Owen Dempsey: Any experience that broadens our view of the world makes us better writers

Owen Dempsey: Any experience that broadens our view of the world makes us better writers
Owen Dempsey: Any experience that broadens our view of the world makes us better writers

Owen Dempsey: Any experience that broadens our view of the world makes us better writers

The Irish writer says that his novels are historical fiction and its characters are parallel simulations of real facts

Tuesday – Rajab 2, 1444 AH – January 24, 2023 AD

Owen Dempsey


Cairo: Rasha Ahmed


The Arab reader became acquainted with the Irish writer Owen Dempsey through his best-known and best-selling novel, “The White Rose and the Black Forest,” whose Arabic translation was published by Dar Al-Arabi in Cairo.
Set during World War II, the novel tells of the ordeal of a German girl who loses her family at the hands of the Nazis and falls in love with an unidentified pilot officer.
Born in Dublin, Dempsey moved to the United States and worked as a teacher for a long time in Philadelphia, where that profession provided him with a source of inspiration and exposed him to interesting human experiences.
His first novel, Finding Rebecca, was among the top ten best-selling books on Amazon.
Among his works are “The Coming Storm” and “The Longest Echo.” He is also the author of “The Bogside Boys.”
Here is an online interview with him about the highlights of his creative experience:
> You begin your novel “The White Rose and the Black Forest” by noting that it is based on real events, which was highlighted by the Arabic translation on the cover. Do you think that this mention contributes to increasing the sales of the novel? Are readers more enthusiastic about works that are taken directly from reality?
– I think people read historical novels; Because they want to learn something from history, and of course they want to enjoy the text. If the events they read about are based on real events, they feel more connected to the events in the books. In general, noting that a text is inspired by facts that actually took place in reality accomplishes two important things. The first is the idea of ​​the author’s credibility and the extent of his honesty with the reader. The second thing is more of the reader’s connection to the text. Because he feels that the latter contains an element of actual history and facts that the world witnessed one day. Of course this is something that makes a difference.
> You also indicated in the note that precedes the work that you made some changes in the original story to the characters and dates “for literary reasons”… What do you think are the most prominent of these changes and why are they necessary?
– Well, the most notable changes include almost all the characters in the text, they are creations born in my imagination! These changes were absolutely necessary because I am not a historian but a novelist. We are here about the text of a creative work based on imagination, and we are not about historical facts that I must convey to new generations objectively and impartially. In the end, I am not writing a history book. My novels are historical fiction, and I need to create parallel characters that mimic or transcend real characters to illustrate the events I want the reader to learn about. The most important thing I write is a good story. That’s the real challenge. Regardless of any other context around the text, the historical background is just that. This is my concept of a historical literary work, for the author to keep his imagination burning.
> Why did you dedicate the novel to your son Robbie in particular? Is there a message at work that you want him to pursue in the future?
– Because he was the only child I had at that time! His two younger brothers also have novels dedicated to them. The message I would like Robbie to follow is that if you work hard on a dream, it can become a reality. The story that began in my imagination has now been enjoyed by people all over the world. The idea here may seem very simple and direct as well, but it is important and profound at the same time. The novel “The White Rose and the Black Forest” was pure fantasy that caressed me from time to time, but it turned with seriousness, effort and perseverance into a text that brings others around the world a lot of pleasure.
> The novel deals with the duality of “love and war” in a harsh phase of European and world history, which is World War II. Can love really outweigh feelings of hatred, killings and bloodshed…or is it the fantasies of dreamy writers?
– I hope that love will surely trump hate and murder, otherwise this world is not worth living in! I think that is the case. Love is everywhere. We can easily see it in the relationships people have with their families and friends, and even in the courtesy and kindness we show to strangers. Hatred is extremely rare, although it often comes with severe and far-reaching consequences. Love is real, wonderful and amazing, and not just fantasies scattered in the mind of a handful of dreamers.
> On the mention of the war, do you see similarities between the Ukrainian-Russian war and the Second World War that came as a historical background for your novel? Can the current events inspire you to have an idea for a fictional work?
– I think there are many similarities between the madness of World War II and what the world is currently watching, moment by moment, of a bloody and deadly war. The main difference is that during the old war Hitler did not have nuclear weapons. If the man possessed this type of weapon and hastened to benefit from it, the history of Europe would have been very different. As for the sources of inspiration and whether the current war serves as a source in this context, I believe that it really inspires writers every day, but this is not exactly what happened to me, until now!
> When a novelist returns to history and draws inspiration from a true story, does this mean that he suffers from bankruptcy, a lack of imagination, a bad relationship with his current reality, or are there other justifications behind your return to history as your source from which you draw in this text?
I wanted to redraw the map of Germany during the war and dispel the myth that all Germans were loyal Nazis. The best way to do that was by telling a fictional story. In this way, I was able to weave together all the stories I wanted to show, injecting them with heart, humanity and action. I write the books I want to read, and that’s what I wanted to read when I wrote them.
> Your first novel, “Finding Rebecca,” was among the best sellers on the “Amazon” site. Are you concerned about the idea of ​​sales and numbers? What is the criteria for success for you?
My criteria for success are different, more simple and clear human details. I go swimming every Tuesday morning with my three year old son. I bring my family every summer to see their grandmother in Ireland. This is a success for me!
> I moved to work as a teacher in the United States in 2008, was your literary production affected by travel, and what about the teaching profession, is it not boring and somewhat anti-creativity?
Being a teacher is one of the most amazing ways to experience the life that others lead. It’s great to see the different experiences that people other than you have. I worked in some poor inner city school, where things were happening every day that I would never have imagined… Anything that broadens our worldview will make us better writers, and education does that every day. I am not a teacher anymore, but I go to schools in my area to do writing workshops with kids, I really like it.
I do not agree with those who describe the teaching profession as inherently boring or anti-creative. My experience confirms the opposite. There are professions or activities that give you a golden opportunity to monitor the emotions and stories of other people. These professions are a golden opportunity for the author. Teaching is one of those professions.
> Your CV on the Goodreads website indicates that your biggest dream was to play rugby and, at another stage, to be a rock star. What took you to the shores of literature and writing, then?
Really, I wasn’t good at those two things! I gave up my dream of being a rugby star or playing rock music for something I actually managed to do! Writing for me is an enjoyable activity through which I communicate with readers around the world. This is what matters in the end, your ability to fulfill yourself through a specific work that gives you happiness and pleasure.




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