Michelle Jackson Meets Eoin Macken
In the realm of writers, several have proved to be creative in other artistic disciplines, including art, music and of course acting. Eoin Macken came to public attention at the age of nineteen as lead model for the brand Abercrombie and Fitch in New York. But since then he has proven to be multi-faceted and much more than the sum of his handsome features. With an honours science degree in psychology from UCD, Eoin has written, directed and produced films. He acted alongside Brendan Gleason in the movie of Paul Mercier’s Studs and has had a prolific career to date on the big and small screen – most notably in the TV series Merlin.
I was speaking to Eoin recently at the Irish Book awards, where he was nominated in the best newcomer category for his debut novel, Kingdom of Scars. He made it clear that writing has always been a big part of his life. English was his favourite subject when he was a student in secondary school and he enjoyed in particular focusing on essay writing and poetry. When he began making indie films he poured his energies into film making, and script writing. He says, “Writing a book was something that just happened as an experiment to write prose.” Writing prose allowed him an opportunity to explore his characters in a deeper way than writing a script.
Eoin describes his personal writing process as an organic activity. “I find I just write whenever I feel I need and want to. I like writing in coffee shops, airports and on the move, stopping for maybe 45 mins to write. But I only write when I have the desire, then I really enjoy it. I love writing so I would never force myself to do it, it needs to be fun, and a release.” However he found the process quite different to script writing for a variety of reasons, especially editing. “A book is very much a baring of your soul in a way as it’s all your own words and there is nothing to fall back upon except the actual words on the page. I loved editing it though, working with Gaye Shortland, this wonderful woman from Cork, taught me a huge amount about structure and pacing of prose, and editing the book with her was a fascinating and hugely enjoyable experience.”
Hemingway, Stienbeck and Mailer are among his favourite authors and he has also found Tolkien an inspiration. “Reading books is so subjective, like music or film and for me depends on my mood,” he says.
When Eoin started to write Kingdom of Scars he wasn’t sure that it would develop into a novel. He wanted to focus on a character and just write short anecdotes but then it grew and he fell in love with all the characters. The book is personal to him because he set it in the village where he grew up in Dublin and drew some characters from amalgamations of people that he knew when he was younger. This helped him to give the characters an immediate grounding in some kind of reality, even if that was only loose memories at times. Then as a fictional process it grew from that once the characters were established. Even as he was writing it he had no idea what the beginning or ending would be. He says, “I was just writing about this kid.”
Eoin didn’t find any particular aspects of the novel difficult to write but one particular scene amused him. “I wrote when I had a burning desire to, so every time I wrote something I was enjoying it, if something got difficult then I would stop because that to me meant that it wasn’t working and wasn’t right. I would never push something unless I was certain it was fundamental for the story to function. Writing about Sam’s first time failing to have sex was definitely interesting and I tried putting myself in his shoes, and that was a strange experience.”
When I asked him about plans for a new book he explained that it is already underway and it sounds fascinating. “It’s set in New Mexico and travels across Utah and Arizona to Los Angeles, about an 18 year old boy who falls in love with this girl over a weekend and then weeks later tries to get to LA to find her. On the journey he is waylaid though and meets this older woman who becomes his travelling companion and it’s a bit of an adventure to finally get there and to discover who he is and why he’s going there.”
It’s always exciting when a new writer comes on the scene, especially with other artistic dimensions. Eoin is an exciting talent and we can expect to be hearing many great things about him in the future…watch this space.
(c) Michelle Jackson
About Kingdom of Scars
Sam Leahy is a shy, fifteen-year-old boy navigating two social worlds: the uptight bullies at his all-boys’ private school and the small uncouth gang in his neighbourhood.
This gang of five follows the typical teenage-boy pattern: they drink, smoke, cause fights and vandalize property. Sam desperately wants to be accepted, but he soon finds that the only way to gain respect amongst the crew is to fight violence with violence. And it hurts.
When it comes to girls, Sam is clueless, but when he inadvertently meets Antoinette, the girl of his dreams, who is perfect, blonde, slender and sexy, he is enamoured . . . only to learn that falling in love has a price.
But being a teenager is all about redemption and recrimination, small events becoming catastrophic, and seemingly huge moments eventually meaning nothing. Through these events that shape a teen, Sam discovers the boundaries of sexuality, friendship, authority, and the possibility of death.
Kingdom of Scars is published by Poolbeg Press and available in all good bookstores.