"The Great Unexpected" is Dan Mooney's second novel. PHOTO BY GLIC MEDIA
Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
The head nurse/owner of Hilltop Nursing Home, Florence Ryan, although a petite woman, is outside of earshot referred to as “the Rhino.”
“Like a blizzard she moved through the nursing home, with a relentless, cold energy,” Dan Mooney writes in “The Great Unexpected,” his second novel.
She has, however, invested in Cook, whose skills in the kitchen, resident Joel Monroe reckons, would be appreciated in rather fancier places. And staff members generally are competent and pleasant.
But Joel is far from happy. From humble beginnings, he’d built a career as a mechanic and then a garage-owner. So he never did like being told what to do, when to eat or what pills to take — other than by his beloved Lucey, of course, who died after their nearly 50 years of marriage.
Joel isn’t the introspective sort who could examine the “terrible sense of despair that seemed to have crept up on him, a sense he couldn’t seem to shake.”
Lucey had been replaced in the next bed by Mr. Miller, who was in a long-term coma. The night Miller finally dies, Joel turns away from the nurses and weeps for the loss of the “most agreeable friend” he’d ever had. It becomes clear to him at last that he’s “terrifyingly, cripplingly lonely.”
Then Hilltop is shaken up by the arrival of Frank Adams, AKA Frank de Selby, a former TV soap-opera actor. Soon a bond develops between the curmudgeonly Joel and his eccentric new roommate, and they plot an adventure together.
Kirkus Reviews called the “engaging” novel a “testimony to the powerful medicine that a friend can be,” while the Minneapolis Star Tribune said it is “piercingly funny and profound;” and Booklist, which previously had praised the young novelist’s first book, said, ”Mooney’s portrayal of this unexpected friendship will delight readers looking for an emotionally astute portrayal of people searching for meaning in their twilight years."
Date of birth: April 14, 1984
Place of birth: Limerick City
Fiancée: Christine Burnell (she’s from Maine, U.S.)
Residence: Limerick City
Published works: “Me Myself and Them” (Legend Press and Park Row Books), “The Great Unexpected.”
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I need hours and hours at a time. I can’t just sit down and write for an hour; it takes me that long just to get started, but once I get going I can get a lot done. If I’ve five hours uninterrupted I can write between 5,000 and 6,000 words. It’s just tremendously difficult to find that time. I need quiet too, I know lots of writers who have music in the background but that’s a non-runner for me, too. Usually I get my best stuff done in the middle of the night. I’m not a great sleeper anyway so it suits me to be working away at four in the morning, sometimes even later.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Every time I get asked this it’s the same advice I always give. You just have to write. I meet so many people with amazing ideas and concepts for stories and all they’re missing is the words. It’s rarely easy, in fact it’s often awful and difficult but it’s literally the only way stories will ever get written. You just have to keep writing, keep persevering, keep the words coming all the time and you’ll get done. There’s no silver bullet or secret trick. It’s just to write. Always be writing.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
First off is Ursula Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness,” in fact, pretty much anything by her is good by me. Love her work. Sci-Fi has always been a draw for me. Stephen King’s “11.22.63” is another beauty. It’s obviously a million miles away from Le Guin, but I couldn’t put it down and the mood and tone of it just grabbed me. Irish writing is just excellent at the moment, there’s some brilliant writing being done and I’m trying to sample as much of that as I can.
What book are you currently reading?
Kerry Neville’s “Remember to Forget Me,” an anthology of short stories. The themes of isolation and loneliness and dignity are powerful, moving and at times tremendously sad, the writing itself is magnificent, just stunning prose.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Besides the 15 or so that I still want to write? Any time I ever read anything really stunning or something that bowls me over I always get a little pang of something, a moment where I think I’ll never write anything that lovely, but it also motivates me to write more, learn a little more and hope that I’ll get there some day.
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
I always have high expectations for books, so I’ve never really been pleasantly surprised. I’ve been very unpleasantly surprised by some, but that’s a different conversation.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
One? Ha. Ursula Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Maeve Binchy… I’ve thought about this one a lot.
What book changed your life?
Stephen King’s “On Writing” was a game changer in terms of understanding the writing process. Came at a really important time too. And the above mentioned “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Layered, Nuanced. Stunning.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
Probably the Pollock Holes in Kilkee, Co. Clare. West Coast, Atlantic Ocean. If it’s ever sunny here it’s just amazing. I also love my home city. Limerick is a city that matches my attitude and my personality.
You're Irish if..
A Tayto sandwich is considered a viable lunch option.
For more information, visit DonMooneyAuthor.com.