I Wanted To Honour My Experiences

Kevin O’Sullivan Author Interview

A Good Boy tells your story about being involved in the Legionaries of Christ and your journey of self-discovery and acceptance of who you are and your own sexuality. Why was this an important book for you to write?

This was important for number of reasons. The first is that if I don’t tell my story, it dies with me or, which is sometimes worse, someone else tells it, and those who might want to know about me – my daughter or my nieces and nephews, friends, colleagues – end up with someone else’s version of my life. If I tell my story, by definition, I’m the author; I’m the authority about my own experiences. I can describe them the way that I experienced them, not how someone else, however well-meaning, imagines that I experienced them.

For years, people have asked me questions about my life and, while I appreciated their curiosity and tried to answer, I found that I couldn’t do justice to the events, let alone to my motivation, in a casual conversation over dinner or in a bar. I always came away feeling that I hadn’t given an adequate account of myself or of the others who are part of my story either. I wanted to honour my experiences in a more suitable way than a brief chat could accommodate.

All my life I have been conscious of not knowing much about my family’s story, only bits and pieces remain. I so much wish that I had asked more questions, made more connections. Part of writing for me is to leave behind as full a picture as I can so that those who come after me know as much as I can tell them about the part I might have played in their own history.

The next reason should perhaps be the first and principal one: I want to find out who I am by discovering the storylines that often will only emerge in therapy or memoir. Only by finding a place for everything I have done and everything I have chosen does the significance of events and choices become evident. This is the only way I know, there may be others, to shine a light on the path I have taken and understand why this particular path, through this particular route, through these particular choices. I think each of us has a sense of “I’m the kind of person who…” and “I’m not the kind of person who…”. The memoir fills out these ellipses and shows me who I am.

What is one piece of advice someone gave you that changed your life?

It may well be the simple advice of my physics teacher and sometime mentor in music appreciation. In the book I recount how as an earnest teenager I was keen to “understand” the classical music I was just discovering. His advice was simple: “Listen to it, and if you like it, listen to it again”. The message must really have struck home, because it was a one-off talk that he gave to our debating group when I was about fifteen years old. I didn’t learn much in the way of physics, but he did teach me not to worry that I was “supposed” to be hearing this or that, or responding in this or that way. He told me my taste would develop: just enjoy it!

I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

Without a doubt, the hardest chapter to write was the one about my father. It’s one thing for me to come to terms with what he did, it’s quite another to expose his grandchildren and great grandchildren to these facts. I’ve talked to my remaining brother and sisters about this and I think we agree it is better to tell the truth. Apart from anything else, it honours and makes sense of the life and travails of my oldest sister, Bid. No one was there to help her at the time: at least now it becomes clear what a monumental struggle she had to wage with life: and she won.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

Hope and a sense of optimism, because this is the benefit that I get from the many memoirs and biographies that fill my bookshelf. Things can go wrong, you can screw things up, make poor choices, let yourself down: things can still work out and you can be fine. It’s not over till it’s over.

Author Links: Website

Kevin O’Sullivan spent seven years inside the most secretive Catholic organisation in living memory – The Legionaries of Christ. He thought he was going to spread love and compassion: he ended up among disinformation and lies. He fled to save his sanity.

This is the story of how he found, and then lost, his religion, and how he lost, and then found, his sexuality. On the way, the young teenager clings to what his mother has taught him: to be a good boy. The journey brings him face to face with difficult truths, and ultimately to a far deeper knowledge of himself, as he finds out who he doesn’t want to be.

It’s a story full of hope about discovering what matters to each of us, even if we don’t like some of what we find.

Posted on July 26, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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