“Readers read, and writers write! If you wanna write, write! If you wanna read, go work in a goddamn bank!” This pearl of wisdom was wisely shouted at me almost 20 years ago by the Canadian Screenwriter Gerard Wilson, who wrote classic screenplays such as ‘Lawman’, ‘Chato’s Land’, and ‘Scorpio’. This was his response to me questioning whether reading makes you a better writer.
Every Thursday morning he’d do a writing class in Westport, and every Thursday morning I’d travel on the bus from Achill Island to be at the class. His knowledge of writing is astounding. His detail in how to plot out a story and how to develop a character is knowledge I have carried with me ever since. His stories about living in Hollywood in the seventies fascinated me. It was almost twenty years ago, that I decided I wanted to be a screenwriter, instead my journey took me into theatre, and finally, at the ripe young age of 38, I’ve self-published my first novel, The Keelman’s Fortnight.
I worked in An Taibhdhearc Theatre, in Galway City for many years. What I love most about the theatre is its location. The old building is situated in the centre of Middle Street, right in the heart of the city. Before working there, I was on the dole, writing plays and staging them in Galway City, if I wasn’t writing plays I was acting in them. It wasn’t until I started in An Taibhdhearc when my real education began. Being surrounded every day by actors, technicians, poets, writers, singers, and artists leaves an overwhelming positive resonance. Working in a theatre every day gives you a wonderful education into the entire world of not only theatre, but showbusiness in general.
I loved working there, it was the best job I ever had. Then, I got really sick. I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk. The pains rattled and howled through my body. I suffered from boils (inside my body!) which were poisoning my bloodstream, causing the agony. I had surgery upon surgery to remove them. I spent eight months trying to re-cooperate, to get back to work, only to suffer from an adrenal crisis in the summer of 2019.
I was 27 hours in adrenal crisis. My doctors told me I should have been dead. I was in the hospital for six weeks. After the doctors ran tests for weeks, they diagnosed me with having Addison’s disease, Vasculitis, and A1AD (Alpha One Antitrypsin disorder) a rare lung condition. Also, one of my kidneys wasn’t working properly. This meant my entire immune system was compromised. If I was a car, I would have failed the NCT, if was was a horse they would have shot me. I couldn’t work anymore. I moved into my grandfather’s old cottage on Achill Island, and I began writing another play, as I pondered what the hell I would do for the rest of my life.
The play I wrote as I re-cooperated from my illness is the best one, I know I will ever write. It’s called ‘Young Orson – An Irish Journey Through Theatre’ My colleague, Blue Hanley, originally wanted to do an aesthetic stage version of ‘War of The Worlds.’ I’m a huge fan of Orson Welles, and an idea formulated about writing about his entire career in theatre. ‘It’s about Orson Welle’s time in Ireland, and how he got his first acting break at The Gate Theatre. The play finishes talking about his experience staging his final play in Dublin, in 1960, ‘Chimes At Midnight.’ The original plan was that the playwright would remain a mystery, to add life to Orson. I gave it to Blue, and she successfully managed to get a spot in the Galway Theatre Festival in 2020. Then…Covid hit. Everything cancelled. I couldn’t leave the house.
I reacted positively. I saw my health scare as an opportunity to seek knowledge, to open my mind and soak in the wonders of the world around me. I read about spirituality and philosophy. It’s a funny thing to say, but you need to be nearly dead in order to gain a better understanding of the meaning of life. I read about truth seekers and life gurus, I opened my mind to knowledge outside of the normal realm, and because I had a lot of time on my hands, I watched a lot of true crime documentaries. This was the inspiration for my novel.
There is an old two story convent near my house, with a large kitchen, a church, a common room and an old hospital ward. After reading about cults, and the damaging effect they have on people, I was walking the dog one day, passing the convent. And I thought to myself ‘If I was a cult leader, and I needed to buy a house for my followers, this convent would be perfect.’ Right at this time I came across a YouTube channel called JCS, about criminal psychology. I took notes on interrogations, how they played out, they’re the greatest plays I’ve ever witnessed, all unscripted and real. I was also reading about Primal Scream Therapy.
I got these two ideas, about a cult leader and a detective, and I began carving a novel. It took forever. Writing a novel is nowhere near like writing a play. You need to add every minutia detail to a novel, a play is all about the dialogue and the plot, a novel is about everything under the sun.
I take notice of everything, what’s happening in the world, the absurdity of cancel culture, the stifling bureaucracy, the powerful knowledge I have gained in all aspects of life and I. poured all of this into my novel. It’s only halfway done. I still have to write volume two. But I’m an author now, so I’m looking forward to it…I still want to be a screenwriter though.
(c) Adrian Lavelle
About The Keelman’s Fortnight:
Wesley Harding is a law student, studying in Galway City. He’s a loner, a misanthropist with grand ideals, who obsesses over his beautiful classmate, Myia Dawkins. When tragedy strikes, Wesley flees to Achill Island, where he joins the primal scream therapy commune, The House Of Novalis. It is here where Wesley flourishes, becoming their undisputed spiritual leader, his teachings causing The House Of Novalis to become an international sensation.
Detective Sergeant Jimmy Daniels is at the end of his rope. Based in Galway City, he’s been suspended for doing his job properly, now his superiors are using everything in their bureaucratic power to crush him. He contemplates whether he’s up to the job in these modern times. Has the criminal mind evolved? Or has cancel culture and the technological age gotten so ridiculous that he simply can’t do it anymore?
The first of a two part series, The Keelman’s Fortnight (Volume One), is an epic tale about obsession, voyeurism, loneliness and the bureaucracy, all the while seeking true happiness in one’s self, covering a wide variety of themes that include mental illness, drug abuse, addiction and the power of human relationships.
As the story evolves, Jimmy and Wesley’s paths become ever more intermingled. Coupled with a spree killer who stalks young female victims and a wide variety of colourful characters, this novel is a must read for fans of true crime and cultism.
The Keelman’s Fortnight is available at all good ebook stores including Kindle, Nook and Kobo, paperback and hardcover versions can also be purchased via Amazon. Order your copy online here.