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Paul Howard had to scrap a Ross O'Carroll Kelly book because of Donald Trump

Once Trump was elected, Howard felt he couldn’t write a book that didn’t address the issue.

Image: TheJournal.ie

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

IRISH AUTHOR PAUL Howard had to scrap an entire Ross O’Carroll Kelly book earlier this year – because Donald Trump was elected US president.

The Dublin-based writer – who has been satirising the rugby-obsessed upper-class south Dublin set for almost 20  years – told TheJournal.ie that he likes his books to reflect what’s going on in the world. So when Trump was elected, he knew he had to examine this in his book.

His latest book, Operation Trumpsformation, follows his creation Ross O’Carroll Kelly (who first emerged in a Sunday Tribune column in 1998) as he watches his father, Charles O’Carroll Kelly, launch a political bid with his New Republic party. And a wig his father wears during public appearances has a certain resemblance to the hair of the US leader.

“I’ve always tried to keep it topical, I’ve always tried to reflect what’s happening in Ireland at any given time,” Howard says of his work. Indeed, Ross O’Carroll Kelly has been there to witness the boom and bust of Irish life.

Howard says that the election of Donald Trump last year means it “feels like the world has slipped on its axis a little bit”.

“I had almost finished the book when Donald Trump was elected, and it took me and it took lots of other people by surprise,” he recalls.

“But I felt after finishing the book that it was the first time in a long time where I didn’t feel I’d reflected the world as it was at that time. I thought I’d missed something.”

I felt I couldn’t put out a book which didn’t reflect a Trump era. Even though the book, it finishes in May, I think it’s May 2016, so it is before Trump is elected, I just felt that I couldn’t do it unless I mentioned this new world we’re living in, this scary new world.


He went away on holiday after Christmas, and on his return: “I rang my editor and said ‘I want to rip up the book and start again’. And that’s what I did in January.”

It was almost an entire re-write. “There were aspects of the original book that could be saved, but I felt this election thing, it needed to be satirised,” says Howard.

At the end of his previous book, Charles O’Carroll Kelly had found a ‘magical wig’ in the attic.

“And once he put it on his head he had this sort of sense of himself that he was a powerful man and people started to behave very deferentially towards him,” says Howard.

An incident with a hand dryer in this latest book turns Charles O’Carroll Kelly into somewhat of a megalomaniacal figure.

“So he kind of looks a bit like Donald Trump. Donald Trump isn’t mentioned in the book, but it’s kind of clear,” says the author.

And once Charles stands on the platform, he starts to adopt some very extreme positions. “He thinks that women should be forced to resit their driving test every 12 months, he thinks we should build a wall around Cork, because Cork people who come to Dublin don’t want to properly integrate,” says Howard.

So the idea is he’s a politician who for his own selfish ends is making enemies with people who aren’t actually enemies, so that’s what I’m satirising there.

In order to make the necessary changes, Howard says he “tore [the book] apart, I started again”.

“It’s hard work and I spent about three months – long days and late nights – just reimagining the whole thing. But I’m happy with the finished product,” he says.

It was good fun – but making a change like that, six weeks after your deadline, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Read our full interview with Paul Howard tomorrow on TheJournal.ie.

Read: ‘It’s especially relevant to Irish women at this time’: This 2,500-year-old play has startling links to the world of 2017>

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