ANDREW O’Connell has created 12 modern fairytales, all grounded in reality, for the release of his first book.
Eventyr: 12 Unlikely Conversations features quirky and poignant stories with haunting characters – including a clown, vampire, Death, little girl, man and mannequin – that speak with a resonance beyond their bizarre situations.
They meet in unlikely circumstances and say unlikely things, in a world where the unlikely occurs and the expected is sure not to happen.
O’Connell said the term fairy tales wasn’t an entirely accurate description of the stories because there was no unexpected magic.
“The series title Eventyr is a word that can mean both fairy tales and adventures in Danish,” the English language and teacher trainer said.
“I didn’t want to use the English term ‘fairy tales’ because that makes me think of Brothers Grimm and the phrase ‘short stories’ makes me think of Ernest Hemingway – and I don’t think my stories fit either of those genres exactly.
“I gravitate towards the fantastical because its symbols are the most suitable for communicating my innermost thoughts, desires and fears.”
After years of writing as a hobby, O’Connell found short stories, poetry and plays came more easily to him than other genres.
“I tend to get short, sharp images in my mind and I tend to hear dialogue clearly in my head,” he said.
“If I see a homeless person on a beach, I might imagine him having a conversation with a seagull but I won’t tend to envisage his whole life story and how he got there, which is what a novelist might do.
“I get a clear vision of a moment and what will eventuate and I don’t need hundreds of thousands of words to capture that.”
With Eventyr: 12 Unlikely Conversations – the first in a series – O’Connell found his main challenge was self-doubt and the persistent thought “Who would want to read these stories?”, along with bringing a variety of stories together thematically.
“Fortunately, the thought ‘People have got to read these stories!’ was more persistent,” he said.
“I racked my brain for ages trying to decide on a title that would bring these stories together and justify their inclusion in the same book.
“In the end, the simplest answer was the best – the book is literally a collection of 12 unlikely conversations so that’s what I called it.”
O’Connell said the final challenge was the writing itself, noting the simplicity of the stories belies the work that went into them.
“I consider myself competent with the English language but it’s amazing how much editing was needed to get the stories right,” he said.
“It’s not just checking spelling, full stops and commas – if you really care about the quality of the story, choosing the rights words is challenging.
“Knowing what not to write and what to leave out is also important because something that isn’t communicated can imply a lot.”
Illustrated by Lika Kvirikashvili, Eventyr: 12 Unlikely Conversations (ISBN 9780994278302) is $15.99 and available at www.andrewoconnell.com.au. An e-book version is also available.
andrew o’connell: Andrew O’Connell has released his first book, Eventyr: 12 Unlikely Conversations.
Eventyr 12 Unlikely Conversations cover: Eventyr: 12 Unlikely Conversations by Andrew O’Connell is a collection of 12 modern fairytales grounded in reality.
Andrew’s sporty life – he had a passion for tennis and, later, for Australian Rules football – led him to study Physiotherapy at Curtin University. He graduated as a physiotherapist in 1998 and took his first job at the other side of the country in Moe, Victoria.
Still young and restless, Andrew moved to Melbourne soon after, where he continued to work as a physio. But the buzz and culture of Melbourne only whetted his appetite to see the world, and in 2001, he left for Europe. He had planned to work as a physiotherapist in the UK, and travel, but the former was not to be. A temporary job as a teacher at a school of English in Italy would later become his full-time job, and subsequently, his career.
It was in Italy that Andrew discovered his passion for literature. Visiting a local bookshop, Andrew found very little in the way of books written in English. The bookshop held only a small collection of books in English, most of which were classics, but Andrew enjoyed reading them, and, unknowingly, began to lay the foundations for becoming a writer.
It wasn’t long before Andrew was writing his own stuff. After experimenting with a number of genres, he began to discover that he had a knack for dialogue and the short story. A visit to the Globe Theatre, in London, in 2004, to see Shakespeare’s The Tempest inspired Andrew to write plays so he tried his hand at that. But most of the feedback he received on what he had written was that, while the dialogue was good, his plays would not work well on the stage. He was advised by one critic to act in a few plays in order to understand more clearly how writing for the theatre must take into account the “logistics” of theatre.
His European odyssey over, Andrew returned to Australia in 2007, where he continued his work as a teacher of English to speakers of other languages, and as an English language teacher trainer. Later, encouraged by his friend, Andrew successfully auditioned for a play about an historic Australian train crash. His participation in the play led to a number of theatre contacts, and he was soon acting in other plays.
In 2010, Andrew produced three of his own short plays – The Clown and the Vampire, Death and the Little Girl, and The Man and the Mannequin – in a show called Three Unlikely Conversations.
He later decided that the short plays he had written would be better as short stories so he went about rewriting them and, adding others, eventually published Eventyr: 12 Unlikely Conversations.
Andrew still acts in the theatre from time to time and is currently working on his second book in the Eventyr series. He lives with his wife, Yudy, in Rockingham.
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