In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE
is the author of 10 books, seven for adults, three for children. His first children’s book, The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas, made him internationally famous. His third, The Terrible Thing Happened To Barnaby Brocket, was published recently. From Sandyford, Co Dublin, he lives in Rathfarnham with his partner
‘STEPHEN AND I first met when we were six or seven, when we were altar boys together in Balally, Dundrum. I grew up in Sandyford, he lived three or four minutes walk away. We took being altar boys seriously but it was fun. We’ve fallen in and out of friendship since then, have gone several years without seeing each other. Stephen was living in London for the past 10 years, and came back to Ireland a year ago. I had a strong desire to rebuild the friendship and we’ve seen a lot of each other since then.
“As kids and teenagers, we bonded over pop music. I was a Kate Bush fan, Stephen was a fan of Simple Minds and Pet Shop Boys. When you’re kids, it always seems that your friends have better stuff than you do, and Stephen had all this cool stuff: he had a double tape deck we used to do song mixes on and a Commodore 64 computer – I didn’t have anything like that.
“At around 14 or 15, our lives went different ways: we were never in the same school and I think he was more sociable than I was; I was shy. As a kid, I really looked up to him; as we got older, I really respected him, thought he was cooler. He went to UCD, I went to Trinity. Just after college, we got back together in a big way. We were both ambitious, wanted to do big things with our lives. He was going off to the States: that was in the 1990s . . . We fell out of touch, although we knew we could track each other down. Then 10 years ago he moved back to London, and I’m there quite a bit, so we saw each other.
“I don’t mind being thought of as a children’s author, although I’ve written seven novels for adults. The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas changed my life, gave me an international audience and financial independence. Now, at book festivals I’ll be part of the adult and children’s programmes.
“I never quite knew what Stephen did, thought he ran a small software business. We were out for a drink some weeks ago and I discovered that his computer company has hundreds of employees and offices all over the world. I nearly fell off my seat. Stephen’s very modest.
“We’ll talk about music, books, we have a similar sense of humour – he makes me laugh more than anyone I know. Now my partner, Con, and myself and Stephen and his wife, Dawn, go out together. I think I laugh so much around him because he is my oldest friend, we have that special shared history. It brings me back to my childhood. I had a great childhood and Stephen was very much a part of that. I was happiest playing with his Commodore 64, with his dad telling us to go outside and play.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a cross word.”
owns an e-learning company, Kineo, which he set up in London with two partners 10 years ago. It has offices in eight countries and employs 200 people. Originally from Sandyford, he moved back to Ireland last year and lives in Ranelagh, with his wife, Dawn, and three children