The world of books is not something I usually discuss on the blog.
Although I am an avid reader, my reach on ‘Minnie Mélange’ tends to gravitate around the imagery and utterances of glossy magazines and memoirs by a certain creative director of Vogue.
However, once in a while, one finds a piece of text that evokes so much emotion that it’s extremely difficult not to try convince every one you know and even those you don’t know to pick up a copy.
For me, this digest of drama, melancholy, excitement, pity, concern and satisfaction was embodied in Brendan Spratt’s first book ‘Special Nobody’.
While many novels attempt to tackle and denote the difficulties and problems society faces, few authors are successful in their cinematic portrayal of the tale and leaving the audience feeling what they can do to help individuals such as the protagonist Jason L’Estrange in ‘real life’.
Brendan Spratt, is an incredibly talented individual and whilst this is his first visit to the literary world, Spratt has previously worked in the performing arts dancing, having acquired his talents at the Billie Barry Stage School. With a degree in Electronic Media, Brendan has most recently been screenwriting for soap operas such as Emmerdale and Ireland’s own Fair City.
Whilst on a flight in Australia, Brendan took the time to answer six questions for me about the journey of self-publishing a book, his inspirations behind ‘Special Nobody’ and who should actually read the tale!
1. Brendan, your CV is a mélange of artistic and creative endeavours. What made you want to write a book?
I’ve always loved writing and started keeping a diary when I was 12. As a teenager, I found solace and a peace of mind in getting my thoughts down on paper and letting them escape from my overly active imagination. I started my first book at 16 and really enjoyed the process of creating characters and a life for them but then the Leaving Cert and my own life took over. Suddenly I was in college, working and partying and although I started many books, I could never find the time to finish them. I always had an excuse. When I turned thirty, I was in a really happy place. I’d achieved some success as a writer in Television and personally I was really happy in a relationship. But a part of me still felt deflated because I still hadn’t accomplished this challenge I’d set myself at 16. I still hadn’t written a book. The next day I started writing Special Nobody and this time I didn’t stop until it was finished.
2. What was the process of self-publishing like? Is it a method you would recommend to budding authors?
When I started considering self-publishing as an option, I initially felt completely overwhelmed by the thought of it. I’d start to read blogs and then shut my computer down in a panic believing it was too complicated and I couldn’t do it. Self-publishing is an industry and like any industry it takes years to learn and be an expert in it. I’m still a complete novice but it’s been an incredible learning experience and I feel like I’m learning something new everyday. A month ago, I was a writer but now I’ve become a publisher and as it’s up to me to do my own publicity, a marketer too.
I’d definitely recommend it to budding authors. Use your friends and contacts. I was lucky enough to know a fantastic graphic designer, Siobhan Hickey who designed a fantastic cover.
I sent off countless emails to agents and publishers with no success and Special Nobody would be still sitting on my computer if I hadn’t self-published but now it’s on Kindles and iPads and hopefully people are enjoying it and getting to see my work.
3. What did you draw upon as inspiration for ‘Special Nobody’?
I wanted to write the book, I always wanted to read. I’ve always loved reading but as a teenager I could never find any characters in novels I could relate to. When I was 19, I found Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series and I was overjoyed to discover there were some gays in fiction. However these books were based in the 70s in San Francisco so for a teenager in 90s Dublin it was a completely different world. I wanted a central character that other young adults could relate to. A character who against the odds was a survivor and would hopefully empower other gay and straight teens to realize that if Jason L’Estrange can do it then so can they. Inspiration came from my own experiences and those of my friends over the years.
4. ‘Special Nobody’ narrates Jason L’Estrange’s difficult journey in life and shines a spotlight on flaws which most of us possess. Is there a little of Jason in all of us?
I hope there’s a little bit of Jason in all of us. For my debut novel, it was really important for me to have a central character that people could relate to. None of us are perfect and although life can be tough, when we have a good circle of friends and a supportive family, it can be hugely rewarding. Most of us are lucky enough to have parents that love and guide us and although Jason’s mother loves him, she doesn’t guide him. As a teenager, the world can feel very small and you can feel isolated and lonely. Jason needs to find his place in the world. He needs to search out and find his friends and make a community. To be happy and fulfilled, we all need to do this because ultimately I think all we ever really want is to be loved and know we belong.
5. ‘Special Nobody’ is set in Dublin and offers a multitude of odes to the capital. Was it important to you that your first book was based at ‘home’?
I actually wrote Special Nobody while I was living in Sydney. The grass is always greener and when I was away I began to appreciate what I loved and missed about Dublin. Yes it rains a lot and we can be a nation of begrudgers but there is also something very special about Irish people and how they look out for each other. It’s alright for you to slag Dublin but if a foreigner slags it, you take great offence. I love Dublin but it can be a place of contradiction for me. On a bright day, I’ll walk down Grafton Street and fall in love with the beauty and energy. On a dull, miserable day, all I’ll see are junkies and think it’s a kip. I’m not sure if it was important for me that Special Nobody was set in Dublin but I couldn’t imagine Jason and his mam living anywhere else.
6. Finally, who and why should those in Ireland and abroad pick up a copy of ‘Special Nobody’?
I honestly don’t think there are any other books out there like Special Nobody. It’s a real world that people will recognize. It chronicles the temptations that all teenagers face as they come of age. No vampires or wizards, this is sex, drugs and dance music. It’s heartwarming and bittersweet but gritty and honest. It will break your heart but make you smile too. It’s for anyone who ever felt like they didn’t fit in but hopefully found their way.
Plus, you can tweet Brendan here!