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), see trailer below; 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 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 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.
To learn more about Roddy Doyle's writing process, read this 2010 article in The Guardian in which he shares his top ten pieces of advice for budding writers, including:
This article was originally published in May 2012, and has been updated for the
November 2013 paperback release.
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