Irish expatriate Patrick O'Keeffe read from his newest publication, "The Visitors," at the Writers in the Library event Monday night.
"The Visitors," which was published last week, is O'Keeffe's first novel. His first book, "The Hill Road," was a collection of novellas.
Introducing O'Keeffe was UT Writer-in-Residence Christopher Hebert. Hebert met O'Keeffe in his 20s at the University of Michigan where O'Keeffe was a student in the graduate writing program. Hebert praised him as "something of a literary sage" and spoke of how he and his classmates would flock to hear O'Keeffe speak about the works of various literary icons.
"At a time when everyone around us was desperate to become the next young literary phenom with a six-figure advance, Patrick was in no hurry," Herbert said. "And you can hear Patrick's patience in every single line of his books.
"Patrick's passion was something we could all admire, but never quite equal."
Before beginning his reading, O'Keeffe gave a short summary of the two chapters he planned to read from.
The novel centers on the history of two Irish families and the secrets, love and heritage they share.
O'Keeffe's main character, James Dwyer, moves from his Irish home to a town in Michigan. A stranger named Walter shows up on James' doorstep bringing a message from James' childhood neighbor, Kevin Lyons. In the message, Kevin asks for James to visit him at his current residence in Hudson Valley, N.Y.
"His prose was really meticulous, it was very lively," said Rachael MacLean, a sophomore double majoring in English and history.
At the end of the reading, the audience was given a chance to ask O'Keeffe questions about his writing. An audience member inquired what it was like to transition from writing novellas to writing a novel.
"The beginning was really, really hard because you're in it for the long haul, right?" O'Keeffe said. "When I got into it, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the attention and the focus of it."
O'Keeffe then explained the difference in his writing process, saying that with the novel he had a central event in his plot he was constantly writing towards.
Not all aspects of the book were planned ahead though, and O'Keeffe surprised himself when plotlines began to naturally flow out of his writing.
"When I first started to write the stories of the families, that all came together in the writing," he said.
O'Keeffe said it took two years to even start to put his ideas on paper. He admitted he wanted to get to know his characters and get a feel of their history like it was his own.
In part, it was. O'Keeffe used his hometown, County Limerick, as the Irish background for his characters. The central idea of family and heritage in the novel also comes from O'Keeffe's value of his own family and the history they share.
"When I talk to my family, because I suppose our lives are so different, we have to talk about the past," O'Keeffe said. "Our daily lives are not that important compared to stories we shared in the past."