Writer Dan stays under the radar

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A fine actor to boot, sought by Torch Players and College Players

DAN Mooney “controls aeroplanes” with his voice.

He’s not the latest Marvel movie superhero – he’s an air traffic controller.

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His voice also carries the thrills and spills of live rugby in excited radio commentaries for Live 95 and RTE Sport online.

While his radio work and air traffic control bunker at Ballycasey Cross has been paying the bills, Mooney is following his dream of writing books.

And the Farranshone author’s skills at putting the voices of characters inside his head and into ink, is paying off.

He’s just back from a New York tour of his second novel The Great Unexpected, and, in November, he travels to Spain for its launch there.

“It’s going to be translated into five languages, including Spanish, Catalan, German, Czech, and Chinese”, Mooney reveals like a kid that just got the keys to the sweet shop.

The New York Post and Amazon, to name only a few, have championed his work, and there’s a list of publishers knocking on his door.

“It’s surreal,” he admits.

Mooney’s first novel “Me, Myself and Them” – where the central player battles with a multiple personality disorder – was a perfect springboard to the brighter second offering.

“Male mental health” is a common theme in his work. The books are not autobiographical, but are important to address, Mooney maintains.

“The Great Unexpected is still dark, but its funnier than the first one.”

The main character Joel, an elderly nursing home resident, decides he wants to die by suicide – but he discovers the joy of life, when fellow retiree, Frank, encourages him to go out in style.

Mooney says there’s plenty of dark humour: “Joel is taken aback by (Frank’s response) when he says to him, if you’re going to do it, make it special, not passé.”

Mooney, a staunch Cookie, likes to relax watching rugby, especially his beloved Young Munster.

And, while his books have scored points away from home, he’s yet to win over the home crowd, despite being strongly supported in his native Treaty City.

“Largely I’ve flown under the radar in Ireland. I don’t know why, I would love to know. I don’t think anyone in any national newspaper in Ireland has reviewed either of my books, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”

Like the passenger planes he guides safely through Irish airspace though, Mooney continues to fly high.

Despite the obvious demands of his day job, the shift-work structure allows him time to spread his wings and write, or simply reminisce the glory days at Tom Clifford Park.

“One of my favourite things about the job is that, when you plug out from it – that’s it – you can’t do it at home. No one phones me at home to ask, ‘Hey Dan, can you control an aeroplane for me for five minutes’. It’s one of the great freedoms of the job.”

The 35-year old, who previously earned a crust as a radio news anchorman, has “also been known to play a bit of bowling, and tabletop board war games”.

Along with his business partner Pete Moles at their MoMo Productions, he also writes movies.

The “writing bug” bit a long time ago. He was only ten when his first ever article was published in his friend Eva Ferguson’s kids-run newspaper “The Parteen Screamer”.

“I wrote a fictionalised story about Tutankhamen, who I learned about in school that day. That was the first thing ever published.”

A self-confessed “nerd-game enthusiast”, Mooney later wrote “battle reports” for “tabletop war games”.

The A1 mark he got for his 2002 Leaving Certificate English exam essay – about the infamous Mick McCarthy / Roy Keane Saipan World Cup saga – confirmed his suspicions he was “good at this”.

He recalls being “so delighted” with the effort that he later “asked to view the English paper just so I could re-read it”.

“Hear me out,” he asks.

“The title of the essay was ‘The beginning and end of a relationship in your life’. I was full sure that everyone was going to be writing about their first girlfriend/boyfriend. As I’m writing the essay, Ireland are getting ready to play Germany in the 2002 World Cup, so I had a flash of inspiration that whoever was correcting the essays would be sick to death of ‘first boyfriend/first girlfriend’ type stories.”

“So, I wrote about the beginning and end of Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane’s relationship, and, how unfair it was on me that I had to be writing this essay instead of watching Ireland and Germany.”

He was “always” going to write a book but, like most other authors, he just didn’t know if the work would be good enough to arrest and engage the reader.

The catalyst came in 2010 on the back of deciding to “do one new challenging thing everyday for a year and a day” when all his friends had left Limerick to travel the world.

He wrote a blog about his own adventure, which included attempting to sit on all 15,144 seats at Thomond Park.

“The point of blogging about it was to get myself in the habit of writing everyday or as close to everyday,” he says.

Nine years later, he’s finished the first draft of his third novel and his laptop’s ideas folder is full up.

“Some of the ideas are great and some are absolute trash.

“Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and write them down, and when I read them the next morning it’s just garbage – it doesn’t even make sense,” he says.

Controlling planes traveling at hundreds of miles per hour through the sky, may seem like a daunting task for many.

However, this air traffic controller admits: “There’s nothing more terrifying than handing your book out to test readers, especially when it’s at draft stage, because it still has to get better, and you know that.”

“If they are doing their job right they are kicking you in the balls. You have to brace yourself for that kick in the balls.”

For now, Mooney need not panic. The reviews, so far, have “been great”.

“One of the newspapers referred to my ‘saucy language’, which I got quiet the kick out of,” he adds.

“The chance of me getting a Pulitzer?, he laughs…”You’ve to be an American citizen.”

“The Man Booker Prize is the dream, but, I’m so early in my career and so far away from the end of it…I’ll be writing until I’m dead.”