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Literacy Learnings Léargais Litríochta


Author name:  Luke O’ Neill

Title of shortlisted book:  What Makes Us Human: A Scientist’s Guide to our Amazing Existence

1. What was your earliest memory of reading/being read to?

I vividly remember reading the Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond. I read as many as I could and remember being transported into the world of Paddington, London and Peru. They were also very funny.

2. When did you first begin to write for an audience?

I was  asked to write an essay on my memories of TCD as an undergraduate for a collection of essays from people who had graduated in the 1980s. I really enjoyed the experience.

3. What book inspired you most as a young writer? Why?

Isaac Asimov’s Guide to Science was a book about the sciences that I read as a teenager and was in awe of. I was also a big fan of Jared Diamond’s book, especially ‘The Third Chimpanzee’ which really got my imagination. These books inspired to try and write science for a general audience.

4. What is the best thing about writing for a contemporary audience?

For me its about explaining and clarifying important topics in science, using the scientific method of describing the evidence behind something and then trying to make it relevant to peoples’ lives.

5.  What is the most challenging thing about writing for a contemporary audience?

Making sure the facts are correct. The worst is if I get something wrong, as science has to be as accurate as possible.


6. What inspired you to write What Makes Us Human?

I had written a book called ‘Humanology’ for adults and Gill asked me to write a version for teenagers. I’m very keen to get teenagers interested in science and this was an excellent opportunity. Sheila Armstrong got involved from Gill and did a great job.


7. What have you learned from the process of writing this book?

How to be succinct without losing too much content.

8. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Just go for it! Think of yourself as a piano player – if you walk into a room and see a piano you just play it. That’s the way to approach writing. Get stuff down on paper – you can always edit it later!

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