It was my pleasure to interview John Horan, author of an honest and thought provoking novel titled “A Vagrant at the House of Love”. For the full review, click here
Below are my questions in italics and John’s complete answers beneath them.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a forty year old man living in Cork, Ireland. I’m single, house sharing with a friend and two dogs that are lounging on the couch next to me. They’re almost as lazy as I am. I’ve struggled with addiction and mental illness over the years but just about managed to keep my head above water thanks to very supportive family and friends (managing not to swallow too much when I sank below). I’ve a strong faith in a God of love that keeps me going too. I don’t drink or dabble in chemicals anymore but I’m still a bit of fun at parties. I love music and films and art as well as literature, I’ve written and directed some short films, I like the social, collaborative element you don’t get from writing novels.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a day job as well?
My whole life has been, in a way, dedicated to avoiding real work. Working as an artist is a way to remain a child and spend your life playing. Still bills need to be paid so I’ve bent the knee and worked a lot of dead-end jobs over the years, the more dead-end the better, last thing I want is to get sucked into the system and become a droid for ‘the man.’ whoever he may be. I may be starting a part time bar job soon, I enjoy bar work because essentially it’s just hanging out with people, I’m good at that.
Has writing always been a passion of yours or one that came over time?
The writing flame was light within me by a teacher at the age of 12. His name was Mr. Vincent. We had an art day where we spent the first half of the day writing a story and the second drawing a picture. I ran way over time writing my story, I just couldn’t stop, even though my hand started to ache. I didn’t think any more of it till Mr. Vincent came in on the Monday and started talking about a very special story he had read. He begin reading it out and it was my story. Throughout the day he insisted any teacher that came into the class read the story out too, so it was read out about four times. I remember feeling special and loved. I’d found my calling.
Shades of colors surround both the lost souls and the living. Was this meant as an visual indicator of the state of that person’s soul? Could you elaborate on why Racine and others like him were blues?
The blues were called blues because it’s my favourite colour. That’s it! The colours around the living was drawn from the idea that everyone has an aura, and if the blues could see it, they understand better people they were unable to communicate with. They could describe what they were like visually.
Racine talked about “the codes” to life that he could never find.This was a beautiful metaphor that seemed interconnected with his struggles with addiction. Was that the case?
Not really. It really has to do with my own struggle with mental illness. I have OCD and was, at the time of writing, obsessed by the idea if I could just find the right formulation of words it would act as a key and unlock the door of the cell of my psychological distress. Also, I was looking through religions to try and find the ‘correct’ way of thinking and living to produce good results and be happy. But I’ve found over time they are just guides and we have to figure out how to live on our own. Nobody’s quite sure what to do. I think intuition is probably the best guide.
Can you talk a bit about what inspired this story? Was it something that occupied your mind for a long time before you “put pen to paper”, so to speak, or did it come all at once?
I had the basic idea in mind for about four years before I really started writing it. I wrote the first chapter many times but couldn’t quite find the right voice for the character. Eventually I did, but the biggest surprise came for me when I realized the story was going to be about Michelle, which was inspired by a painful, failed romance I had.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
No, not really. I think messages are for priests and politicians. Part of the appeal of writing is a writer can be more honest about his feelings about life. A writer can admit to being confused, a writer can be honest about not knowing the answers, I think people respond to that honesty because they feel it themselves.
From your experience with self-publishing, do you have any advice that might help other aspiring authors?
I don’t really because I’m a novice at it myself. I would appreciate any advice you or your readers could give me, because I really don’t know what I’m doing!
What are you working on now?
I have an idea for a television comedy/drama I would love to get made about my experiences bar tending with other struggling artists. I think the tension between the societal ideal of following your dreams and the reality of failure and rejection is an interesting and funny area to explore. So if anyone knows any tv producers, send them my way.
I would totally watch that show, John!
Many thanks to author John Horan for taking the time to be interviewed on Amid the Imaginary.
For a great audio interview, check out wiredfm
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