'Finding The Humor': Author Kevin Mahon's Debut Novel Looks For Comedy In Serious Situations
“This is a story about finding the humor in death,” Kevin Mahon says about his debut novel Radio Ireland. The story’s not strictly autobiographical, but it is inspired by events in Mahon’s own life, most particularly the death of his father.
“The losing-a-parent thing is a reality for me,” Mahon says. “I lost both my parents young, and recently lost my little brother too. So the writing of this book was kind of, a little bit, therapy. As well as it was kind of a way to capture a lot of the… humorous, funny stories that I’ve gone through in my life with my family. You know, just to kind of immortalize it, almost like save it for my kids [for when] they get older – they can’t read it right now. There’s, you know, bad language in it.”
Brendan, the protagonist of Radio Ireland, leaves Austin for a radio job in Ireland after his father’s death. “I put a lot of my own life into it, obviously,” Mahon says. “With your first novel, I think that’s what happens a lot – a lot of reality makes its way in there. It was kind of important for me for the main character to start off here in Austin as a UT grad [who] had worked at KUT for a little bit, just to kind of set the tone for the novel.”
Unlike his fictional alter ego, Mahon’s never worked at KUT himself, but says he wanted to give Brendan a plausible background in the radio industry to further the plot, and a job at KUT seemed a natural fit. “I’ve been told that I like NPR a little too much,” he explains with a laugh.
Like Brendan, Mahon was born in North America but comes from an Irish family. “I’m first generation – my family’s from Dublin, Ireland, on the north side – the rougher side of Dublin. So that’s where the humor in this book definitely comes from. I grew up… feeling Irish, but I wasn’t Irish. And I’d never been to Ireland. And so that’s one of the things I wanted to capture in the book, too – the main character basically growing up feeling as though he was Irish even though he’d never been to Ireland.”
Mahon says the idea of learning about your family and your origins is the main theme he wanted to delve into with the novel. “Getting to know a parent even after they’re gone… that was something I just kind of really wanted to explore,” he says.
That’s the type of subject matter that could get a little heavy, but Mahon stresses that his intention is always to find the humor in those serious situations. “This a barroom conversation; this is a buddy of yours sitting down [and] telling you a story,” he says of the novel. “If you can buy into that, I think you enjoy the book a lot more. It’ll have more impact on you. I know that it sounds a little strange to find comedy in death, but it’s there. You know, when I remember my parents, luckily, I remember the comedy, the humor. And I just wanted to capture that in the book.”