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Pursuing a Dream

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 5th October, 2011 5:30pm

At the age of 47, Athlone man Eamonn Harrigan from Abbey Lane is moving ever closer to his dream of being a full-time writer, after choosing a career in finance leaving school 30 years ago because "that's where the jobs were".

His first book "Where The Dead Go" is currently available as an e-book, with a hard copy version due in approximately a month's time.

Not one to do things by half measures, after leaving St Aloysius College in Athlone behind in 1981, Eamonn studied first Business Studies in Athlone Institute of Technology, before adding to that a Bachelor of Commerce and a Higher Diploma in Education in NUI Galway and finally a Master of Business in the Smurfit Business School in UCD in Dublin.

For 20 years he climbed the management and finance career ladder, working for companies in both Dublin and Galway.

The management and finance sector was not Eamonn's natural inclination however, he says. "I would have been much better at English in school, but there was no point in doing a BA (Bachelor of Arts) and being an unemployed teacher," he says candidly.

"It was a question of where the jobs were." His fondness for English, writing and reading were cultivated during his school years though, thanks in no small part he says to teachers Joe Ducke and Dr Patrick Murray.

The road to getting his first book published really began properly however about five years ago. Eamonn says he had, throughout his career, written short stories in his spare time. However five years ago he joined a creative writing class in Galway, which sparked off his creative talent once more. "I found that I loved it," he says. "I found the instructor very good, and I got some good feedback."

Eamonn went on to do some reading with a Galway group called "Over The Edge". This group runs an annual writing competition, which Eamonn decided to enter four years ago. His creative effort, a story entitled "The Death of Foxy", was shortlisted to the final five in the competition, something Eamonn says made him decide to "take the writing a bit more seriously".

After successfully applying for a place on a Masters in Screen Writing at the Huston School of Film and Digital Media at NUI Galway, Eamonn pulled back his working hours to part-time and took his place on the course in 2009. After really enjoying that, he won a scholarship to UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) for a three-month professional screen writing programme. During this course he wrote a feature-length screen play entitled "Ozzy", an animated story of an ostrich going through puberty that Eamonn says he's "still working on".

Eamonn's first book "Where The Dead Go" had already started though, back in 2007.

"It started as a couple of short stories probably four years ago as part of the creative writing course," Eamonn says.

"I actually tried to pitch it as a screen play but it suited the novel format a lot better." The book took shape properly in summer 2010, when Eamonn took four months out to write it full-time.

Currently available as an e-book through Amazon and publishers Solstice, "Where The Dead Go" wrestles with the timeless question of what happens after death.

Customer reviewers give the book, which was released on August 5, five stars. Reviewers call it "a thoroughly engrossing read from start to finish", and say it deals with the afterlife "in an amazingly creative and original way".

"It's essentially a good versus evil story," Eamonn says. "It's dark. There's a little bit of horror, a little bit of science fiction. It follows the story of a few people who end up in a diner on a particular night and they all lose their lives on that night. It's about what happens to them after that night. It's an unusual take on what might happen to you after you die."

The book will soon be on the shelves of a bookshop near you, after one of the approxmiately 30 publishing companies Eamonn pitched his book to snapped it up.

Main sales of the hard copy, which is due to come onstream in a month, will be on Amazon, but Eamonn said Athlone bookshop John's Book Shop next to Athlone Castle will also stock it.

What's even more interesting for local readers is that, according to Eamonn, they will recognise some of the book's locations. "I purposely haven't set the book in any particular country even, but when people read it they'll see places that they know, and possibly even shades of people that they know," Eamonn says.

For example, he said the old Athlone library that he remembers from his youth is definitely in there. It's not surprising some of Athlone has crept its way into the pages of "Where The Dead Go" really however, as Eamonn says he finds inspiration walking in the Meadows in Athlone as well as Silver Strand in Galway.

You won't recognise everything in the novel however, as Eamonn says most of it is entirely made up. "People say you should write what you know," he says. "It's influenced by what I know, but you have to let your imagination run riot."

These days Eamonn is learning quite a lot about online marketing, as he's charged with giving his new book a push in the virtual world. You'll find him on Twitter @wherethedeadgo, and on Facebook on a page of the same name. His working week has changed drastically, with him now working between two and a half days in management, and the rest writing screenplays and his second novel.

While this is on the road to his dream of writing full-time, he says it's important for anyone thinking of doing the same to think of writing as a job.

"I had to discipline myself," he says.

"It's very easy when you want to write to sit down and then have lots of excuses." And though financially difficult, Eamonn says that as a writer you mustn't write in the main for money because "you then corrupt what you're doing".