Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Micheál Ó Coinn: Five Words

Writer/poet Micheál Ó Coinn visits today from Waterford, Ireland to talk about his writing journey and his publishing debut. He has a newly released collection of poetry out, a pamphlet entitled Five Words.

Micheál is donating part of the proceeds from the sale of Five Words to Lupus UK in memory of a cherished friend.

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Welcome to Across the Plain of Shining Books, Micheál. Tell us something about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, though I moved around a fair bit growing up, spending my most impressionable years on the Eastern US seaboard.
What sparked your interest in writing?
I don’t know that any one thing lit my fire for writing. I was inspired early on as to the power of writing by my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hanks, in Delaware, but by that point, I had already written my first poem almost two years earlier. The spark grew into a flame when I realised writing was a great way to get those things out of my head that I wanted to say, but couldn’t. It really became my own therapy.
How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
Whether I’m writing a verse of poetry or a chapter of fiction, I always lean toward fictionalising real situations I’ve personally been involved in or an issue that impacts me in some way. I like to write about what moves me emotionally in some way.

If I’m writing poetry, I try not to write directly about someone or a direct situation, but I will take that situation and generalise it as it has applied to my life in other situations. Poetry is a dangerous language in that, it has the ability to manipulate one’s emotions in but a few words. Like any tool, poetry should be handled with care.

Yes, I am guilty of misusing poetry for manipulative purposes and I am not proud of it. I’ve also utilised it to woo the woman of my dreams and here I am today with a wonderful fiancée and a family of our own.
Not a bad strategy! How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?
I’d say 99% of what I write has to do with something that has impacted me directly. I don’t mind stepping outside the box, I just feel that writing about my feelings and life events empowers my words with a passion that my readers can relate to more readily.
What inspired you to write Five Words?
Most anyone who has picked up the pen has at one point thought they were going to get published…I never let that thought out of my firm dedicated grasp, thus producing this concise collection of poetry.
How did you come up with the title?
Interesting story. One of the poems included in the book originated as a workshop of sorts at a poetry reading I attended. Ó Bhéal, a poetry gathering in Cork, Ireland, had given the challenge of writing a poem using five specific words. I took what I wrote that night and revised it. Holding on to the foundational structure of the original poem, I added it to my manuscript for the book. Well, as I was adding it, I was going to change the name of it, until I met with adamant opposition from my fiancée. She convinced me to leave it the way it was, and a day after I sent in the manuscript, the decision to use the title of that piece was made by my manager Claire, to my approval.
Interesting story indeed. What was the hardest part of finishing the book?
I’m my own worst critic. I’m never satisfied with my work. Just when I think a poem is perfect and I’m happy with the final revision…I want to change it. My manager, Claire, finally gave me a deadline to get her a specific number of pieces and to which end all I could do was call well enough, well enough.
Is there a message in your book you want readers to grasp?
Five Words is a special book for me in that, it lays out a series of dark moments in my life or the lives of those closest to me, then enlightens them with a positive denouement to what would otherwise be a horrible situation. It has a poem about surviving cancer, dealing with the loss of those closest to us, aging and so much more. It is my own survival guide to life in some ways.
What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?
My passion for the written word to relay an emotionally moving message or lesson. I write from the heart no matter how it makes me feel or how I think it’ll make others feel. I only hope when all is said and done, it has made a positive impact in at least one individual’s life.
When you first started writing, did anything about the writing process surprise you?
Just how easily it came to me. I would write school research papers for my friends because I wanted to challenge myself. I wrote everything from poetry to short fiction to essays just because I could.
Do you celebrate when you finish a story, and if so, how?
In reality, I’m never going to be finished. Everything I write is just one more piece to my own story and when that story is complete, well, I’ll leave the celebrating to those I leave behind.
Wonderful philosophy. Do you have a set writing routine?
God, no, but how I wish I did. I keep trying to set some kind of schedule to write, to routine myself in some way, but never with any success. I can’t just muse myself to write no matter how much I try. I am learning that the more I relax into writing the more the ideas flow.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Sometimes I’ll put on specific music to finish a poem. I’ve begun many a poem while out at a coffee shop and a song would catch my ear while I had my pen in hand. I’d say it could easily be as much a distraction as a tool, but it does help block out the rest of the world as I sit to write fiction or play.
What do you like least about writing?
Finding the time. As a working father and would-be husband, time management is difficult. I like to write while I’m alone, so I find myself deprived of sleep to write during the night after everyone goes to sleep.
Give us a mini-tour of your writing space.
Anyplace that is quiet with the means of capturing my thoughts; I never leave the house without ink and parchment.
Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing most?
I do like the romantics, Keats, Byron, Thoreau and Wilde, while I am also a fan of the archaic language of Shakespeare. I am also intrigued by the early American derangement of Poe. I think the similarity between myself and these other authors is the degree of which their heart was poured into real life prose.
Name a few titles I’d find if I browsed through your personal home library.
The Love Poems of John Keats, The Complete Short Stories of Oscar Wilde, Moore’s Poems by Thomas Moore, and She Dances Like Mussolini by David James, to name a few.
If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a bottle of wine?
The question of all questions really. I suppose if I had to pick one at this very moment, it would be, (and I know everyone is thinking I’m going to choose an Irish author), Lord Byron. There is just something about his writing that captivates my every sense. His ability to transcend simple verse into an epic poem is nothing short of incredible to me.
You’re marooned on a desert island. What’s the one book you’d want with you, and why?
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. He grasps life for what it is and medicates a calloused soul like menthol salve. He takes the essence of what life is from the torrent of daily problems that plague us, and show us like a map, how to escape.
Have any new authors caught your interest?
A few. In my network, I come across many would-be aspiring authors that I enjoy reading as much as any on the New York top 100, and I’m proud to call them friends and colleagues.
What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story soon?
I’m always working on something, but what comes next is simply a matter of what I dedicate the time to finishing first. I write everything from poetry to fiction, stage and screenplay, so what comes next is a mystery to even myself, but rest assured I’ll have something new for my readers within the next 10-12 months.
Who supports your writing activities most?
My support structure is considerably smaller than I’d like and always has been. But those that have supported me, have never tried to sway me from my dream. Three individuals stand out amongst my support. My oldest brother Parker has always been encouraging me to follow my dream when everyone else was trying to redirect my focus to a more 9-5 future. Nicole Land, God bless her eternal rest, was the second to stand out in support of my writing up until she passed, which is why this book is dedicated to her and charitably donating proceeds to a cause that affected her. My third biggest support since the day I met her, is my fiancée, Dawn. Dawn has encouraged, supported (emotionally and financially), and gotten directly involved with my writing as a hands on critic.
What does your family think of your writing?
I think they are onboard with it now, most of them anyhow. It has taken years of perseverance and sacrifice to get where I’m at and I don’t know that any of them truly expected me to get this far. Not to say they didn’t quietly hope for my success, it was just never spoken.
Good for you for sticking with your dream. What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Be passionate about what you do. With passion comes dedication. Stay the course without fear of failure and endure the raging tempest of doubt that surrounds any artist. Remember, every setback is one step closer to success.
Name a few of your favorite non-writing activities.
I like to do things that completely take me away from my daily grind. I like computer games (XBOX specifically) and watching movies at home, spending time with the family, exercising (weight training and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), traveling and most anything adventurous in the wooded outdoors.
I’ve throughly enjoyed getting to know you, Micheál. All the best to you and your writing, and congratulations on the release of your first book of poetry. And now, let’s have peek at it.

About Five Words:
Five Words is in memory of one of my dearest friends in the world who left us in the first month of 2010. Nicole battled Lupus for more than a decade and a half never giving up hope and wanted to be able to help others in the process. This book offers 10% of all sales (paperback or Kindle) to Lupus UK in her memory.

A dramatic and passionate delve into the heart and soul of that which we hold more dear than love, our empathy.


…ever cried
for no reason at all,
allowing tears to flow
form portholes of blurred vision…
releasing your most censored
freeing your burdened
to the salty saturations
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About Micheál Ó Coinn:
Not much to say about me really; not more than I have been writing as long as I can remember. I’m an Irish/American emigrant to Ireland following my passions of establishing my legacy as a writer and a man who never gave up on chasing his dream. This is a legacy I hope to leave for my children to one day look up to in fond admiration, not that I made it as a writer, but that I never gave up.

I’ve roughly 33 years of writing behind me, and with God’s grace, at least 33 more to come.

I love the outdoors and all that comes with it, especially the woodlands. I’m a deer hunter who enjoys the quiet of a cool autumn morning in the woods before dawn as the fog blankets the ground like a down-quilt as the first rays of light ease over the horizon like honey. I also enjoy hunting with bow and arrow, but still enjoy the thrill and challenge of the long distance shot from a rifle.

My two children are my life. Dawn is unquestionably my breath and my peace of mind when I otherwise have none. She is an amazing asset to me in more ways than I could e’er describe.
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Five Words / Available from


  1. I am enamoured by the privilege to be here. Thank you Pat, for such a wonderful opportunity.

    Many thanks to all my readers for their support as well.

    Warmest regards,
    Micheál Ó Coinn

    1. My pleasure, Micheál. I wish you and your writing all the best.

  2. Great interview with excellent questions, cheers to both of you.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Stephen!