How Moone Boy found his imaginary friend
Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy are widening Martin Moone’s world
David Rawle and Chris O’Dowd in Moone Boy
Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy collecting an Emmy for the show in 2013. Photograph: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Old friends Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy have written a book as a prequel to their popular TV series Moone Boy. The book, The Blunder Years, presented new challenges for the screenwriters, but nothing that couldn’t be thought through over a London or LA pint.
The book is aimed at children eight years and older, and is a prequel to the popular TV series. It follows the character Martin Moone in his search for an imaginary friend.
Without the constraints of a television format, both authors felt freer to explore Martin as a character and “open up the imaginary friend world”. The Blunder Years focuses more on the child’s perspective than the Sky TV series did, and is aimed at a younger audience. In the book, “imaginary friends are pre-existing and waiting for a kid to pick them”, says O’Dowd. “The friends are selected from a catalogue, much like LinkedIn or top trumps.”
Martin is “desperate for a decent wingman to help him navigate his idiotic life”, and the book revolves around Martin’s IF (imaginary friend) choices. These choices prove to be more complicated than originally expected, and a large section of the plot centres on how to get rid of an imaginary friend that you may have chosen too hastily (because, for example, they came with a free chocolate fish and you were very hungry).
Jokes per chapter
As well enjoying the added freedom, O’Dowd sometimes found it more challenging to write for the page. “You just don’t know how well it’s going. I know how to write a script from Moone Boy and from watching Graham Linehan on the IT Crowd. I know what to aim for. I know I need 100 jokes in the episode, roughly four jokes per page, but how many jokes are supposed to be in a chapter?”
Murphy describes imaginary friends as “versions of ourselves that we would like to be”. In the book, Martin’s imaginary friend, Sean Murphy, is a version of Martin that he imagines he will resemble in 10 to 20 years’ time. “He’s very realistic, as he imagines a mid-level insurance salesman type,” says O’Dowd.
Neither of the authors had imaginary friends growing up. However, the book is semi-autobiographical for O’Dowd. Martin Moone, the lead character, finds himself in the town where the actor grew up in the 1980s in a house filled with girls. O’Dowd was the youngest of five, and, because of his sisters, there was “no room for an imaginary friend”. He does, however, talk to himself a lot, “which is pretty much the same thing”.
The co-authors met through drama society when they were at university; O’Dowd describes it as “a dove of peace between UCD and Trinity”. The Bridesmaids actor produced plays that Murphy acted in and directed throughout their time studying, and they began writing together in 2011.
They describe their writing process as relatively simple. At first they “get in a room together to brainstorm and outline the story, often with a pint”. Murphy says that “since Chris has become more recognisable it is difficult to sit in a pub together, as most my time ends up being spent taking pictures of Chris and strangers”. After this they tend to write separately, due more to geography than preference.
While writing The Blunder Years, O’Dowd was starring in Of Mice and Men on Broadway with James Franco, while Murphy was living in London. To keep the process moving, each would work on a different chapter, and then swap and edit.
Both have recently moved to LA, and find they are “immensely enjoying the sunshine, the happy people and all the free water”. So what’s next for the Moone Boy creators? After O’Dowd’s recent experience of the stage , he says he likes the idea of a Moone Boy musical, “something like Matilda”. Before that, however, there is another Moone Boy book to be written, in O’Dowd’s converted LA garage, and more series of the show.
Moone Boy: The Blunder Years is published by Pan Macmillan