Did you ever think that your 2019 novel about the Black Death set in Nobber, Co Meath, in 1348 would suddenly become topical?
No, I had no idea that would happen. One of the reasons I went for such a historical story is that I didn't want it to be topical. I wanted to escape the issues of the day. But to some degree, pandemics have always been a feature of human life and history.
Have you noticed parallels between Covid-19 and the Black Death?
Of course, it was very different, but the discourse during that plague was in some ways similar to what is happening now. Now it's the health service that we are worried about. Back then, during the plague, they were afraid that there would a shortage of confessors and priests. In a lot of places they were very well-organised. People would self-isolate and people would be forced to self-isolate.
Do you think people have changed their outlook during the present pandemic, and how has it affected you?
People reconnect with certain things that are important to them because they realise that their time on earth is finite. I think we value face-to-face contact because all that Zoom stuff is not fun. In some ways, I feel I have lived through this already, because I spent two years thinking about my novel, Nobber. I imagined what it was like to be in a curfew. I knew that the thing to do was relax, calm down, and become pensive and meditative. Panic would serve no function. I have been reading books that I grew up with - and spending more time with my family, which is very precious.
When did you start writing?
It's all I ever wanted to do since I was a child. I was very much into reading fantasy writers in early childhood - Robin Hobb, Terry Pratchett and Ursula Le Guin. Later on it was William Faulkner and Jack Kerouac. There are so many doubts you have as a writer. You write a book and what happens to it? Do people like it or dislike it? Why do I write at all? You need a huge amount of faith.
Which books would you take to a desert island?
The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal would definitely be one. It's about an Italian aristocrat who flees his family home to join Napoleon and arrives late at the Battle of Waterloo. He comes back, goes to prison and falls in love with the prison warden's daughter. It's extremely political. I always feel like it's a fairytale, but I can't put my finger on why. I read it every summer. At the moment, I would also bring Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, because I have a hangover.
If you weren't a writer what would you be?
I'd like to teach surfing in the south of France - something like that.
'Nobber' by Oisín Fagan has just been shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize