Author Confessions: Brian Conaghan

Brian Conaghan and the cover of his latest book
Category: Reading

Highly acclaimed YA author Brian Conaghan takes a break from celebrating the release of his third book, The Bombs That Brought Us Together, to tell us who deserves to have a library thrown at them, and which version of Sandy from Grease he once had a crush on...


If you could throw a book at a celebrity, which book would you throw at whom?

If we’re counting politicians as being celebrities, then I’d like to chuck the biggest and heaviest book in the world right in the middle of the Tory front benches. But, then again, I’d be sad to have missed Iain Duncan Smith. Can I lob a library at them instead? No? Is that because they’ve closed them all down? 


What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Lazy teachers and/or lazy minds will spout this little ditty as if they’re the wise Oracle of creativity:

‘Write what you know.’

Where’s the transformative joy in that then, eh?


What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked about your work?

Two years ago I fielded some questions from ‘a fan of my work’ while doing an event in the USA. She loved my book so much that she wanted to know how I came up with the characters, the story, the tone and the writing style. My super fan seemed disappointed when I informed her that I didn’t actually write The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night Time.


How do you react to bad reviews?

I’d much rather read a bad review than a sedate, mediocre stock review. I spent years getting rejection after rejection - basically being told my work was rank rotten – so I’m pretty immune to reviews good or bad. Having said that I learn more from the bad ones than I ever do from the good ones.


Which book has left the greatest impression on you?

I was blown away when I read Love Is A Dog From Hell by Charles Bukowski, it was my first introduction to his work and his influence and writing actually made me want to write myself.


Is writing a pain or a pleasure?

Oh, it’s a joy when it’s flowing and I’m feeling positive about what I’m writing. Mostly, it’s a pain akin to having a root canal with a hot poker though. 


What would your dream job be if you weren’t an author?

As I have a passion for football and writing I’d dearly love to be a football writer/journalist. Not merely writing match reports however. So, if any sports editor is interested…


What’s the strangest thing about the place you grew up?

I grew up in Coatbridge, which at one point in my memory was a hotbed of creative and sporting excellence. Am I wrong? Coatbridge also provided the steel for the Eiffel Tower, so the story goes. It’s stamped somewhere on the tower by all accounts (my dad’s).


Which three albums would be in your desert island discs?

The Smiths: The Queen Is Dead (Reminds me of my youth and the days when music seemed to matter to people)

Bob Dylan: Blood On The Tracks (Heartbreaking. Uplifting. Brilliant)

The Velvet Underground: Loaded (To amble away the long lonesome nights on the island)


Who was your childhood crush?

I was hopelessly devoted to Olivia Newton John in her Grease days, although I was still very fond of her during her stint in Xanadu. As a footnote, I preferred the nerdy, wholesome Sandy to the rebellious, sultry Sandy. 

Brian Conaghan

Brian Conaghan was raised in the Scottish town of Coatbridge and has a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from Glasgow University. His novel, When Mr Dog Bites,was shortlisted for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal. He is also the author of The Boy Who Made It Rain and his latest book, The Bombs That Brought Us Together, which was published by Bloomsbury in April 2016. He lives in Dublin with his wife and daughter and works as a teacher. You can follow Brian on Twitter @BrianConaghan.

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