Fergus O'Connell Novelist & Writer


It seems to be the #1 question writers get asked. It comes in various forms. ‘Did you always want to be a writer?’ ‘When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?’ ‘When did you start writing?’

I got asked this question three time this week and it reminded me that I really need to fish out of storage the first book I ever owned. I think it would be good luck to have it close by when I’m writing.

The book is a hardback, about three quarters of an inch thick. I don’t remember it ever having had a dust jacket but if it did it’s long gone. So too is the spine. The cover is bright red, though somewhat faded after all these years. The pages are yellowed with age – and when I say yellowed, I mean really yellowed – more tobacco coloured really, like the fingers of somebody who’s smoked a hundred a day for years.

The book is Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. My mum read it to me when I was four. A pretty scary book for a four year old given the murder and mayhem that abounds in it.

I’m pretty sure that that’s when I decided I wanted to be a novelist. Not that I would have understood any of that at the time. All I knew was that some power had transported me away from an ordinary suburban childhood to a place that was exciting and scary and filled with the most amazing characters. Later I would realize that this was what novels did and that I wanted to be able to do that – create and live in these alternative worlds.

It was, is and will always be my favourite book. (It was also Irish writer, John B Keane’s favourite.)

And so I really must fish it out.