Readers will recognize Ray O’Hanlon’s name as that of the editor of this paper but he’s hoping that, over time, his name will become as familiar on the covers of books. He told Page Turner: “I figured if I was going to have a mid-life crisis it might as well be channeled into something positive, hence the ambition to add the title author to that of journalist, which I have carried, proudly, for 32 years.”
O’Hanlon is Dublin-born and educated, but has lived in the U.S. for 24 years now and is a U.S. citizen. His wife Lisa is from Illinois, and their three children are all New Yorkers. “As much as I retain my Irishness, I am also now a New Yorker and an American,” he said. “I enjoy, then, the best of two countries.”
What is your latest book about?
“The South Lawn Plot” is a tale of simmering enmity and religious conflict that carries through four centuries, from early 17th century England to the present day/near future and culminates with an assassination plot that reaches its climactic moment on the South Lawn of the White House. The book is a thriller, a “what if” tale that draws on the historical record, but then takes the story down an imaginary road. Nevertheless, while it is a work of fiction, I hope it inspires curious readers to delve into the historical record that was its initial inspiration.
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
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Whenever possible, and writing fast when I get the time. I have yet to encounter ideal conditions and arguably there is no such thing, unless you’re talking about hand writing at a café table in an Italian piazza, or on the south coast of France a la Joyce or Graham Greene. But who has the luxury of that these days?
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Don’t be easily discouraged, tough it out, and remember that you never stop learning. Also read and read, and allow yourself to be inspired by other writers. Most of what you need to tell a story is all around you.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
Any three of the 20 Aubrey/Maturin novels by the late Patrick O’Brian.
What book are you currently reading?
“A Handful of Dust” by Evelyn Waugh.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Dan Barry’s “Bottom of the 33rd,” a gem of a book that is about baseball but also so much more.
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
“Moby Dick.” Melville’s masterpiece is a tale for the ages and I even found in it an indirect reference to my adopted home town of Ossining.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
Graham Greene. He was a master of just about every tool that a writer can bring to bear. And if I could ask him some questions they would be the same as the ones in Page Turner.
What book changed your life?
George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” with ridiculous ease it sums up the darker side of the human condition.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
Actually I have a few: the end of either Dun Laoghaire pier, Baltimore, West Cork, Glendalough, County Wicklow, and the back garden of the house in South County Dublin that I grew up in.
You’re Irish if . . .
You never forget where you came from, no matter how long it is since you left the place.