Ian McMillan: Bad luck of the fake Oirish

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A few years back a national newspaper ran a writing competition, writes Kevin Duffy. They wanted the first 250 words of your novel. One entry only. I wrote four, covering all 
bases. Romantic fiction. Crime. Thriller and humour. Three pseudonyms and 
my own name. I won and the editor of 
the paper phoned but didn’t say which 
one had won and I couldn’t ask because if they knew I’d sent in four, they disqualify me. I was whisked down to London to the Ivy, met the director of a big publishing house and an agent. I got the agent’s name wrong. She was double-barrelled. They weren’t impressed.

I returned home. I’d read in the publishing press that all the big money was going to Irish writers, so I changed my name to Colm O’Driscoll and sent off the first three chapters to an über agent and waited. He sent a letter and told me to get in touch. I did. I had to be Irish on the phone. For a year. He loved my writing. I told my boys that if a very posh man from London rings and asks for Colm that’s me your dad, I’m not Kevin. I was lying to my children to get a publishing deal. But nobody wanted the finished book.

I’d read in the publishing press that all the big money was going to Irish writers, so I changed my name to Colm O’Driscoll

I was chastened but even more determined. My wife told me to stop moping and do something so we re-mortgaged the house and started Bluemoose Books.

We’ve now published over 20 books. Won national and international awards and Hollywood has bought the rights to one of our books, as have ITV. Our books have been translated into several languages and we have our first publication in North America this September.