Saturday, February 25, 2012

Indie Spotlight: Patrick James O'Connor

Sometimes you happen upon an author by sheer accident. Such is the story of TNBBC and Patrick James O'Connor. While searching for book reviewers to host portions of a blog tour I was managing, I stumbled across The Literate Man, and dropped them a line. Their's is a book blog for men, and mine was a man's man book, and it seemed like a match made in heaven. 

Patrick was an awesome sport, throwing his blog into the bunch to support an indie author, and now I have the opportunity to return the favor. 

Patrick is the author of The Last Will and Testament of Lemuel Higgins, a "haunting account of shattered dreams and the quest for impossible redemption" *goodreads that was released by Blackbriar Press back in December. I was interested in finding out a bit more about how and why his debut novel came to be.  Patrick shared the following:

While much of the material for my novel, TheLast Will and Testament of Lemuel Higgins, arises out of the many years that I spent working on a dairy farm in Western New York, the voice of Lem Higgins evolved out of a short story, entitled "Midwinter's Harvest," that I wrote in 2007. In that story, the protagonist describes in purely colloquial language the shock and sadness of revisiting a former employer after the unexpected loss of the employer's child. The strength of Lem's voice was impossible to ignore, and I grew very fond of the rhythm with which the story was told.  I soon realized that, in addition to telling the story of the Danner family, Lem had his own story to tell.

I chose to tell the story from Lem's perspective, in the first-person, because I find it the best way to create a sympathetic connection between reader and character. For much the same reason, I like the epistolary form (Lem's will is really just one long letter to Sarah), because it allows the reader to delve into the protagonist's most intimate thoughts. There's a very strong connection that arises when a reader is allowed to eavesdrop on a conversation between individuals that share an intimacy and a history such as Lem and Sarah.

Though the book is fiction and none of the characters are representative of any particular person, I believe it to be generally indicative of my own adolescence and the experience of my friends and acquaintances, insofar as it describes childhood dreams and some of the obstacles (both self- and other-made) that we encountered as we entered adulthood.  I would like to think that it remains indicative of small-town life in America as, in a certain sense, the basic experience of growing up in a small town is only marginally affected by the changing times.
In the end, it was both the strength of Lem's voice and the familiarity of the circumstances that he was describing that motivated me to put it all on paper, which took me four years or so.  I would like to think that my writing shows the influence of some of my favorite authors, including James Joyce and Ken Kesey, both of whom take significant risks with language, while respecting the essential connection between author and audience.  In the end, more than simply telling an interesting story, I hope that I have produced one that connects with readers on an emotional level.       

About the Author:

Patrick James O’Connor was born and raised in farming country south of Buffalo, New York, where he worked variously as a horse trainer, farmhand, park ranger, waiter, septic tank cleaner, and social worker. In 1993, he worked as a congressional aide in the Washington, DC offices of New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. After studying English Literature at the University of Richmond, he spent a season hiking the Appalachian Trail before pursuing a degree in law. Then, while studying at Georgetown University Law Center, he joined a fact-finding expedition to Guatemala, where he spent several years climbing volcanoes with his dog, Jonah, and working on indigenous rights and environmental issues. He is currently a partner at the Miami law firm, Harper Meyer LLP, where he practices international law and, among other projects, works to procure the return of stolen Mayan artifacts to Guatemala. The Last Will and Testament of Lemuel Higgins is his first novel. For more information, visit

1 comment:

  1. "...the rhythm with which the story was told."

    I believe in this, too, and it is refreshing to find another author, a fellow man, like me, who writes "man books" with more than just explosive plotting in mind. Excellent choice for a spotlight.