THERE are shades of the Cork-based TV sitcom The Young Offenders in a young fledgling writer’s Summer Soap for The Echo, which starts to run in paper nd online on Monday.
Now in its seventh year, the Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts. It starts on Monday for two weeks, in print and online at EchoLive.ie.
The Summer Soap is the result of a collaboration between The Echo and the MA in the creative writing programme at UCC, a process in which two stories are selected to run in the newspaper.
Luke Jeffers, 23, from Glanmire, has written The Search For Dodger which is about two teenagers in Mayfield and their search for a neighbour’s lost dog.
This humorous story, about the misadventures of the two lads, is like a travelogue of Cork city, says Luke.
“They have to get on buses and they go on this mad search for the dog,” he explains.
“The dog initially got onto the bus from Mayfield into town. So when they go after it, they meet a few locals and start asking around.
“They sense that the locals are nice enough, but they want something in return (for information about the dog.) They have to do a load of odd jobs around the city as they progress in their quest. They meet a mechanic and have to shift a few tyres into his garage.
“The story takes in Patrick Street, College Road and Fitzgerald’s Park.
“The Young Offenders was the main inspiration for the story, with its two young fellows, their friendship and frustrations with each other and the situations they probably could have avoided if they just thought things through a little bit better.”
There’s a reward of a coveted Playstation 5 from the owner if the two friends find the dog by the end of the day...
Luke has a BA degree in English from UCC and is almost finished his MA in creative writing from the university. He has always been a reader and got into writing when he started college.
“The habit kind of stuck. With the MA, I wanted to see if I could focus on writing for a year and see if I could improve.”
He likes the work of contemporary Irish writers such as Kevin Barry and Danielle McLaughlin.
Author Danny Denton is his supervisor for the MA at UCC and is “a big influence. He’s someone I look up to. I think all the staff on the MA are very good.”
Luke has been enjoying immersing himself in the masters degree, saying he likes the idea that the staff and students take writing as seriously as he does. For his thesis, he is writing the opening chapters of a novel.
“It’s about an under-18 soccer match. The whole novel will be set over the 90 minutes of the match. I’ve written the first draft of the novel. I’m trying to refine it. I wrote it over the last few months.”
Luke, who played soccer for Riverstown until he was about 18, gave up the game when his head was turned by writing. He gets up early and starts writing at 8am, for a few hours. He can feel a bit burnt out by the end of the day, but finds writing pleasurable and relaxing.
Having written in a number of genres for his MA, Luke says poetry is “the one thing that isn’t really my thing”.
He has had a few short stories published in literary magazines; The Quarryman, Tír na nÓg and The Honest Ulsterman.
Like every writer starting out, Luke has had “a lot of rejections. You kind of get used to that.
"When I open the email and see it’s a rejection, I don’t really flinch. It gets ticked off and I start thinking about where I can send it next or what I can do to work around the piece that has been rejected.”
Rejection doesn’t erode his confidence. He says it’s all part of the writing game.
Luke’s novel is intense. “I like that style, getting into the characters’ heads and putting them in tense situations.”
In writing the Summer Soap, he wanted to write something “a bit more light-hearted, to try a different style”.
When he completes the masters in August, Luke hopes to get a job in publishing or editing.
“Anything like that would be good. I’ll probably have to move to Dublin or somewhere else but I’d like to do it in Cork if possible. I’m too used to home comforts, I think.”
Despite the precariousness of a career as a writer, Luke says his parents are supportive of his choice.
“They were happy with me doing the MA and the degree in English. They’re happy as long as I’m happy. It would be nice to get a steady job that could supplement my writing.”
Is he ambitious?
“I probably would be. I’d be hopeful of getting published. It’s a lot of work but I’m definitely ambitious enough to put in the hours and to hopefully make it happen some day.”
Luke says writing helps his mental health. While he doesn’t have mental health issues, he finds writing a great distraction and “good for decompressing”.
He writes everything, from fantasy to realism.
“It’s a very rich time for Cork and Irish literature,” he adds.
“Other writers that I like are Anne Enright and Donal Ryan. I like Lisa McInerney’s depictions of Cork city. That’s something I’ve tried to capture, in the soap particularly.”
Keen to portray “the vibrancy of Cork”, Luke is on a journey to get his novel published and have a career as a writer.
Watch this space....