Joseph O’Connor was born in Dublin. He is the author of the novels Cowboys and Indians (short-listed for the Whitbread Prize), Desperadoes, The Salesman, Inishowen, Star of the Sea and Redemption Falls, as well as a number of bestselling works of non-fiction. He has also written film scripts and stage-plays including the award-winning Red Roses and Petrol. His novel Star of the Sea was an international bestseller, selling more than a million copies and being published in 38 languages. It won France’s Prix Millepages, Italy’s Premio Acerbi, the Irish Post Award for Fiction, the Neilsen Bookscan Golden Book Award, an American Library Association Award, the Hennessy / Sunday Tribune Hall of Fame Award, and the Prix Litteraire Zepter for European Novel of the Year.
He was recently voted ‘Irish Writer of the Decade’ by the readers of Hot Press magazine. He broadcasts a popular weekly radio diary on RTE’s Drivetime With Mary Wilson and writes regularly for The Guardian Review and The Sunday Independent. In 2009 he was the Harman Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Baruch College, the City University of New York. His most recent novel Ghost Light was published by Vintage in June 2010 to rave reviews internationally and spent nine weeks as a number one Irish besteller. Ghost Light was also Dublin’s ‘One City One Book’ novel for 2011.
Which was your favourite childhood book?
Just William by Richmal Crompton.
Where do you write?
In an office at the end of my garden in Killiney, Dublin.
Which was the book that changed your life?
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger is the book that made me want to be a writer myself.
What objects are on your desk, and why?
Apart from my computer and my notebooks, I have nothing on my desk. But above it is a photograph taken by my hero, the musician and writer Patti Smith, of Thomas Mann’s typewriter. She gave me the picture when I was fortunate enough to meet her in New York in the winter of 2009, and I treasure it.
Which book should every child read?
These days, something by Rick Riordan. My own children love his work.
Do you have a word or phrase that you most overuse?
My father sometimes quotes an old Dublin saying, “Fuck the begrudgers”, and I repeat it far too often.
Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn’t?
Alas, I have never been able to love any work that contains a hobbit.
What have you learned from writing?
That it’s hard.
Which book do you wish you’d written?
My next novel.
E-books – nemesis or genesis?
A little of both. Something in my soul shrivels every time I see someone reading a Kindle, but it’s foolish not to accept that this is the future.
How does your approach differ when writing fiction and non-fiction?
It doesn’t. I try to tell a story.
What are you working on at the moment?
A collection of short stories.
What would be your winning Masterchef dish?
A packet of cigarettes and a glass of Merlot.