by Louise Doyle
THEY say to be a good writer you need to be honest with your reader and lay your own experiences bare, which is exactly what one man with Donegal links overcoming his own struggle with addiction has done.
Sean Hogan’s book, ‘The Unwashed’ – available online – is a selection of short stories based on the lives of people living on a fictitious housing estate in London. The book examines their relationship with one another, drugs and alcohol.
By his own admission, Sean says his early years growing up on a largely Irish populated housing estate in Kilburn in north-west London, gave him a first-hand insight into a range of social issues sometimes faced by those who live on council estates.
The book sets out the realities of not only addiction, but also life. It places the reader into the world of an addict, allowing them to feel and experience it.
Having overcome his own addiction with alcohol, Sean – who has roots in Donegal with an aunt in Falcarragh – said he decided to put pen to paper to “give a voice” to those feel disenfranchised.
The 33-year-old described the process of facing up to his own demons through his writing as “cathartic”.
Having moved to India to volunteer at a school in the north of the country, Sean’s travels then took him to China where he lived for six years teaching English before returning home in September of last year, when, he said the “time was right” to explore his own past through his fictional works.
“I wanted to write a book for a long time but I never had the confidence to do it, but after I came back from China last September I decided the time was right.
“The book is a selection of fictional stories, based on people I’ve known or grown up with, who all lived on council estates.
“People see council estates as awful places to live, so I suppose I wanted to humanise it and show another side to community life. The purpose of the book is to humanise and give a voice to people living on council estates at a time when they may feel not listened to and disenfranchised. Not all the stories are ones of people overcoming adversity but I hope that it will make people see that those that live on them can’t just be defined by the place that they live.
“It’s pretty much based on my own experience. One character in the book is an alcoholic and his story is about how he withdrew from alcohol. I had the same experience, so it was quite cathartic to write about it.
“I’ve read many books on personal stories of addiction and the journey that people take, but there are few that actually put the reader in the story.
“It isn’t a story of pity or self-accolade but one that shows the struggles of looking for acceptance , living up to expectations and searching for fulfilment in life.”
“I see the book as reaching out to someone who might be in the same position, and giving something back. I hope it gives them a feeling of hope that they too can turn their life around and make a success of it.
“However, the stories are not all based on addiction. Some are based on characters and others are about growing up in such a close- knit community spirit, which is important and is the more positive aspect that people don’t associate with life on a council estate.
Continuing, Sean said he has received positive feedback from people who have read extracts from the book, adding 1,300 people had already signed up to read it online.
Admitting he was “nervous” about the reaction, Sean said: “I’m feeling nervous about it as I feel a little exposed, but it’s very exciting too.
“The amount of interest it has generated so far has been incredible. The experience has put me in touch with a lot of Irish-London people who used to live in London and have moved back to Ireland.”
For more information see www.seanhoganblog.wordpress.com