McCann was featured as the Sunday Interview in the Los Angeles Times on May 26th. Here’s an excerpt…
National Book Award winner Colum McCann’s ninth book, “TransAtlantic,” is a fictionalized exploration of three historic journeys between North America and Ireland. He talked about his new novel, which hits bookstores on June 4, by phone from his birthplace, Dublin.
How did this book come about?
One of the stories that obsessed me was the idea that Frederick Douglass had gone to Ireland at the age of 27 in 1845. He came to do a lecture tour — he was on the abolitionists’ circuit — and at the same time, the Irish famine began in 1845. So I was basically corralled by the notion of a black slave — he was still a slave at the time — being in Dublin and what it might be like. But I also wanted to bring it up to the present day, right up to Obama’s visit in 2011.
Actually, Obama had mentioned Frederick Douglass when he came to visit Ireland. So there were other things that I also wanted to write about, especially [former U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland] George Mitchell and the peace process, which was another image that corralled me — this great relationship between these two countries. I wanted to write an alternative Irish and American history — not necessarily an Irish-American history but an Irish and American history.