“Dublin for me has always been a place to live. It’s always felt like a place where communities are, and a lot of it is not always obvious to the outsider. It’s a suburban city.”
Ronán Hession is a Dub through and through. The author, musician, civil servant, husband and father was raised between Beaumont and the north inner city and now resides in Portmarnock. We sat down to chat about his creativity, grá for Dublin and what he’s looking forward to doing in the city post-lockdown.
Ronán’s debut novel, Leonard and Hungry Paul, came out in 2019. In 2021, it was chosen for the One Dublin One Book festival, which encourages everyone to read a book connected with the capital city during April every year. His debut comes out in paperback in the US this year, and closer to home, his second novel Panenka comes out in May. By day, he works as a civil servant in the Department of Finance, but he’s no stranger to a creative side hustle. He’s been writing, performing and self-releasing music as Mumblin’ Deaf Ro for over 20 years. So, what’s great about being a creative in the city?
“I like that guerrilla tactics work in Dublin; you can set up a gig easily. Particularly during the financial crash, a lot of places that previously weren’t available became available. Particularly art galleries, they’re just a big rectangular room so that you can go in without an amp, without a mic, it was a fiver or less, and you could do gigs simply. I was involved in the music scene from 1993 up until around 2012. You could record an album at home, get it pressed in the Czech Republic and imported into the country, and the shops would sell it, the Irish Times would review it. What should have been like a small homework project could get national media attention. It just shows you how in a small country that can come to be an advantage.”
Ronán carries this DIY approach into his writing career. He works with small independent publisher Bluemoose Books and engages his readers directly – he doesn’t want to “sit back smoking a pipe in [his] mansion collecting royalty checks”. What advice does he have for people that want to be creative alongside the day job? Well, Ronán believes “if creativity is part of your life, you have to make it a full part of your life”; otherwise, you might have regrets later. He recommends making space in your life to achieve your goals and champions discipline and routine:
“Probably all debut novels are written in the cracks of time you’d use to sit around. Clear some space in your life to do it; it’s a big commitment. It’s like if you want to run the Dublin City Marathon, you wouldn’t just do it. You’d clear some time in your life to train for it. Have a part of your day where you show up to write, and it doesn’t matter if you write or not. Don’t evaluate your writing sessions. Treat it as a contract where you just show up.”