Today I have a treat for you as I have had the pleasure of talking to new author Ted Dunphy about his debut book Rowing Down the World to Auckland, an adult (not ’50 shades’ adult, just not YA!) novel following Bruno Brennan as he attempts to row across the world to see his grandchildren one last time. I know Ted personally as we studied together on our MA and we have remained friends and writing buddies. Ted writes deep, dimensional characters who draw you into their narrative with humour and fantastic observations. Beneath the interview is my review of his book.
Hopefully we’ll be able to see the book on Goodreads and Kindle soon, and as soon as we do I’ll update the post. For now, grab your copy from Amazon here!
Hi Ted, thanks for answering the questions!
What inspired you to write Rowing Down the World to Auckland?
My second son and his family lives in Auckland. Neve and Zack are two of my grandchildren. I can’t hug them often. I know the need to see his grandchildren that drives Bruno. Joshua Slocum’s book, Sailing Alone around the world, and Sarah Outen’s account of rowing across the Indian Ocean, A Dip in the Ocean, put the idea of rowing to Auckland into my mind. I loved the title of Sarah’s book so much that I modelled my story around her attitude of mind. It’s as if she had said “It’s not far. Just across the world a bit”.
Could you name some of your favourite authors, or authors who inspired you to write?
Elmore Leonard, Stephen King, Harper Lee, Ed McBain, Terry Pratchett, Flann O’Brien, Brian Moore, Julian Gough, Kevin Barry and Maureen Freely. My writing companies, Rose, Raj and Shuli as well as Cambridge my publisher kept me at the writing over many months.
Your writing is very comical, and you use humour to highlight the irrationality of prejudice in the world, is this done intentionally or does it come naturally?
I have suffered prejudice on grounds of religion, ethnic background, age, gender, nationality, accent, skin colour and because I grew up on Merseyside, so I react against prejudice wherever I meet it.
You cannot survive in a large family without humour. I worked in schools for many years and learned different types of humour from the pupils. Humour is all around us. People use it to poke back when the odds are against them. Humour takes the edge off the negative shit that is dumped on us. When we laugh our life is full right there.
What’s the most exciting/crazy thing you’ve ever done?
The craziest thing I did was being nearly drowned when I was a student. A German visitor bet he could swim faster than me across Dublin Bay. A long way across I was badly stung by a shoal of jellyfish and slipped in and out of consciousness while being dragged back to shore. He didn’t win the bet because he cheated by using trained jellyfish to stop me. That was slightly scarier than the time I was caught up in a race riot in Washington DC.
Are you working on anything else right now?
My next book, due out in the autumn, is about a group of boys growing up in Ireland. They make their own excitement and enjoyment, while the adults want them to knuckle down and meekly obey in a world where evil is secretly taking hold around them.
Do you have any writing tips for people writing in your genre who are just getting started?
Be open to the humour all around you – see it, hear it, add to it. Believe in yourself as a writer. Be humble and learn from others but do not imitate them. Write and write and read and read. Join a writing group. I am blessed to belong to a writing group with people I trust to be honest, sensitive and supportive. They are also great writers and with backgrounds totally different to mine. They inspire, cajole, suggest, correct and most importantly give me the warmth and comfort of total support that all writers need when the writing does not flow.
Thanks for those brilliant answers. Here’s a bit more about the author and my review:
About Ted Dunphy:
I was born in Waterford in Ireland a long time ago. I hit the emigrant trail at the age of nine when my family moved to England. Fortunately we landed in Liverpool and crossed the Mersey to live in Birkenhead. I grew up there and have worked in England most of my life.
Schooled to distrust happy endings, I believe in the power of humour to upstage the stark surprises of life. People who read my material say the black humour in my writing is a consequence of my Celtic ancestry, my early uprooting from my birthplace, being part of the Irish diaspora and growing up on Merseyside. I don’t know where they get those ideas. I just love poking the underbelly of life and writing about real people creatively managing the indignities and daftness dumped on them. Young people do that poking so much better than me, which is why I love being around them.
It is almost four years since I completed my MA in Creative Writing, at the University of Warwick under the direction of Maureen Freely the novelist and translator of Orhan Pamuk. I was fortunate to be tutored by the internationally recognised biographer, Jeremy Treglown, and A L Kennedy, the prize-winning novelist. They set such a wickedly high standard that it has taken me this long to learn, practice and develop my writing and to grow the courage to usurp the title of ‘author’ that sits so gracefully on their shoulders. There is a long road ahead of me still.
I received an advanced copy of this book and was so happy I did! From the very first line, I was laughing. Ted Dunphy’s writing is sophisticated and polished. The author never ‘tells a joke’, but instead lets the reader fill in the gaps, so that you get that laugh-out-loud moment when you realise what’s happened. To quote one of the lines: “He grunted, broke wind in an impressive manner and waved with a finger gesture that suggested he was wishing me twice the luck I needed.”
The running joke of what Siegfried did in the shopping centre was one of my favourite aspects of the book. Much like the, ‘money was just resting in my bank account’ joke in Father Ted, it gets funnier each time it’s alluded to.
Yet the book isn’t just a great comedy; the main character’s transformation is fascinating, and this truly is a story where it’s the journey, not the destination, which counts. At the beginning, the narrator demonstrates bigotry in every form, but the way he does it exposes the ridiculousness and futility of discrimination and stereotypes. He is completely oblivious to his own hypocrisy and it’s these flaws which make the character human. It also makes the reader look forward to his character progression as he experiences these wild adventures and encounters people who will change his view points.
I can’t wait to get my hands on the author’s next book. If you want a poignant, laugh-out-loud story full of amazing characters and great writing, pick up Rowing Down the World to Auckland.