for the fictitious Ballyboy.
Do you have anything else in the pipeline?
I am editing the sequels of my werewolf novel, Leaving the Pack, to complete the Silver Nights Trilogy. In principle, they’ll be called Leading the Pack and Unleashing the Pack. I meant to have them done months ago, but I’m being savage on the rewrites. Then I want to finish a YA novel set in Ireland I am halfway through. My alter ego, JD Martins has a new erotic romance novella coming out in May, One Night in Boston.
Where and when do you write?
Everywhere I find myself, whenever I can. I work part time as a teacher, so I have some empty classes during the day when I can escape to a coffee shop and type away. On the weekends I try to get up early and get some stuff done, but I usually fail. While the story is fresh, I can sit on a bench, or stand in a shop while my wife is looking at clothes and scribble in a notebook. Later I have to take hours to sort it all out in my head and on paper, but it works out.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
I think a pantser. But I wish I could be a planner, because those guys seem to get much more work done. I often only figure out the characters as the book is written and have to go back to rewrite things quite often. But that’s the way the work comes.
Do you do any research? If so, any sites or sources you care to share?
Not so much. I rely on what I know about the topics – since I write about biology a lot, I can usually wing it and just have to double check things with some friends who have a more in-dept knowledge of the subjects. I have so far set my books in places I have invented or where I’ve lived, so I know the location well.
Do you read inside your genre or out when writing?
I read anything I find. I love the classics, which has made some of my writing a little slow and descriptive to the extent that I often cut the first three chapters of the first draft. I need those 3 chapters to figure out the characters, of course, so it’s worth writing them. I don’t generally read inside my genre, but I do try to keep some things coherent. For example, I am writing about vampires right now, so I am sticking with a book of ghost stories rather than start the book set in Ireland I have waiting – I will dive into that when I am done with the rewrites and can get into the Irish-set novel.
Your author heroes?
I always loved Hemingway, but my real hero is Richard Adams, because he wrote such diverse books that were on his own terms, and really captured the imagination of readers. My daughter is half named after his book, Maia, in fact. If I could have a body of work like his I’d be a happy man.
Thank you, David, for joining us today.
I hadn’t come across David before your blog posts so thanks for the introduction – looks like my kind of writer.
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About time I returned the favour!
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Being interviewed today by book reviewer Christ Philippou…
Thanks so much for inviting me today, Chris. If anyone has any other questions, I’d be delighted to answer them.