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Introducing our longlisted authors: Mel O’Doherty

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Mel Doherty

Meet the authors longlisted for the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award

Introducing our longlisted authors: Mel O’Doherty

Mel O’Doherty spent three years writing a novel. When he finally finished it in 2019, he wrote 10 or 11 short stories in a frenzied few weeks. Waiting was one of those stories. Another one was The Planters which was shortlisted for the Francis MacManus Prize and was broadcast nationally on RTE Radio One. It subsequently featured in a local literary magazine, The Hollybough. Mel is an English teacher by profession and is currently writing his second novel.

He is longlisted for the story: Waiting

Toward the end of his life, a man’s father divulges that he was bullied as a child. The son then recalls his own experience of being bullied, which in turn prompts a sickening suspicion about a longstanding mystery. This is a story about the different kinds of pain we endure, filial love, and moral ambiguity.

What inspired you to write the story? Is it drawn from personal experience?

No, it is not drawn from personal experience, though people of my parents’ generation received harsh treatment from their religious educators if they were left-handed. I just had the image of a man telling his son he was bullied as a child. And I used that aspect of Ireland’s religious past to carry it.

How does writing short stories differ from writing full-length fiction, and what do you enjoy about writing in the genre?

You can write a short story in a few hours, perhaps even making it up as you go along. It is a burst, the start and ending always close; this shapes the writing, the structure, the plot in a natural way; and, ironically, this can be quite liberating – the smaller space in which to insert a world.

How do you write? Longhand or typed? Why does your chosen method work for you?

I type. Though I keep notebooks close by, and when a line or a thought or piece of dialogue occurs to me, I will record it in a notebook. When it’s time to begin a short story, I will have the notebook next to the laptop as I type.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

Women with Men, by Richard Ford.

What’s your favourite short story of all time? Who would you cast to read it?

In Another Country by Ernest Hemingway. Mark Ruffalo.

Who would you cast to read the story you have entered?

Cillian Murphy. He’s from Cork, so the accent would be right on!

What are you reading now?

I’m re-reading Nemesis by Philip Roth. One of my favourite novels, and apt for our present time.

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