I’m an Irish writer, living in Pamplona Spain.
I started writing poetry as a teen, (as you do!) and I have had numerous poems published in various places of the years. I never expended a huge amount of energy submitting poetry, however. Even now, I tend to keep writing more rather than spend time writing submission letters. Poetry for me is a release valve: something I need to do to get the idea out of my head and let me concentrate on the next one, or on fiction.
I started writing short stories not long after beginning with poetry. I needed a form to more fully develop some ideas. After a few, I got an idea about some werewolves which were no the typical werewolves of paranormal fiction. When I got the idea, it was in the late 80s, I was seventeen There wasn’t a lot of such fiction around, as far as I was aware. I was inspired by Whitely Strieber’s The Wulfen, which showed wolf-like beings that did not actually change shape. I used my little knowledge of physiology (I studied environmental biology in UCD, alma mater of James Joyce, though you’d never think it to look at it) to figure out how the werewolf legend came about in the first place.
It turned out as a novella, and after showing it to a few people, I decided to extend it to novel length, a few years later. I sent it out to some publishing houses, and one or two gave helpful suggestions or at least positive rejections (if that’s not an oxymoron!) and even started editing it. But the manuscript wasn’t ready. I went on started writing a second novel, at the same time studying for a doctorate in zoology. The second novel took a few years to write, and it too attracted many rejection letters but fewer helpful suggestions. I wrote this as an exercise in by the seat of your pants method. I had five characters and a situation. Things got complicated for them. It was great fun to write.
When I finished my doctorate I moved to Madrid, Spain, where I taught English and kept writing. My third novel was a Young Adult paranormal adventure, which was the best written out of all three, I learned how to write better by writing, and also by learning the rules of grammar much more explicitly in order to teach ESL!
By the time I left Madrid for Boston, in addition to scientific papers from my research on deer biology and management, I’d rewritten the first novel several times, the second once or twice, and started a fourth novel. That took me a couple of years, and turned out to have 175K words. A friend who’s an English major helped to hone the YA novel and I got lots of nice rejections from its submissions. After seven years teaching biology there, and a new, short children’s novel about a boy who can see leprechauns, my wife and I headed back to Spain.
I’d several more projects on the go by then, including a three-act play and three more novels, which are yet to be finished. I got a job teaching English and science and did all the usual stuff of buying a house and having a baby, and plodded along with writing a long novel set in the Pre-Columbian Caribbean.
And I kept fine-tuning the other novels, kept sending them out. And lo and behold, in early 2014, Tirgearr Publishing, a publishing house in Ireland sent me a contract for Leaving the Pack, that first novel. I sent them my second novel, Five Days on Ballyboy Beach, and my editor said it would need some work but she wanted to publish it too.
Everything seemed to happen quickly then.
I got an idea for a novel called The Ecology of Lonesomeness. Given my new impetuous, I wrote that in six months and had it accepted for publication with Tirgearr for later this summer. I also wrote an erotic romance novella for Tirgearr’s City Nights Series. One Night in Madrid was published under the pen name JD Martins last January. One Night in Pamplona will be out in July and I am planning a third set in Boston. Also, the great team of authors at Tirgearr gave me great advice for sending my YA novel, which had just had a lovely rejection from Penguin Ireland to publishers. The Soul of Adam Short will be published by MuseItUp! Publishing this summer as well. And just this week I got a contract for that kids book, Peter and the Little People.
I have just finished the first draft of the first sequel to Leaving the Pack, which I am writing as a trilogy called Silver Nights Trilogy. I have the third outlined and once that is done, I’m back to that unfinished Caribbean novel.
All of my books have a little bit of science in them, and as much about nature and wildlife as I can get in. Five Days on Ballyboy Beach is about science graduates who are enjoying camping in the great outdoors, The Ecology of Lonesomeness is about an ecologist studying the area around Loch Ness, and he’s also a rewilding advocate. Peter and the Little People hopes to make children aware of the natural world and the need to protect it, and even The Soul of Adam Short, though paranormal, has a bit of the scientific method and a nice biology teacher! I am passionate about the environment and when I am not writing, I am looking out the window, or walking in the parks around Pamplona, or in the local countryside, which is wonderful.
Some of the books are answers to “What if….” questions, such as what if werewolves were real, what if leprechauns were real, what if we do have souls? And the science takes over answering the question. Of course, the people who are in those strange situations are what make the story really interesting.
I work part time now, teaching English and Science, and have much more time to write than I ever did before, even with a young child to look after. My wife works longer hours and has to travel quite a lot for her work as a biology researcher. I have stopped spending time writing up scientific papers or thesis, so I suppose the extra hours come from there. Now I just blog about deer management and re-wilding. My own opinion doesn’t need so much research!
If I had to live like this for the rest of my life, living in Pamplona, looking after kids, teaching a few hours a day, and writing the rest, I would consider myself a lucky man. I am a lucky man. I know that some people out there are reading my novels and most are enjoying them. I consider myself privileged. My problems, and I do have them, are not worth writing about.
I only wish that the 10% of my royalties I have pledged to donate to my NGO of choice, WWF, the World Wildlife Fund, could do some significant good.
I wrote a few months back in response to a question on Chuck Wendig’s blog about being an author or a writer, that I have to write poetry, but I love to write fiction. When I am scribbling on paper or tapping on the keys of my laptop, it feels like I am a conductor making music happen by a flick of my fingers. Better, I feel like a fairy godmother (why aren’t there fairy godfathers?) with a magic wand, or that blondie recluse in Frozen, making things appear out of thin air, veritably creating people and making them do my will.
There is no greater feeling.
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30 thoughts on “#Read about Guest #Author David J.O’Brien”
Great interview David. Very inspirational. As a debut writer its great to hear of your journey from the beginning until now. It gives me great encouragement. The best of luck with Leaving the Pack and all your other books. Daithi (Kavanagh)
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Thanks a million for the comment, Daithi hopefully things will keep getting better and people will like the books.
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SUCCESS is comming your way!!!
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