John Patrick moved a lot as a young child, living in Tipperary, Mitchellstown, Mallow and Macroom before settling in Galway aged 12.
“Achill was my concrete place,” he says, remembering time spent there with his grandparents.
Good at soccer and Gaelic, John Patrick had no thought of becoming a writer.
“But I enjoyed making up stories for our games,” he says. “And in secondary school, I loved the world that my amazing English teacher, Mr Seamus Kelly, introduced me to.”
His degree, at NUI Galway, included a year being mentored by Mike McCormack.
“I wrote the first story in my collection, and decided to be a writer.”
After more study, in England and Dublin, John Patrick returned to Galway and worked in a book shop. Then it was back to Dublin, working and writing. He was exchanging work with Sally Rooney and Nicole Flattery, among others.
“I started sending out, Pure Gold at 25 – and had many rejections and some near misses,” he says. “Since then I’ve written three more stories, taken some out and revised others.”
He has had work in Granta, The Stinging Fly, Winter Papers, Banshee and Tangerine.
Who is John Patrick McHugh?
Date of birth: August 1991 in Galway.
Education: Coláiste Endas in Galway; NUI Galway, BA Connect, with Creative writing; University East Anglia, applied MA Creative writing; University College Dublin, MFA in Creative Writing, which included some teaching.
Home: Roundstone, Co Galway.
Family: Partner, Ciara, a GP.
The Day Job: Freelance Editor. “I’ve been with Banshee for the last few issues.”
In Another Life: “Playing for Man United was all I wanted as a kid. I still play five a side with a cohort of writers.”
Favourite Writers: Tom Drury; Donald Antrim; Alice Munro; Natalia Ginsburg; Frank O’Connor.
Second Novel: “Fourth Estate have bought an unwritten novel, along with Pure Gold. Its at the very beginnings.”
Top Tip: “Remember why you started writing in the first place, and what you get out of it.”
The Debut: Pure Gold. New Island Books: €12.95. Kindle: €11.43.
Set in a fictitious island off Donegal, these perceptive stories explore friendship, betrayal, class and toxic masculinity.
The Verdict: An amazing collection. The closing story, depicting a complicated teenage friendship, is pitch perfect.
Published in the Irish Examiner on 27th March.
© Sue J Leonard. 2021.