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INTERVIEW Mick Donnellan on his new book, ‘Fisherman’s Blues’

Staying In

Mick Donnellan

One word at a time


Ciara Galvin

WHAT does the Virgin Mary, a Waterboy’s song and a psychiatric hospital have in common? No, it’s not a joke, but rather, some elements of a new novel by playwright, screenwriter and novelist, Mick Donnellan.
Since completing a masters in creative writing in National University of Ireland Galway in 2004, Mick has been prolific, producing five popular plays, a novel, and a film that will hit cinema screens mid next year. ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ is the Ballinrobe man’s latest project.
Throughout the book, the reader will find find the now-trademark dark humour and unique west of Ireland slang that characterises Donnellan’s plays ‘Shortcut to Hallelujah’,‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ and his first novel ‘El Niño’.
“It’s similar to El Niño in some ways and quite different in others,” said Mick, who began writing ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ in Canada four years ago.
With the book hot off the press this week, Mick gave The Mayo News an indication of what readers can expect.
“There was a film out not too long ago called ‘Anarchy’ where there’s no law and everyone goes crazy, so it’s similar to that – except God comes down in the middle of it. He has sent the Virgin Mary down to appear in Knock for the second time and it’s pouring rain, so she heads off to Argentina, so God comes down looking for her,” explained Donnellan, who described his novel as ‘funny and dark’.
Mick drew inspiration for some of the characters in ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ from past experiences. The character Jack, for example, is inspired by time Donnellan spent working for what turned out to be a bogus telesales company in the UK.
Though he has many feathers in his cap, Mick doesn’t have a bias towards any particular form of writing. “They all have different things to be excited about,” he said.
“When you’re writing plays, you think ‘All I want to ever do is write plays’, and then when you’re doing the books, you get a taste for the fiction again, and the screenwriting you’re kicking around in the desert and different countries,” explained Mick.

‘Tiger Raid’
London film company Story committed to shooting a feature-length film based on Donnellan’s play ‘Radio Luxembourg’, after a chance encounter with a producer at the company’s mother. “I was handing out flyers in Dublin for my play ‘Velvet Revolution’ and a lady took one, and went to see it … She said I should talk to her son, who is a film producer in London.”
Shot in Jordan, the film – entitled ‘Tiger Raid’ – stars Damien Molony and Brendan Gleeson’s son Brian as two rogue Black Ops for the US army who decide to take an oil Sheikh’s daughter hostage in Iraq.
“You get the script, and then it’s turned into a film, and there’s all these cameras, people and big huge army trucks, and then you’re seeing the actors saying the lines from your script. You feel responsible for it. They’re all sweating and working really hard, and in some cases taking huge risks to get the right shot or right angle, ” said Donnellan, his exhilaration evident.
Speaking about the actors, Mick said they were all ‘really invested in it’ and that even in 50 degree heat in army costumes, they didn’t complain.
Not one to sit around reflecting on his successes, Mick has already poured more ink on the pages for his next play, which will deal with the issue of isolation, and will use the Padraic Nally case of 2004 as the play’s basis for material.
As if that wasn’t enough, he is also currently in talks with Story about developing a second film, possibly with a scientific element, reminiscent of films like ‘Oblivion’ or ‘District 9’.
Asked how he has the time to produce so much work, Mick said he simply sits down most days and ‘pulls out a bit of an unfinished play’ or writes ‘a bit of fiction’. “You kind of need to stay busy and keep track of your ideas, and if you hit a lull with a project then go back to the ideas and maybe develop them. It’s weird, it’s one day at a time, one word at a time.”
Laughing, the talented writer admitted that achieving success in his line of work is a ‘long process’: “It takes about 20 years to become an overnight success.”

‘Fisherman’s Blues’ will be available to purchase from December 15 onwards, with launches on December 11 in The Galway Arms, Galway, and before Christmas in Ballinrobe.