Citizen of the World
I had literally stepped off the plane in Dublin in 2001 and I was inspired to write. After a visit to the National Library where a Ulysses exhibition was being held, I promptly sat down and mapped out what would become The Geneva Club, my as yet unpublished work which centres on characters from around Europe. It wasn’t actually begun until 2005 and I didn’t have a complete draft until 2009 but that first effort has inspired me to do everything since. Four years later I now have three complete drafts and a memoir in eBook form. I’m a third of the way through work of fiction number four and I blog at least once a week. There are now plenty of ideas amongst the cobwebs; it’s just finding the time to do it all.
Speaking of time though, I am no great reader. If I have the choice between reading through the articles of National Geographic or reading Dr Seuss to one of my kids, it’s The Sneetches every time. I am just as likely to take inspiration from magazines, newspapers and encyclopaedias, than tune my style to the Dickens and Bronte’s of this world. However that doesn’t mean I don’t want to read more. In this information age where the pages of the web are literally plugged into the world and media reactions travel at almost the speed of light as they propagate the globe, you can’t help but feel that there are all manner of inspirations to draw from. Some are printed and some are electronic.
My best advice to aspiring writers who perhaps don’t read nearly as much as they should or would is try and become a citizen of the world. That is to say: learn to write by visiting other places and ‘reading’ other cultures. These most recent three novel length works are all set in Ireland. In essence it took me ten years before I felt I could do justice to Irish settings and Irish characters but now there are many Irish based ideas ready to be formulated. I am confident in this environment and it is not just because I received a piece of paper that said I was Irish in 2010. If I look at the citizenship process in Ireland three years on, it is now a grand event set in St Patrick’s Hall where hopeful citizens are sworn in. On my ceremony, I was down the Swords District Courthouse, my wife and mother made to wait outside while I was clapped on by local car thieves awaiting sentencing. Granted there was no romance in it but I had no doubt I had the support of my community, even the antisocial element.
When I look at my children, their dual nationality guarantees them a number of options in their life as the Irish and Kiwi passports are held in high regard. They too can be these ‘citizens of the world’ that I speak of. When I think to those first steps in writing I made with The Geneva Club, I now know I could not quite do the book justice. While I had researched the locations and lifestyles of my European characters, I had not lived their lives. I had based my writing on what I knew from weekends away and a sort of a European tourist’s highlights reel. It makes for interesting reading but a little depth can always help you more.
Recently my family have been handed an opportunity to live on the continent and for a time become citizens immersed in a continental European culture. While some would be daunted by this with language and schooling changes, I relish the opportunity. Those same characters I felt I could not quite do justice to can now have new life breathed into them as I get a sense of what life is like in other corners of Europe. That first grand idea I had in writing can now have a big fat dose of reality chucked into it and perhaps make it the better for it. You never know, I might even publish it.