The popular broadcaster and newspaper columnist is making waves as a novelist with his recently published The Angel of the Streetlamps, a third novel following Dublin (2001) and The History of Things (2007).
Leaving aside any reservations I might have about those with a public profile from a different sphere moonlighting as novelists – Michael Clifford, Gene Kerrigan and Josh Ritter, among others, in this part of the world – I was most struck by Moncrieff’s description of the writing process.
I’ve always been fascinated by the subject of how and where writers write: long ago I read of Brendan O’Carroll’s decision to write between midnight and 4am, when his family was in bed and the house was quiet, a nocturnal habit that is paying high dividends now.
Given Moncrieff’s broadcasting commitments with a five-day-a-week show on Newstalk, regular newspaper columns in the Irish Examiner and a smattering of voiceover gigs thrown in for good measure, Edel Coffey’s question on RTE Radio 1’s arts show Arena the other night – just where does he get the time – was a valid one.
And his answer certainly took me by surprise.
I do it on the DART. I live in Howth, I get the DART [into Dublin city] every day.
Writing on the train has become so ingrained in me that usually I reach a point when it’s time to rewrite or go through the proofs and I might take a few days off work, get on the DART in Howth and go back and forth between Howth and Bray all day long.
I see the same people, who think I’m somewhat deranged sitting in the same spot. But for some reason it calms me.
Brendan O’Carroll burning the midnight oil, Mary Lavin sitting up in bed until lunchtime with a writing-board on her lap and a pot of tea on the bedside locker, and Sean Moncrieff spending hour after hour on public transport, the writing practices of the writer always intrigue me.
Have you heard of any other unusual places where writers write?