What inspired you to write this book?A few years back, I was having dinner with my family in Dublin when the conversation turned to a recent gangland killing of an alleged drug-dealer. The consensus was somewhere between relief that there was one less gun-toting criminal at large, to sympathy and regret for yet another wasted life.
On the way back to my hotel, the old Phil Ochs song, There But For Fortune, kept running through my mind. That, and wondering about all that might have led that young man from his mother’s arms to lying dead in a ditch. Was there no one who could have intervened or were there many whose efforts had been in vain?
Sadly, in Dublin and beyond, tragic events like this are very commonplace and rarely command little more than a mention in the media.
For me, stories like these are among the most essential. I am a firm believer that a civil society must be judged by how it treats all of its people and in particular, those who have been marginalized or disadvantaged through circumstances over which they have so little control.
As a writer of fiction—one of the few truths we have left, in my opinion—I wanted to tell a story that might explore how things like this could happen. I cannot believe that anyone is born “bad” and in Born & Bred I wanted to try to tell the story of a young life blown off course.
Whether my character, Danny Boyle, was the architect of his own misfortunes or the hapless victim of the actions and reactions of others is for the reader to decide. I just wanted to tell a story that might bring to mind how unsure the path of life can be, despite the best intentions of everyone involved.
In a world of “informed opinions”—usually presented to lead to a foregone conclusion—I think fiction writers have a special place. A well-written story can take the reader deep into the hearts and minds of protagonists and antagonists, alike.
When reading fiction, a reader can cheer for the good and anticipate the bad getting “theirs” in the end, but they also get a chance to empathize and understand so many things that might normally be overlooked, or dismissed.
Through fiction, lives that are so easy to portray as black and white can be shown to be much more nuanced, complicated and much harder to judge. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Crime and Punishment, Catcher in the Rye, and A Clockwork Orange all spring to mind and, while not suggesting I’m in such company, I wanted my story to be about some of those who have been vilified and dismissed without due consideration.