Ciaran McMenamin doesn't read reviews of his work which is a shame as his new novel The Sunken Road has been launched to widespread critical acclaim.
Hailed by critics as "astonishing", "tremendous" and the author himself as being "an exceptional talent", McMenamin is chuffed when told about the reaction but insists he learnt some time ago as an actor not to read reviews.
It's negativity that he can't stand and so much so that he shut down all of his social media accounts a few years ago - a massive step for anyone in the spotlight.
But the Fermanagh man insists his life is so much richer for it: "I learnt over the years as an actor to not look for the reviews unless someone sent me one and friends tend to only send you the good ones.
"It's bad enough as an actor when you're criticised but I'm very happy to hear that what people are saying [about the book] is positive.
"I binned social media a couple of years ago. I came off it as an experiment as I don't think it is good for your mental health and it is the best thing I've ever done.
"I wrote my book in half the time than if I had of still been on Twitter as it really allowed me to focus.
"You need to be mentally armed and happy to be able to stare at that [Twitter] all day. I think it was George Clooney who said that for people in the public eye to be on Twitter is insane.
"I didn't personally suffer any abuse on it but I would have fallen into the trap of getting into arguments with people. "Social media is full of angry people and it gives people a platform which they normally wouldn't have and that can be a good thing or be really negative.
"I just found it all wore me down and since I came off it, it's like a weight off my shoulders."
It's a refreshing and somewhat brave approach especially as he launches a new book and social media is no doubt a powerful platform for promotion. Ciaran is just relieved that his publisher agrees with his viewpoint and he lives in hope that the powerful modern day influence of social media will have dimmed by the time his two-year-old daughter Marnie is old enough to go online.
He says: "They are now of the opinion that self promotion is a negative thing and you are better off letting your agent take care of it. "I think deep down most people don't like talking about themselves.
"Social media just puts pressure on people and especially girls on Instagram who feel the pressure to look good.
"My wife is an actress and people keep asking her why she is not on Instagram because as an actress she is expected to be on there.
"Our daughter Marnie is two and we have these chats as parents about her being 14 and going online and we have the view that hopefully by then it will have died out."
Ciaran (45) from Enniskillen is a graduate of RSAMD and has worked extensively as an actor in film, TV and theatre. He is perhaps best known for his title role in David Copperfield and for his award-winning turn in Saving the Titanic.
He married fellow actor Annabel Scholey (36) in a romantic ceremony in Lusty Beg in Fermanagh in 2017 and the couple settled in South East London. Annabel is also well-known as an actress having played Lauren Drake in the supernatural drama Being Human and more recently Nina in the hit BBC drama The Split. Although now focused on writing after the success of his debut novel Skintown in 2017, Ciaran continues to act and is due home to Northern Ireland in the spring to film a new series.
Currently though he is thrilled to launch his second novel The Sunken Road which was released on February 18. A powerful story of love, loyalty and obsession set during World War One and the Irish War of Independence, it means the world to him that one of his own favourite writers William Boyd has endorsed it. Boyd said of it: "Ciaran McMenamin confirms his exceptional talent with this admirably powerful and authentic novel about the First World War and the struggle for Irish independence. Tremendous.'
The story is centred round the main characters Francie, Archie and Annie who grew up playing together in the hills and rivers of Fermanagh.
But in 1914, the boys are seduced by the drama of the war in Europe and leave the village to join up. Before they leave, Francie swears to Annie that he'll keep her little brother safe. Six years later Francie is hiding out in the barn of Annie's house. He hasn't seen her since that day. He's on the run, a wanted man in the war for independence that is still igniting along the border. And the British officer who is obsessively pursuing him is his old commander from the Western Front.
To reach safety Francie will need Annie's help getting over the border, and that means he'll have to confront the truth about why Archie never came back. McMenamin took inspiration for the book from family stories which as a boy had fascinated him growing up. While the story is loosely based on what he unearthed about his relatives during extensive research, the characters themselves and the story are pure fiction.
He explains: "I spent a year just doing the research and it has two separate stories which I wrote separately and then edited together.
"My grandfather fought in the Battle of Pettigo and Belleek during the Irish War of Independence which is something I was always aware of but didn't know much about.
"My great grand uncle John Ferrie walked into the village one day in 1915 to buy creamery cans in Omagh and never came back.
"He must have used the money to get the boat to England.
"He joined the British army and died in France and no one knew why he decided to go, so I did a lot of research on him and found that he had joined the Coldstream Guards which you have to go to England to do.
"I just found it fascinating trying to imagine what his journey was like. "He came from a classic Irish Catholic family when the assumption at the time might have been that he would have been forced against his will [to join up] but he went of his own free will and I suppose at the time for a Catholic to join the British Army, there was some shame in that.
"He died in France, blown up by bombs the Germans had planted under the trenches in no man's land. "The book is historical fiction inspired by both stories."
As with Skintown, the film rights for The Sunken Road have already been sold. Ciaran is thrilled that both of his stories will make it onto screen: "We have a really great producer and director in Brian Kirk for The Sunken Road and
I will be working on the script for it. "Kieron J Walsh of Blinder Films in Dublin is another great director who is working on Skintown and it's good to go now and they should be starting filming in the next year or two." While he admits that writing is now his passion, he hasn't completely given up on his acting career. After almost a year of lockdown he is looking forward to getting back home to film a new BBC series called Hope Street in April, May and June.
He says: "It is being filmed around Donaghadee and Bangor and is about a made-up seaside town. I enjoy writing but I do miss people and the craic so I am looking forward to it."
He has also missed frequent trips home to see his mum and dad and two sisters during the past year. However with a lively two-year-old in the house, he says there was never a dull moment: "When people have asked me what I did in lockdown I say 'potty training'.
"It has been joyous too with Marnie. I don't think there is a good age for this scenario but given the choice I would rather have a two-year-old than an eight-year-old and the pressures of home schooling. "It is young people I really feel for, teenagers and people in their early 20s. They won't ever get that time back."
Marnie is no doubt the apple of her daddy's eye and even at two she is showing some signs of following in her parents' creative footsteps. Ciaran beams as he describes his daughter: "She is full of beans and she is always singing and dancing.
"My sister bought her a piano and microphone for Christmas and she is like Elton John sitting in the corner playing it. She is good craic and full of energy." Like most people, he is looking forward to things getting back to normal and says he is relieved his father and mother have both had the vaccine. He adds: "I go home a lot as I love to fish in Fermanagh so hopefully by the summer we all can look forward to getting back to some sort of normality and I can get back home to see my family."
The Sunken Road by Ciaran McMenamin, published by Harvill Secker, is available now.