SEVEN QUESTIONS FOR THE WORKING WRITER: EMMA DONOGHUE

Emma Donoghue

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...