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Roddy Doyle biography

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Roddy Doyle
Photo: Mark Nixon

Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle Biography

Born in 1958 in Dublin, Roddy Doyle is a prolific Irish writer who has found over two decades-worth of material in the humorous, tender, and fraught life of the family. Americans may be most familiar with Doyle's wise-cracking dialog and its lilting Dublin intonations from the popular film adaptations of his Barrytown Trilogy: The Commitments (1987), The Snapper (1990), and The Van (1991). The three stories center around one middle-class Dublin family and their enterprises - a soul band, a teen pregnancy, a fish-and-chips van.

In 1993, Doyle won the Man Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, a story told from the point of view of a ten-year-old boy living in the Barrytown section of north Dublin. For its language and perspective, the novel often draws comparisons with James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - connections, Doyle says, he hates. He explains in a 2009 interview with The Guardian:

If you're a writer in Dublin and you write a snatch of dialogue, everyone thinks you lifted it from Joyce. The whole idea that he owns language as it is spoken in Dublin is a nonsense. He didn't invent the Dublin accent. It's as if you're encroaching on his area or it's a given that he's on your shoulder. It gets on my nerves.

His other novels for adults include The Woman Who Walked Into Doors (1996) and Paula Spencer (2006) - a pair of books about a woman recovering from an abusive marriage; and a historical trilogy - A Star Called Henry (1999), Oh, Play That Thing (2004), and The Dead Republic (2010) - about Henry Smart, an IRA assassin who fights in the 1916 rebellion, emigrates to America, and ends up writing for Hollywood. Among other works, Doyle has also published various short story collections, including Click (2007) and Magical Tales of Ireland (2003); and a nonfiction memoir about his parents, Rory and Ita (2002).

Doyle has dipped his pen in nearly every category of children's fiction. The Giggler Treatment (2000) is the first installment of a middle-grade trilogy about the Mack family and their dog Rover. The other books in the trilogy are Rover Saves Christmas (2001) and The Meanwhile Adventures (2004). For young adult readers, Wilderness (2007) is part family drama and part husky sled adventure. In 2008, Doyle made a foray into picture-book territory with Her Mother's Face (illustrated by Freya Blackwood) - a story about a girl who, like Emer in A Greyhound of a Girl, loses her mother when she is only three.

In a 2011 interview with The Telegraph, Doyle speaks about his working method, which allows him to have several irons in the fire at once. He describes working on A Greyhound of a Girl at the same time he was putting together Bullfighting, a collection of stories about "the vaguely comic despair of middle-aged manhood":

If you are dealing with a family story like Greyhound and put that away for a day and then focus on the life of a middle aged man and think, well those characters share the same kitchen somehow and then it's fun to look at something from different perspectives. I work roughly from nine to six and there is no commute so if you sit and do nothing it seems like an eternity. So, actually, you have plenty of time to write. I might do three pages of Greyhound and then read a football website or hang out the washing and put on a coffee and by the time I come back I have had time to shed one and get ready for the other. Sometimes one leaks into the other, but I am reasonably good at identifying that.

Doyle shares information about his writing process and his top ten pieces of advice for budding writers in a 2010 article in The Guardian, including:

  1. Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

  2. Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

  3. Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg "horse", "ran", "said".

  4. Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog - "He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego." But then get back to work.

Link to Roddy's website

This biography was last updated on 04/25/2012.

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Interview

Roddy Doyle On A Greyhound of a Girl

What inspired you to write a novel about four generations of women?
Two fictional women came together in my head. I wanted to write about a girl, just before she officially becomes a teenager, who feels and anticipates the changes that are happening to her. So, that was one of the women. I called her Mary. The other woman was inspired by my grandmother. She died in 1928, when my mother was a little girl. Obviously, I never knew her. I always wondered about her—what she'd been like and what she would have been like if she'd lived to be an older woman. I decided to make her Mary's great-grandmother. Between these two women there had to be two more generations—Mary's mother and grandmother. That made four: girl, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. They'd be very different but would have a lot in common too.

Are the characters in A Greyhound Of a Girl inspired by women in your family or life?
Tansey, the great-grandmother, is inspired by my grandmother, whose name was actually Ellen. As I said, she died in 1928, of the flu. My mother was only three when it happened. It's a sad story. What makes it sadder is the fact that my mother grew up ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Roddy Doyle at BookBrowse
A Greyhound of a Girl jacket The Dead Republic jacket Paula Spencer jacket
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All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Roddy Doyle but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

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    Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    A Greyhound of a Girl

    Try:
    Life After Life
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  • Jeanne Birdsall

    Jeanne Birdsall

    Birdsall was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and raised in the suburbs. She decided to become a writer at the age of ten - but she didn't start until she was 41. She worked first on other jobs, most notably as a ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    A Greyhound of a Girl

    Try:
    The Penderwicks
    by Jeanne Birdsall

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