Thursday 16 August 2018

Author Dave Rudden and publisher Sarah Davis-Goff on their own love story


Dave Rudden and Sarah Davis-Goff both work in the literary world. Photo: David Conachy
Dave Rudden and Sarah Davis-Goff both work in the literary world. Photo: David Conachy
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Dave Rudden and Sarah Davis-Goff met at the Hennessy Awards in 2015, because he was up against an author she publishes. Sarah's author, Sarah Baume, scooped the prize, but happily there are no hard feelings there. "I was nervous because everyone was extremely fancy and it was all about high literature," says Dave. "People asked what I did and most of them shut off and weren't interested when I said I was writing a children's trilogy. Sarah was very nice to me and asked me questions."

Dave stood out for Sarah when he read a story at a subsequent event and she was "really electrified". "That was when I thought he was cute," she says. "I always find talent and ambition really attractive and Dave is incredibly kind and funny. On a physical level, I liked his broad shoulders and I'm a sucker for redheads."

Dave (30) grew up in Bawnboy, Cavan, the middle of Marie and Aidan's three children. His dad was vice-principal of his school. He was a shy child who was bullied, and he self-harmed, but came into his own when he went to St Patrick's in Drumcondra and discovered theatre and acting. He taught English and history until he lost his job in the recession, and then went to teach in Egypt for a year, and wrote during his free time. He then did the creative writing master's at UCD, where the first assignment was to write the first chapter of a novel. "Nobody in the class liked mine," he laughs. "They thought it was too dark, weird and complicated, but I kept writing it on the side. My thesis supervisor looked at the first three chapters and thought I should do something with it."

Dave sent the finished book, Knights of the Borrowed Dark, to 26 different agents, and while 25 said no, Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson liked it and agreed to work with him. On his 26th birthday in 2014, she phoned to say Puffin had bought it. "I was flat broke at the time and sporadically working in bars and theatre, so it was really life-changing and life-saving," he recalls. It came out in 2016 and won Children's Book of the Year at the Irish Book Award. The Endless King is out now, and is the final book in the trilogy about a secret war between a race of shape-shifting, misery-eating, occasionally waistcoat-wearing monsters and the warriors sworn to stop them. The trilogy has been published in six languages and the film and TV rights have been sold to Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer. Dave is also working on an anime series for the streaming service Crunchyroll.

He and Sarah got together in March 2016 at a bookseller's conference. "I don't think I talked to anyone else at dinner because Sarah was the most brilliant and interesting person there," says Dave. "There was a lot of dancing and it was very clear after that evening that I wanted to ask her out. Sarah is so herself and very driven, and while she makes out that she's super-tough and unforgiving, she has such a huge heart and is always there to help people. And she's incredibly, strikingly gorgeous as well, to the point where sometimes, well, I'm not able to speak."

Sarah (35) and her three brothers grew up in Donabate, and her parents, Sir Robert and Lady Sheelagh Davis-Goff, travel a lot for their property business. Sarah boarded at Headford School in Kells and St Columba's College in Rathfarnham, and after taking advice from her writer aunt, Annabel Davis-Goff, she did a liberal arts degree at St John's College in Santa Fe, followed by a master's in publishing in the UK.

She set up Tramp Press with Lisa Coen almost five years ago and they currently put out three books a year. They've had great success with their writers, including Mike McCormack who won the Goldsmiths Prize for Solar Bones. Problems by Jade Sharma is their next book, and Sarah is really excited about it. In a classic case of poacher turned gamekeeper, she has her own book, Last Ones Left Alive, coming out next year on Tinder Press, which is aimed at readers of dystopian literary fiction.

Being an author and a publisher means that the couple have an insight into each other's world, but Sarah says she and Dave don't step on each other's toes. They don't currently live together, but feel sure that the relationship will go the distance. Dave spends a lot of time at Sarah's house, even though he isn't sure that her cat Mils entirely approves. "I'm not sure we're super-traditional marriage types, but one of us would have to f**k up really badly for us to split up." Sarah laughs. "I'm kind of ambivalent about having kids, to be honest. I can kind of see the point, but there are so many things I want to do with my life that don't involve rearing little ones."

Dave feels the same at present, and adds that he spends a lot of time in schools for work, which he enjoys. The bottom line is that they have neither ruled having a family in or out, they say. They see plenty of each other but it has to be carefully planned because they are both so busy with work.

The pair say the relationship has been very "easy" and feels like "the most natural thing in the world". "If I've had a rough day, one of the first things Sarah always says is, 'What can I do to help?" says Dave, who has spoken openly about dealing with depression. "The fact that I have someone in my corner feels incredibly lovely. Sarah is so clever, and I've learned so much from her."

The Endless King is out now (Puffin, €8.99).

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