Sean Dunne is a former young reporter of the year winner and current producer of The Tonight Show news series on Virgin Media.
Sean has just released his first book, D’Arcy Blake and the Tech Detectives, which explores themes of Syrian refugees living in Galway in the character of Fatima.
We caught up with Sean to find out more about the process and his hopes for a series.
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
I have always been interested in writing, having spent the early days of my career as a journalist. I’ve always enjoyed writing articles for newspapers more than news and analysis. Like most people, I had long dreamed of writing a book, but finding the time and motivation to give the project the creativity it needed was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. I had a huge interest as a kid in Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” series, so that’s the inspiration behind D’Arcy Blake and the Tech Detectives.
Seems like a very productive way to spend your time at home during the pandemic…
It certainly was. I was living alone during the first pandemic and my days without work were spent walking or running in Phoenix Park. I wasn’t seeing many people and one evening I sat at the desk and revisited a character draft I had started a few years ago and decided it was time to try bring this book to life once and for all. So began the midnight writing tour, like many people, I found the headspace best in the evening for writing.
How long did it take you from the idea to the first draft?
It took almost two years to get here and lots and lots of modifications. Writing a book is not like a journal where you have a deadline. Writing the book required research and a lot of patience. In particular, when an editor comes on board, you need to look at certain aspects of your writing, which I may have thought were great, but the editor had other ideas. Fortunately, I had a great working relationship with my publisher, Bookhub in Galway, and my editor Susan McKenna. She immediately saw the vision for the book and it was fun to arrive at the day of publication last Thursday.
You were a journalist and today a producer, was writing fiction almost a form of escape?
Absolutely, I work as a producer on The Tonight Show on Virgin Media and it’s a busy show. We broadcast four nights a week, Monday through Thursday starting at 10 p.m., but our day can start at 8 a.m. listening to early news broadcasts and planning the day. We have a very small team and work well together, so I’m lucky to have colleagues who support me, but I think all journalists and producers have felt the overconsumption of information during the pandemic. There were days when we never thought there would be any other story besides the pandemic so writing D’Arcy Blake and the fictional world of Tech Detectives was good for me because I loved escaping into that world .
It’s hard to really turn off the news when you’re working in this world, but it’s good to at least try.
One of the themes you want to touch on was inclusion, why was that so important to the story?
The book is based on a teenage detective D’Arcy Blake who returns from Boston to Galway and tries to fit in. Like most teenagers, D’Arcy navigates a whole new world and he also meets the new girl in town, Fatima. who now lives in Galway after leaving Syria with her family in search of a new life. I wanted the book to be diverse and to represent Ireland today in a way that some of the older detective books for this generation don’t.
Did you do any research to target the story to young teens?
I was reading a lot of young adult novels on the market and talking to parents who had teenagers to see what kids love now and the overwhelming thing I found was the love teenagers have for their phones and technology , so I wanted to incorporate that into my writing in hopes of appealing to a new generation of readers.
Could this be part of a series?
Yes, I hope to write two more books as part of this series. The end of the first book prepares D’Arcy for a new adventure with his teenage detectives.
You are a producer on The Tonight Show, would you ever write something for this audience?
I would like to start writing adult fiction and continue working in television. I love working in the media and always will. TV is fast-paced and with four shows a week, it’s a lot of news and politics to cover, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Any advice for those who have an idea and are looking to get it published?
If you can write a few hundred words a day on your lunch break and aim for 2,000 words a week to start with, you’ll have a draft in a few months. I would spend some time with this draft cleaning it up as well as possible before sending it to the editors but trust in you too, there is a book in everyone; it’s just about finding that creative space to live in.
D’Arcy Blake and The Tech Detectives are available to purchase here