A prize-winning poet who was published from the time he was at school, John O’Donnell has four poetry collections to his name. But having enjoyed writing stories as a kid, he then stopped penning them for some thirty years.
Meanwhile, having studied law, he started at the Bar in 1983.
“And I’ve been practicing ever since,” he says. “I became a Senior Counsel in 2001.”
Twelve years ago, he was sitting in the law library, when a colleague asked him to contribute to a short story anthology.
“I read a newspaper article about a young man injured playing rugby who ended up in a wheelchair. As a former Rugby player, for the Leinster Youths and for UCD, I wondered what that was like and what you would do.”
The resulting story, Promise, published in 2011, won a Hennessy Award. Many subsequent stories have been previously published.
“In essence the collection has taken 10 years,” he says. “I write every weekday morning between 6.30 and 8.00. And then I go for a run.”
Who is John O’Donnell?
Date of birth: 1960 in Dublin.
Education: Gonzaga College. University College Dublin, Law. Cambridge University, Masters in Law. The King’s Inns, studying for the Bar.
Family: Wife Michelene Huggard, William, Jack, Eavan and Tom.
The Day Job: Senior Counsel at the Four Courts.
In Another Life: “I’d play on the Irish Rugby Team that wins the world cup.”
Favourite Writers: William Trevor; Beryl Bainbridge; Kevin Barry; Colin Barrett; Tobias Wolff; Christine Dwyer Hickey.
Second Novel: “I have more stories, and I might do another collection. I also have 20,000 words of a potential novel.”
Top Tip: Keep turning up. Keep getting it down.
Website: www.johnlodonnell.com Twitter: @JlodJohn
The Debut: Almost the Same Blue. Doire Press: €14.
Infidelity; child abduction; Dignitas; gambling addiction – all these subjects and more, are covered in this diverse collection of beautifully written, skilfully constructed stories.
“As a barrister, you’re looking for precise words. You tell your client’s story, and make it believable. In my stories, I’m interested in writing about people in extremis; and what it is like at the frontiers of the human condition.”
The Verdict: A thought provoking, compelling collection which is full of insight and humanity. I loved it.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 30th May.
© Sue J Leonard. 2020