SEVEN QUESTIONS FOR THE WORKING WRITER: EMMA DONOGHUE
Emma Donoghue is the author of four short story collections, twelve dramatic works for stage, radio and screen, and eight novels, including the Stonewall Book Award-winner Hood, bestseller Slammerkin, which was awarded a Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction, The Sealed Letter — a Lambda Literary Award winner — and Room, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize AND won a Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, a Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize, and a Governor General’s Award. She has also WRITTEN and edited literary history, including Passions Between Women: British Lesbian Culture 1668-1801, We Are Michael Field, Inseparable: Desire Between Women in British Literature, and The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Short Stories. Her first full-length feature film, adapted from her novel Room, is slated to be released in late 2015.
Emma Donoghue! Do you ever publish your work without compensation or for a nominal fee?
Occasionally, but usually only for a good cause (e.g. a charity anthology where all the writers are contributing for free)...and I have mixed feelings about the practice, given that the other participants (editors, printers, publicists) are getting paid.
Does your craft alone provide you with a livelihood?
Amazingly enough it has done since I was 23. That's mostly due to selling enough books in the US (i.e. a really big market). Writing a lot, and in many different genres/flavours, was helpful in boosting my chances of having something be commercially successful, I suppose — but mostly it's just luck.
If you have to hold a day job to supplement your income, or just make a living at all, does it leave you enough time to write?
I've never had a day job, but I certainly have experience of having to divide my time between children and writing, which can be a helpful discipline; I think the period in which I only had about three hours of childcare a day was my most productive-per-hour!
How do you know for sure when something in your work truly needs revision?
It makes my stomach twinge when I re-read it.
When revising something in your work, how do you know for sure when it’s truly time to stop?
I don't, and that's what deadlines are for: I keep trying to make the sentences better until the time runs out.
Do you feel that being a writer was a choice or a calling for you?
A calling, definitely: this is what I am, not just a job.
BONUS ROUND FOR PURE PLEASURE: What book did you probably read too young and it therefore haunted you forever after?
A horrible pulp novel about heroin junkies, in which desperate women had sex with Alsatian dogs...