Friday, 12 October 2012


John Kelly with Sinéad Gleeson, at the Silver Threads launch - pic. by Ronan McCall
To celebrate his story appearing in the Console anthology Silver Threads of Hope (New Island), I welcome John Kelly to the blog today for a chat about writing.John is one of Ireland’s best-known broadcasters. 
A SONY, EMA and PPI award winner, he has presented some of the best-loved and most critically acclaimed music programmes on the Irish airwaves. He presents The Works, RTE's arts show, and has published two novels with Jonathan Cape, The Little Hammer and Sophisticated Boom Boom.

Hi John and welcome to WWR. You are an author, broadcaster and journalist. How do you juggle it all? And more importantly, when does the writing get done?

Writing is very important to me – crucial for my own happiness in fact - and so I make sure to find the time somehow. When I was working on From Out Of The City I was getting up at 5 am. And then of course when I’m not actually writing I’m thinking about writing – trying to solve problem – and so I lie awake at night doing that. It’s not ideal but it’s what I do. You have to find a way or it will eat you up.

You have two novels published. I’m curious as to whether you write much short fiction or is the story in Silver Threads, ‘Prisoner’, a new departure for you?

Where are you happiest, in the long haul of the novel, or the short, sharp world of the short story?
I can’t claim that I know how to write either but I can get satisfaction from working on both, depending on my state of mind. For the last number of years my novel has been a tyrannical presence but I do have bits of short stories all over the place. On the computer, in notebooks and in my head and I like to think that they’re all fermenting somehow. Who knows? Sometimes I take a notion and I take one out and see how it’s doing. The Prisoner was half-written on holidays in Spain two years ago and when Sinéad called asking for a story for Silver Threads of Hope it forced me to address it properly and finish it. It was also a break from the novel which at that stage was driving me demented.

Who are your favourite short fiction writers and why?

I’ve just finished Daniel Woodrell’s The Outlaw Album and it stunned me. That power to immediately grab, mesmerize and, in various ways, de-rail the reader is what we should all be aiming for in a short story. After each of Woodrell’s stories I felt like a needed a strong drink. I like the Americans – Carver obviously, but also Maile Meloy, T.C Boyle –and many more. I like the high-wire acts. And in Kevin Barry we have one of the very walking among us. I’m a big fan of Kevin’s. He’s the cat’s pajamas.

What story do you love? (You know the one that begs to be re-read over and over.)
Call me old fashioned and predictable but I’m rather addicted to The Dead.

I’m sure it was you who introduced me – and An Cumann Gaelach in TCD – to the wonderful Fermanagh writer and poet Séamas Mac Annaidh back in the early 1990s. Is there a healthy writing scene in that county? Is it your touchstone the way Mayo is for Mike McCormack?

Yes. Séamas is an important presence and always was. Apart from his being a long-time friend and co-conspirator in all sorts of carry-on over the years, he was a role model too in that he was a real writer - publishing novels before many of ushad gotten around to even reading novels. He used to talk about Gilbert Sorrentino’s book Mulligan Stew and I’m very conscious that I’m now with Sorrentino’s publisher – Dalkey Archive. They should perhaps think about translations of Seamus’ work. He was ahead of his time and obviously rather isolated in terms of place, and the language in which he chose to write.

In answer to the second part. Fermanagh was, at one point, central to everything I wrote. But not so much now. I left Enniskillen in 1983 and while it’s still the rich land of my childhood and my teens, all my adult life has been elsewhere. The connections are still there but, alas, there aren’t quite so many of them.

What three pieces of advice would you offer beginning writers?

1.Read as much as you can.
2.Write as much as you can.
3.Take your time and don’t publish too soon and with the wrong people.

What can be expect to see next, writing-wise, from John Kelly?

My novel From Out of The City will be published by Dalkey Archive Press in the US and Europe in the Autumn of 2013. To be with Dalkey is such an honour – Markson, Gaddis, Gass etc. I’m talking things slowly now. I have the right publisher and the legendary John O’Brien in Chicago as my editor.  I suspect this might produce a few surprises in terms of what I do because I feel liberated and I feel adventurous. I’ve got the old excitement back and, in my head, I’m starting all over again.

Thanks a million for stopping by, John. Best of luck with all your writing endeavours.

Thank you for your interest and all you do to support books and other writers.


shaunag said...

Wonderful interview and great to see the passion John has for writing that you bring out through the questions you asked him. Thank you Nuala and John! Congrats John on your forthcoming book with Dalkey archive. I look forward to it.

Miss_Úna said...

Another great interview Nuala. I am looking forward to readying yours & John's stories in Silver Threads of Hope.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Thank you Nuala for such a great interview. Inspiring to hear unexpected questions answered by another REAL writer. And thank you Mr Kelly for taking the time to teach as well as talk while answering Nuala.


Hi Shauna, thanks for stopping by - see you later :)
N x


Úna - you won't be disappointed, there is a certain Finbar you may recognise in John's story and it ain't who you might think ;)
N x


Donna - always a pleasure to see you here. He gives good interview, right?
N x