No Ordinary Joe is a humorous tale based on author Siobhan Daffy’s real life experiences. We asked her a few questions about writing such a personal story.
No Ordinary Joe is inspired by your own experiences with your brother- was this story a challenge to write?
Yes and no! It wasn’t a challenge to write but it was a challenge to begin. I always knew I’d write something about my brother because he was such a big influence in my life but it was difficult to know where to start. His story stimulated many deep emotions and I was unclear how to share them. A few years ago, I wrote a poem called ‘Running’ which was published in an Irish poetry journal. It’s a simple poem that describes him running away and our endless searches. It ends with the line: ‘running, just running.’ A friend commented on the poem saying, ‘It’s like you were never able to catch him.’ And I realised she was right; in some way of course we never could catch him – it was like he inhabited a different world and we were always trying to find ways to connect with him. It was an ongoing search on so many levels. My brother died in 2003, when he was 22 so we have also been without him for a long time. I’ve had space to reflect and process the journey. When I actually began writing this book, it happened very easily because I’d found peace with the difficult emotions. I was ready to share the story with playfulness in my heart.
What was the reaction of your family to your book?
They’ve been great! Once I completed the first draft, I shared it with my mum and she really enjoyed it and was very supportive. I shared it with my siblings then. I felt I had to get their stamp of approval because there are many true characteristics and anecdotes relating to my brother within the fictional story and I wanted them to be comfortable with it all.
What do you want readers to take away from reading this story?
I’d like readers to come away with a sense of openness and connection in relation to people with differences. I’d also like to impart some sense of how hard it can be – ordinary life can be chaotic when so much attention is focused on one person’s needs. It can become stressful trying to manage unusual behaviour in public, dealing with other people’s reactions, that’s a big burden to carry. A little kindness and understanding goes a long way. Difference can be scary if we are not used to it, but underneath our differences, we all have the same needs for love and acceptance. And we all have an equal right to belong.
How have you found the journey to publication?
It’s been great. From the moment I first heard from Siobhán Parkinson and started working with Little Island they’ve been fab. It can be challenging making all the edits, trying to get everything fine-tuned and of course it all took longer than I imagined but that’s all part of the process! It’s been an amazing learning curve.
The first reviews are starting to be posted- how are your nerves?
I’ve had some good feedback and I’m delighted. I also feel the vulnerability of putting something out into the world and wondering how it will be received going forward. I’m trying not to put too much weight on that. I’m happy that I wrote it with an authentic voice and good heart and I’m ready to let it go, come what may!
What types of books do you enjoy reading?
All types, I love a good read! I love novels that get creative with complex themes. Right now I’m reading One Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry, it’s very moving. Books set in different cultural backgrounds really draw me in and broaden my perspective so I’m drawn to authors from all over the world – India, Nigeria, Mexico, Canada… I also enjoy documentary non-fiction, like Republic of Shame by Caelainn Hogan. And empowering books for when I feel challenged, like Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.
Are you working on another book at the moment?
Yes indeed. It’s for a slightly older audience, Teen/YA. It’s about a teenage girl who loses her best friend and is figuring out how to navigate her life afterwards. I’m hoping to have it completed in the next couple of months, watch this space!
No Ordinary Joe is published by Little Island Books and is now available from book retailers.