Writer's Block with Oisín Fagan - The Gloss Magazine

Writer’s Block with Oisín Fagan

When OISÍN FAGAN‘s latest book released, it soon rose to number two on the bestsellers shelves, second only to JK ROWLING. When not campaigning for social and economic issues, he is working on his next two books and enjoying LIFE IN STONEYBATTER …

Since Oisín Fagan’s recent introduction to the Irish literary scene, his words have won floods of fans and nods from veteran scribes. So far, Oisín’s work has been published in The Stinging Fly, New Planet Cabaret and Young Irelanders and featured in the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Earlier this year, Oisín won the inaugural Penny Dreadful Novella Prize for his debut book, The Hierophants.

Following that success is the utterly engrossing Hostages, Oisín’s first collection, released in September. The beautifully imagined tales have been described by Colin Barrett as ‘setting a new challenge to those working in the form. Several of these stories are, to invoke the modern oxymoron, instant classics.’

In addition to writing, Oisín is an activist and language teacher. He works with the Irish Housing Network and can usually be found campaigning on social and economic issues.

Oisín was born in the US and raised in Moynalvey, County Meath. After completing his BA in Trinity College Dublin, he enjoyed a two year stint in Montpellier, France. He currently lives in Stoneybatter, Dublin and is working on his next two books.

On home

Stoneybatter is a fairly busy, thriving community. Lots of new small businesses have opened here since I moved in three years ago, and there’s a lot more foot traffic now with Grangegorman opening. I love Stoneybatter and I know a lot of the people around the place since the water protests took off. Those events opened up different aspects of the community for me. My favourite places in Stoneybatter would be Green Door Bakery for coffee and Paradise Crepe Restaurant for the Chef’s Special. I also love the smoking area in Kavanagh’s, probably a bit too much.

Honestly though, I didn’t choose to live here. I was on an intense three-month scramble for accommodation in Dublin and an affordable room popped up through a friend, and I ended up on Manor Street. I was very lucky to get a place and the people I met here changed my life. Stoneybatter is in the papers a lot these days for being some kind of gentrified hipsterville, but that is only part of the story. There’s a great community centre, a youth centre, a local employment centre, a stable for horses. It’s a pretty special place, a mixed community, and everyone is very friendly.

On creating

I only work at home, in my room. I might do some planning in a park or some other secluded place like that, but I can’t work with other people around and, for me, sustained work takes solitude. I write on a desk in front of a window that faces onto two big birch trees that are in bloom and full of birds at the moment. I love looking at them and listening to the birds, and I hate when winter comes because when the leaves fall I can see Wellington’s monument in Phoenix Park, by far the ugliest monument in Dublin. It’s symbolically, physically and ideologically horrendous. Its only redeeming feature is the children who play hurling against it.

There is very little in my room. There are no books or artworks. There is a desk and a bed. There are photos of my brother and sisters as children but there’s no other iconography. I like looking at flowers and trees and hedges and lakes and things like that, but only in real life. I am not a very visual person, as people can tell from my choice of clothes.

On roots

I was born in Ohio, but I left there after a few months so I have zero memories of the place and I have no connection with it beyond a US passport, if I should ever want it. My family resettled in Moynalvey, but they’ve been from around those parts for a long time. Moynalvey is small. It’s basically a pitch, a pub, a church, a primary school. It’s linked in with slightly larger parishes like Summerhill and Kiltale. It’s also surrounded by places like Clondoogan, Dangan, Agher. These are all places that I also consider to be my home, and most of my larger, extended family lives around there.

I suppose the biggest influence on my life would be that I always thought that society, at its best, was composed of large, overlapping families in small interconnected communities. All my family is either teachers or farmers, and I still think they’re the only two necessary professions.

On bookshops

When Books Upstairs was on Dame Street it had a beautiful, interesting collection, promoted by a wonderful bookseller called Des. I also love the second-hand section upstairs in Chapters on Parnell Street, and the Secret Bookstore on Wicklow Street has a lovely, eclectic mix. I don’t really have that tactile closeness to any bookshops that so many readers and writers talk about, though. When I was a child I got that feeling of magic from Eason in Maynooth, or from the small selection of books in the Spar in Trim. That’s where I discovered Thomas Hardy. I love when there’s a small selection of books in a local shop or a post office, next to the stationary and the jam and the biscuits, like they’ve snuck in and they’re a part of everyone’s everyday life. Oh, I also love Antonia’s Bookstore in Trim. Sometimes they have a very large teddy bear outside the front door. How could you not go in?

On the Irish Housing Network

I work in the finance team and we’ll be doing some fundraisers soon, but the real heroes and leaders are the community and support groups that make up the Network. You can follow us on Facebook or check our website for more details of these things. Our short-term goal would be to support existing housing groups and to help develop new ones in areas hurt by the housing crisis. In the medium term, something that has to be on the table is the development of a democratic tenant’s union. There is a glass ceiling to achieving a more cohesive society without that.

On escapes

These last few years I have been mainly working in a bar, engaged in activism, or writing in my room. It’s only this last six months I go back more frequently to my parent’s house, which is beautiful at the time of late summer. We live on an esker and you can climb up past the furze and whitethorn and get a good view of the plains of Meath. I also want to spend a lot more time in Kerry or Mayo, by the ocean. The older I get the more I crave overgrown, broken-down rural areas, the more I want to hear the Atlantic Ocean.

Also, when a load of people buy my book because of your wonderful magazine I would like to go for a holiday in France and just chill out and drink coffee and read by the sea. I lived in France for two years and also consider it my home. The south of France is an incredible place. I have dreams about the Mediterranean Sea all the time, and, actually only last night, I had a dream about this old Arab lad who I used to live next to. He was a truck driver and he always wore his work overalls even though he retired, and he’d go out on the picket with whoever was striking, the way some people go to the movies or funerals here. He used to take a ladder and climb up other people’s houses to pick snails off their wall when they were away at work. He’d always knock into me to offer me some snails, though he knew I hated them, and then talk to me about Molière. Where else would you get that?

Hostages (€12.95) is published by New Island and available from all good bookshops.

Image by Eoin Rafferty, taken in The Cobblestone, Smithfield

Sophie Grenham @SophieGrenham

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