My novel’s roots? A rootless half-life roaming ghost estates

I lived a weird half-life there, mostly alone, among football fans and hen parties. Far truer to me is the idea of the reader feeling into darkness for something solid to cling onto, and being frightened by the gradual realisation that there is nothing there. Odd long evenings, nothing doing, I used borrow my mother’s Micra and spin the by-roads of Louth. One by one, they simply vanish. This seems to spook readers more than any of the strange events described. Nothing on Earth by Conor O’Callaghan: an original story, brilliantly told

Nothing on Earth by Conor O’Callaghan: April’s Irish Times Book Club choice

I would park discreetly, squeeze through the metal barrier and drift around. Less obvious, though, is my novel’s implicit elegy for the family of four I broke up. 2010? I remember bare breeze-blocks, graffiti, ragwort and poppies in among the rubble, scraps of glass and scaffolding. I didn’t know what happens, and still don’t, and I wasn’t going to make up a resolution just to give the reader a safe landing point. The man is not me. However, it can be purchased for only €4.99 if bought with a copy of The Irish Times in any branch of Eason until April 14th. I wanted a tale that would creep the bejesus out of all who entered in. A member of my community workshop who was serving life for republican activities. I haven’t researched the statistical truth of that. Nothing on Earth is about a family of four in the show house of a never-to-be-completed development. Conor O’Callaghan in Chinatown, Manchester. All of that was invisible to me at the time. His flat had been bugged by MI5. There were moments there when I felt fear like never before or since, and legged it to the car, and sped back to a world marginally more populated. Something… The resulting story has been likened by one friend, filmmaker Eamon Little, to an episode of Father Ted directed by David Lynch. The houses feel haunted by lives that someone hoped for, but which never came to pass. There is no resolution. The man turns out to be a priest. The story draws upon trips home in those low years and cruising the ghost estates of Dundalk’s hinterland. Eileen Battersby interviews Conor O’Callaghan at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin’s Parnell Square on Wednesday, April 26th, at 7.30pm. Less obvious is my novel’s implicit elegy for the family of four I broke up

The story obviously draws upon trips home in those low years and cruising the ghost estates of Dundalk’s hinterland. The first pages of the final chapter were written on my first morning there. But that doesn’t make the experience hurt any less. Nothing on Earth is about a family of four in the show house of a never-to-be-completed development. I like love stories that are terrifying and thrillers that are beautiful. Priests in Irish fiction are seriously corny, so initially I resisted his vocation. A man in late middle-age answers and lets her in. The element of pre-supposed guilt? But I knew the story hinged upon the girl finding refuge with a man who lives alone, and there was something attractive about the cliche of the priest. It is only now, writing this, that I see it. But after all that had happened, I understood where his voice was coming from. Books begin long before their writing. I went to Tuscany for two months in the autumn of 2012. I remember occasionally calling “Hello”, for company’s sake, into hollow space. A man in exile recalls his past and insists upon his innocence. It will be available as a podcast on April 30th But I did, driving fairly aimlessly, happen upon umpteen half-finished housing developments: middle of nowhere, uninhabited, overgrown. Nothing on Earth is somewhere in between. Because the tapes were presented as evidence at his trial, he received copies. Do. When the girl disappears under his care, the man insists repeatedly upon his innocence. The house of its setting is even the first we owned. All those horror movies watched with our teenage son and daughter when they stayed with me: The Shining, The Innocents, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Blair Witch Project… A story on BBC Radio 4 about tsunami survivors who had ingested masonry. Not even an echo. Have you ever actually gone into a ghost estate, some evening in early summer? I lived there for six years. Resolutions feel unrealistic. What else is in the mix? Nothing on Earth was released in paperback last month by Black Swan Ireland, priced £7.99. I lost a lot of friends, and pretty much any community I might have had. The more he insists, the guiltier he sounds. You’ll find the eeriness absolute and different to derelict places where people once lived. It was a new development that did get finished, but one that remained a building site for a whole summer after we moved in. It was my choice, my doing. I never wanted to write a heart-warming slice of life. When that happened, we were already living in Manchester. The last is the 12-year-old daughter, who runs in a blind panic to the nearest occupied residence. Photograph: Eve O’Callaghan

I went home to Dundalk every other month. One by one, they simply vanish

My marriage broke up in 2008. I found a couple who had a son in Lancaster and who, incredibly, wanted to swap their hamlet in the hills above Lucca for my flat. Nothing. At the time, the county was being described as Ireland’s ghost estate capital. He spent his days in prison listening to his past. When did Nothing on Earth begin? I moved from the family home into a repo loft conversion in the city centre’s Chinatown.