Thursday, February 14, 2019

Domhnall O'Donoghue Talks about His New Novel and What's Coming for Pádraig

We all know the stars of Ros na Rún are great actors, but they’re also a talented bunch in so many other ways. Annamaria Nic Dhonnacha is a singer, Colm Mac Gearailt is a scholar, Máirín de Buitléir is a dancer, and, of course, Domhnall O’Donoghue is a writer. The man we all know and love as Pádraig is a travel journalist, magazine columnist, and a novelist, among other things, and his second novel, Colin and the Concubine, is out this week. I caught up with the man himself for this brand new Q&A, where he tells about the new book, how he balances writing and acting, and what we might expect from Pádraig in the weeks and months to come.

Your new book is called Colin and the Concubine. What is it about?

That’s the most difficult question for an author to answer! We end up getting tangled in our own explanations–‘it’s about a guy...then this happens before that happens...then a woman enters before a man’s sort of an analogy...there’s a big’s a comedy but also a tragedy…’ It might be easier if I just cut and paste the official synopsis here: 

Colin Saint James hates his older brother, Freddie–and for good reason. A true psychopath, Freddie has been hell-bent on destroying Colin's happiness since before he was born! Never one to admit defeat, Colin searches for opportunities to get one up on his sibling, even just once.  

When the heats for the final ever Housewife of the Year competition are announced in 1994, Colin sees his chance. The only problem is he needs a wife. Luckily, he lives next door to Navan's best-looking woman, Azra, who happens to be single and anxious to get a ring on her finger. But Azra is also a Turkish concubine and she and Colin don't exactly see eye-to-eye over her nocturnal activities.  

Will Colin be able to park his reservations about his X-rated neighbour if it gives him the chance to emerge triumphant over Freddie for once in his life?  

Where and when did you write this book?

I started work on Colin and the Concubine the day after Donald Trump won the US presidential election. I was living in Connemara at the time, filming Ros na Rún. It seems like only yesterday, doesn’t it, but it’s actually almost two and a half years ago. 

Being honest, the result badly affected me–the aftermath was like grief. As a gay man, I’d been so encouraged by the progress the world was making on behalf of equality–for all minority groups–then, suddenly, it came to a drastic halt. Sexism, homophobia, racism and bigotry seemed to be justified once again–all welcomed back into the mainstream conversation. 

Trying to make sense of how someone so ill-informed and unsuited to such an esteemed position could triumph over someone who, while flawed, was unquestionably more experienced, I started writing a story about a sibling rivalry where a cad called Freddie uses every dirty trick in the book to get one up on his younger brother, Colin. 

Funnily enough, as the Mueller inquiry plays out and we’re beginning to learn the lengths the Trump campaign went to in order to secure victory, it seems I wasn’t too far off the mark in using my characters as an analogy for Trump and Clinton!

What were your other inspirations for the book?

Aside from Colin and Freddie, the other central character is a concubine from Istanbul called Azra. Her life runs parallel to the brothers’ story before their worlds merge together. For over a year, I lived next door to a brothel in Dublin, which really opened my eyes to that world. I used to always think that I was street-wise but, my days, how innocent I had been! It took me ages to realise that my neighbours were more than sociable ladies!

The men who were calling upon these two ladies (up to twenty a day–God bless their poor bodies) completely challenged the typical image I had of who frequents a brothel. Yes, there were the stereotypical overweight guys in their sixties, but what surprised me was that they only made up a small section of those who frequented the brothel. Every age group was knocking on the door; every physique; every category–businessmen, students, gym buffs, the young and elderly, single and married (I actually saw one guy remove his wedding ring; another I saw blessing himself as he waited for the door to open!) 

Running alongside this experience was another important vote–one that took place a few months before the US election: the Irish referendum for marriage equality. In the months leading up it, there were numerous voices claiming that the gay community was a threat to the institution of marriage. Every time I heard this argument, I laughed in dismay. Here was my boyfriend and I, living next door to a brothel whose clients included many married men–and it was been suggested that we were the threat to the institution of marriage! All we were doing was Netflix-and-chilling! (And drinking the odd glass of vino!)

These double standards play a big part in Colin and the Concubine–so it’s no surprise that two of the main set pieces in the book are The Wife-Carrying Competition and The Calorgas Housewife of the Year contest–quirky events that blindly celebrate marriage.

It sounds like a serious book, then?

Do you know what, I was doing an interview last week and the journalist said the exact same thing! The truth is, it’s not–it’s as light as air! You see, sometimes the author isn’t always the best person to ask to discuss their work!

I’ve always been interested in addressing serious issues in a light-hearted, quirky manner–that was the case with my first book, Sister Agatha, and it’s definitely the case with Colin and the Concubine

Now that you’ve written for multiple national magazines and newspapers and have had two books published, if you had to pick one, would you describe yourself as an actor, journalist, or author?

This is like asking me to choose my favourite winner from the Eurovision Song Contest–which actually features heavily in Colin and the Concubine! (The answer to that question would be Niamh Kavanagh's ‘In Your Eyes’, by the way!)

My first love was acting and every time I meet someone new and they ask me what I do, I will always instinctively introduce myself to them as an actor, which says it all, I suppose. But I definitely think acting and writing complement each brilliantly; it’s all storytelling at the end of the day. Sometimes you tell someone else’s story; sometimes you tell your own. 

Have you an idea for your next book yet, or is it too soon to ask?

I’ve actually finished a first draft! It’s called Crazy for You and it’s about an eccentric woman who falls for the charms of an actor from an Irish language soap. Sound familiar? After all, the golden rule in writing is 'write what you know’!

I remember a few years ago joking with a friend that I’d love a stalker. She warned me to be careful what I wish for! So, this book stems from that conversation: what if I had a stalker–what’s the worst that could happen? It seems a lot!  Everyone in Ros na Rún is interested in this book–for the reason they want to know if they’ve been written about or not!

Speaking of Ros na Rún, what’s on the horizon for Pádraig this season?

There’s some interesting conflict in store for Pádraig over the coming weeks, notably between himself and Katy who he feels is not pulling her weight in Gaudi’s. He is a taskmaster with high expectations, that’s for sure, so even Martha Stewart or Nigella Lawson would be the recipient of his tongue lashings!

We finish filming this current season this week and I’ve just had a meeting with the scripting department and there are going to be fireworks for Pádraig next season–of course, I can’t breathe a word just yet but I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into some juicy storylines again!   

Colin and the Concubine is released by Mercier Press on 15 February -  As a fan of his previous novel Sister Agatha, I'm really looking forward to reading this new one. Check it out! And thanks to Domhnall for taking the time to do this Q&A!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell the world what you think! Unless what you think is spam, or porn, or self-promotion, or hateful.