The Genesis of El Niño , Notions of the World Series of Poker, no call from the Late Late Show. #10 –

People e-mail and message me regularly and ask: How do I write a book? I have this book written, what should I do? I’m half way through a book – what do I do now?

I wrote my first book – El Niño – over a period of 12 months. It started as a short story. I’d been doing an MA in Writing at NUI Galway and we’d had the chance to do a myriad of courses like: Publishing, Poetry, Fiction, Non Fiction, Journalism and Screenwriting. My strength was in dialogue. My interest was in crime. When I wrote the shorty story, also titled, El Niño , people liked it and I felt I’d turned a corner in finding my voice. Up until then I’d been trying Arrogant literary fiction, Dodgy Poetry and watery Journalism. But with this, I’d felt on safe ground creatively. I entered the story into an international competition (Fish Short Story Prize) and it was long listed from 2000 entries down to the last 50. The top prize was €10,000. (Ten grand like.) This was mighty and I went drinking for a week. Next thing this it was short listed down to the last 17 and I went drinking for a month. Poker was big at the time too and I had notions of Vegas and the World Series. Fuck you Phil Ivy. That Devil Fish is only an amateur. Here we go lads, get the speech ready for the Late Late Show. That was the last of it though. It didn’t win. Some other lad or lady in Texas got the dust and I got the rainy Monday morning spell of dejected dopamine. Oh well, get used to it Micky. That’s the way it’s going to be. At least I had Paddy Power online to keep me going.

As part of the journalism module we got to go down to the courts and watch the cases brought up around the city. It covered everything from fights at the weekend to small time robberies and delinquency. One day there was two lads brought up for setting fire to a chipper. They were about fifteen years old. They’d gone in the back one night to go drinking and smoking weed and they left a smouldering joint on the floor. It was a derelict place next to the chipper but there’d been a painter there that day. The painter had left some kinda flammable turpentine lying around and next thing the whole place went up in a big blaze. Later, the two lads were arrested down the Spanish Arch where they were drinking cans with burnt clothes and singed eyebrows. The odd thing about the case was all these barristers, and judges and lawyers and cops were talking across the court to each other about the case and the young lads didn’t care, or hadn’t a clue, about what was going on. They were sitting around in tracksuits waiting for the verdict: Jail, bail or community service. There was talk of criminal history. Possession of narcotics. Previous convictions. Reference to addiction, broken family homes and psychological evaluations. A whole dictionary of sociological lingo about people that couldn’t understand a word. There were other cases like that every week and soon I started thinking about expanding El Niño .

It was a world that could be pryed open. Initially about a Pickpocket and a girl called El Niño , (He steals her wallet – then falls in love with her) but maybe I could delve into their past, who they were and where they came from. And what kind of future they could have (if any). It was long process but once I had the idea, it was all about the labour of writing. And that’s where most writers get stuck – when the inspiration goes, how do you keep going, or why?

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Click here to buy El Niño Direct from Amazon

Notes on the real artist.

He works in a small town and decides he’s got a voice and wants to be an artist. Things the kid wants to do, things the kid wants to say. Most nights he drinks to stop him thinking and hopes to sleep but can never quite get there. Some voice, some emotional turmoil, something wrong with the way things are. A distant hum in the ether of reality, a curve in the emotional space time. A door to be unlocked and the key is somewhere out there. Just needs to be found. Friends laugh, family don’t agree. Hey, what about your job, another recession coming. Gotta get that house, build on that site, settle down with that nice girl. S’all the same, no matter where you go. Gotta do that engine Tuesday. Gearbox gone in that Toyota. NCT due on the Opel. We know what that guy’s like, real particular. Real cheap too, finds something wrong, he won’t pay. Thinks we’re all animals here. Thinks we’re all dumb mechanics. Always on the phone, doing some job, some kinda Wall Street, clean shoes and that expensive suit and those rings. Educated type, uses big words, asks if we got a website, asks if we do e-mail. Ain’t no e-mail here. Had an e-mail once, lost the password, waste of time anyway. Gotta spray that transit, guy wants to sell it, make it look good, springs coming up through the boards, let’s nail them down, pass me the drill. Keep it going for a while, same with all these English cars. Salt on the road, see. Comes right up and causes rust and then they sell them over here when they’re about to fall apart. Let’s get a drink tonight. I can’t drink tonight. Our hero’s working on something, some story, some play, some book. He’s thinking about a film, that song he heard the other day. He was changing the oil filter on the Insignia and it came on, moved him somehow, meant something. Would look good in a movie. That collection at home. DVD’s up to the ceiling. S’all Netflix now but the broadband around here is too bad. Good thing too, he thinks, more substance, less choice. You gotta watch what you got and watch it right and learn. Learn what a story is, learn how to add a song, learn how to write what people say. That girl with the Ford Focus, smelled nice, in some college somewhere, studying something. Something to do with points, forms, applications and those damn e-mails. Maybe could ask her. Ask her how. Ask her where. Ask her when. Where does a guy start, telling that story, putting those thoughts in order. Breaking through. Here’s the girl with the focus now, speak of the devil, she knows all about it, says there’s that big festival on in the city. here, you want a brochure, I got one last week. He takes it off her, brings it home. Reads it that night. Too many big words, too many big ideas. Culture, diversity, inclusion, stability of the organic societal perspective from an artistic standpoint. Man just wants to tell a story. Doesn’t want to send e-mails, drink the wine or wear the good coats. Just heard the song when doing the Insignia, can see the scene, just like the stack of DVD’s that all came before. Man’s got ideas but he’s tired now. Too tired for culture, and diversity and artistic standpoints. Needs to finish that Passat in the morning and the Peugeot’s back with a rattle in the bearing. And that guy with the suit, they say he’s some kind of director, on some board, film board maybe, what’s the film board, who knows, probably more inclusion, and e-mails and metaphors and big words like archetypal and fostering the rural imperative in the Post Celtic Tiger era. Here, pass the WD40, there’s a squeak in the window, Almera nice car. Doesn’t let you down. Japanese. Great culture there I bet. Supposed to check out that festival tonight, what’s the point, won’t fit in. Can’t understand a damn thing they got going on. Let’s get that drink instead. Six cans in Tesco and a binge of Scorsese.

Mick.

Notes on Reamonn: Supergirl.

I was trying to write a bit when she walked in. It was around 3pm. Usually she’s drunk by now. Buys a bottle of Vodka at 10am every morning and has it mostly drank by the afternoon. Normally it’s in a flask and she carries it around and drinks it casually as the hours pass. She wants to know what the music is, says it sounds familiar, she used to listen to it in Poland before she moved over.

I told her it was Reamonn. She said she used to drink a lot in Poland. Party girl. Young. Finding herself. Strobe lights in dark discos, dance beats and boys. Her new fella wanted to move to Ireland. Big money, better life. She could speak good English and they liked to drink in Ireland too.

So they packed up, moved over. Had two kids. Bought a house. She had a job for a while but lost it. It was everyone’s fault. The boss, the manager, the conditions, the hours, the pay. She was better than that, didn’t need it, there’s better things out there.

She drank some more,  said: ‘I love that song.’

‘Supergirl?’

‘Yeah. We used to listen to it at home all the time.’

‘Before you moved over?’

‘Before….everything.’

She danced a bit, put up a hand to the beats. Took a drink, said: ‘Sure you don’t want some?’

She feels the excitement, song always gets her. Brings her back, back to a place before experience and knowledge, a careless place where she didn’t have to think.  She can’t remember when she decided she was a Supergirl. Maybe it was when she had her first kid, or second, or when she got married. Most mornings now she gets the flask and fills it  and goes for a walk. Walk where, who cares. The kids are gone too. Husband took them. She had an apartment for a while, no rent paid. That’s gone aswell. Now she lives with my neighbour and makes him dinner every evening and he gives her some money for the off licence. Lately he’s getting annoyed because the dinner does be burnt and he’s noticing things going missing around the house. First it was a phone and she blamed the guy up the road. Then a jar of change and it was the fault of the woman that visited an hour before. Then some real money from a wallet and maybe it was a break in, might be time to call the guards. He’s also the kind of the man to keep a suitcase of cash under the bed. He went looking for it yesterday to buy a car and sure most of it was gone. Had vanished. Disappeared.

So she’s giving him some space and hanging out here, listening to Supergirl.  And where did I get the computer, it’s really nice. And do I like this town? Was I ever in Poland? It’s good, but Ireland is better. Much better. She wants to see her kids at the weekend but the husband won’t let her. Won’t answer the phone. Last time she got too drunk and didn’t show up and there’s been no word since. But she has a plan. There’s going to be a court day soon, solicitors, a real showdown, she’s got it all planned as she dances, transformed back to the careless place, invincible. Supergirl.

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