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Day in the Life: Mick Donnellan


ON SET Mick Donnellan on the set of film Tiger Raid which was adapted from his play Radio Luxembourg

I GET up usually around six-ish, my daughter Nairobi is usually up, if she’s not I try to get some writing done. I try to write every morning if possible, so either work at my new novel Champagne Mozzarella or do some work on my website. That would usually keep me going to about 8am or 9am, then breakfast, and if I’m teaching in Galway (NUIG) I’ll be down there for 12. I have another job then, I do a bit of work for Electric Ireland as a team sales representative so I’ll be training lads and going around coaching them to try and get them off the ground. That’s to pay the bills and put food on the table. A lot of that is in the afternoon and again lecturing in the evening in AIT (Athlone Institute of Technology) at 7.30pm to 9.30pm, adult evening classes. When I get home if my daughter is still up I’ll play with her, try and get something to eat and usually go back over what I did in the morning. Whether it’s a new chapter of my novel, or if I had a blog or a video out, or made changes to my website, I’d go back over that to see how it performed over the day. Or if I had edits on some fiction I wrote, or emails to get back to regarding different projects like working on a screen project at the moment with a film company in Galway (Florence Films). They’re producing the film of ‘Shortcut to Hallelujah’, the play I wrote about the curse on the Mayo team. So I may have to read over some of the edits or have a chat with them or think about changes we have to make. There’s always something, you just sit down and think ‘Jaysus I’ve it all done but then you realise no, there’s another jobeen to do there’. If I’m not writing fiction, I’d be working on a screenplay or project, or if I’m not teaching I’m correcting someone’s essay or giving feedback on poems, short stories, marking contributions to class, etc. It’s all interesting, it keeps the brain alive anyway, that’s for sure. The morning is better [for writing] because you still have a dream state hanging over you, you’re not full of rubbish from the day. When you get home at night and you’ve been talking to maybe 100 people throughout the day it’s like working in a pub, you hear the tills ringing and your head is just spinning, so, like that, you can hear the conversations and all the madness so it’s very hard to sit down and write and you’re a lot more tired. In the morning I try and get 500 or 1,000 out and you’re set then as a writer. Part of my process is taking notes of things of interest, good stories or anecdotes during the day and try and make sure I pin them down and then when I get back to the computer get them in there somewhere.
I’d either try and do a bit again at night or make a note of it for the morning so I get up in the morning and you have a bit of material there good to go already. Writing at night is a bit dodgy you could end up writing till 3am and you’re eating into tomorrow and you’re tired the next day and it costs you more than you actually achieve. I go to bed usually before midnight, I’d be guilty of box sets and Netflix and films. Billions is really good at the moment, it’s [box sets and Netflix] a good way to wind down.
When you’re writing you can be chasing money all the time. It’s great security in knowing a weekly job can put food on the table, so it helps that you can write and not feel that it might make you homeless at some stage.
Writers need to put a value on their work or else no one else will. I’m moving my online house from the Wordpress platform to a site called Patreon.
Patreon lets people support writers while also enjoying their work. If people like what they’re reading and seeing they can pledge small amounts, even just one dollar, and each month people can get rewards, like the new novel or comped tickets to film screenings and plays.
The radio drives me a bit cracked, it’s podcasts all the way. Usually within ten minutes of listening to the radio, you get kind of depressed, there’s no good news. Nobody ever talks about anything positive on Irish radio and then there’s overwhelming ads. I listen to Scriptnotes, an American podcast about screenwriting. I actually listen to a lot of crypto currency podcasts and business podcasts, I find them fascinating. It’s nice for the mind, I spend a lot of time in the car, so you make the best of it trying to do the best for your head and your creativity. Spotify as well, I love Storyman, Reamonn, Spanish band Héroes del Silencio, I don’t know what they do be singing about but they’re a good band. I do a bit of writing at the weekend but relaxing is the main thing, you don’t want to overwhelm people.

For more visit

In conversation with Ciara Galvin

Name: Mick Donnellan
Age: 37
From: Ballinrobe
Living: Athlone
Occupation: Playwright, novelist and lecturer

Quickfire Questions

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Write mostly, probably buy a Lamborghini and drive around in that too.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I was a Vietnamese millionaire once. (Each million was worth about a €100)

Where’s your favourite place in the world?
Chang Mai  - Thailand. Great Zen experience.

First hero?
Mario Puzo (after my mother.)

Biggest achievement to date?
Having my play ‘Radio Luxembourg’ adapted into a film (Tiger Raid) which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in 2016.

What makes you nervous?
When my daughter is coughing too much.

Favourite book/play?
Book - Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. Play - Street Car Named Desire.

Last time you cried?
Crime writers don’t cry. We write instead!

Most prized possession?
Apple MacBook Air.

What’s the best advice you ever got?
Be nice to the people on the way up, because you’ll meet them again on your way back down - Grandfather, Willie Donnellan.

Most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Snackbox. Never one for exotic foods.

Who’s the most famous person you have met?
Martin Sheen