John O’Donnell

Posted by Sue Leonard on Sunday 31st May 2020

A prize-winning poet who was published from the time he was at school, John O’Donnell has four poetry collections to his name. But having enjoyed writing stories as a kid, he then stopped penning them for some thirty years.

Meanwhile, having studied law, he started at the Bar in 1983.

“And I’ve been practicing ever since,” he says. “I became a Senior Counsel in 2001.”

Twelve years ago, he was sitting in the law library, when a colleague asked him to contribute to a short story anthology.

“I read a newspaper article about a young man injured playing rugby who ended up in a wheelchair. As a former Rugby player, for the Leinster Youths and for UCD, I wondered what that was like and what you would do.”

The resulting story, Promise, published in 2011, won a Hennessy Award. Many subsequent stories have been previously published.

“In essence the collection has taken 10 years,” he says. “I write every weekday morning between 6.30 and 8.00. And then I go for a run.”

Who is John O’Donnell? 

Date of birth:  1960 in Dublin.

Education:  Gonzaga College. University College Dublin, Law. Cambridge University, Masters in Law. The King’s Inns, studying for the Bar.

Home: Rathmines.

Family: Wife Michelene Huggard, William, Jack, Eavan and Tom.

The Day Job: Senior Counsel at the Four Courts.

In Another Life: “I’d play on the Irish Rugby Team that wins the world cup.”

Favourite Writers: William Trevor; Beryl Bainbridge; Kevin Barry; Colin Barrett; Tobias Wolff; Christine Dwyer Hickey.

Second Novel: “I have more stories, and I might do another collection. I also have 20,000 words of a potential novel.”

Top Tip: Keep turning up. Keep getting it down.

Website:    Twitter: @JlodJohn


The Debut: Almost the Same Blue. Doire Press: €14. 

Infidelity; child abduction; Dignitas; gambling addiction – all these subjects and more, are covered in this diverse collection of beautifully written, skilfully constructed stories.

“As a barrister, you’re looking for precise words. You tell your client’s story, and make it believable. In my stories, I’m interested in writing about people in extremis; and what it is like at the frontiers of the human condition.”

The Verdict: A thought provoking, compelling collection which is full of insight and humanity. I loved it.

 Published in The Irish Examiner on 30th May.

© Sue J Leonard. 2020


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