Alan Early was born in Leitrim, and now lives in Dublin. He studied in the National Film School, Dun Laoghaire. Upon graduation in 2008, he co-founded Annville Films. In 2011 his first book Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent was published by Mercier Press. Described by Eoin Colfer as ‘a brilliant creation’, it was shortlisted in the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards of that year. Arthur Quinn and the Fenris Wolf followed in 2012 and the Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper, the final in the trilogy, was published in 2013. He received a bursary from the Arts Council in early 2013, to allow him to focus on creating a new series.
Websites: www.arthurquinn.ie; www.alanearly.com
What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing the Arthur Quinn Trilogy?
The biggest challenge I faced when writing Arthur Quinn was initially finding a routine. I had never written anything to that extent before. In the past, I had concentrated on short stories and films. But this not just one novel, but three. I wrote the first book while still working full-time, in my spare time. When it came to the sequels, I suddenly found myself sitting for hours on end writing. I had to work out some sort of a daily schedule; how many hours I’d write for, my target word-count, when I’d take a break and so on.
How would you describe your daily writing routine?
It’s actually pretty regimented now. When I am writing – (I call writing sitting at my laptop, either drafting or editing) – I like to start as early as possible. I’ll make coffee, sit down and start typing. Normally, I scribble down on Post-its the five or six key plot points I want to hit that day and stick them to the wall in front of me. As I finish one plot point, the Post-it goes in the bin. I take a break about halfway through and have breakfast or lunch – (depending on how long it’s taken me!) Generally I prefer to write a chapter a day, anything from 2,500 words to 3,500. When I’m finished at my laptop, I’ll spend a while making notes for the following day and finally catching up on my reading.
What has receiving a bursary award meant to you as a writer/for your writing career?
Receiving a bursary has been of huge help to me. It allowed me to focus on creating an entirely new fantasy series for children and draft the first novel. Off the back of that book, I secured a literary agent in London, Ben Illis of The BIA. To have an agent is a massive advantage for any author, particularly an emerging one and I don’t believe I would have achieved all of this in such a short time without the assistance of the Arts Council..
What is the best piece of advice you received as an emerging writer?
I don’t remember who said it but something that I live by when writing is: ‘Torture your characters.’ I ask myself every day, have I put my characters through a bad enough time? Do their problems interest me? Because if they don’t interest me, they won’t interest the reader.
What book/author has influenced your writing the most?
In terms of writing, Neil Gaiman has always been a big influence on me. He has such a strong knowledge of myth and story but never fails to present them in a new and interesting light.
John McGahern was someone that really made me want to be an author growing up. My parents owned a bar when I was younger and the man himself came in from time to time. I remember realising at a very young age what John did and thinking immediately that I wanted to tell my own stories also.