Thursday 19 April 2018

Write side with novelist John Boyne

 

John Boyne
John Boyne
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Novelist John Boyne on finally broaching Irish themes in his fiction, and what he learned working in a bookshop

I read that you like to get a feeling for a period by immersing yourself in the fiction of that time. How does that work?

It gives me a better sense of the language of the time - the clothes, the manners, and so on. You can learn a lot more there than from non-fiction.

How, where and when do you work? Describe the room.

I try to write every day from around 8.30am till 3pm. At home, I have two offices that I call the green room and the pink room. One is inside the house and one is outside. They're both lined with books and overlook my garden. But I can write anywhere - planes, trains, hotel rooms and so on.

Are you easily distracted?

No. Once I'm focused on my book every day, I tend to stay that way for a good five or six hours. I don't listen to music while I'm writing, I prefer quiet.

In what way did working in a bookshop help you as a writer?

I was in my twenties when I worked in a bookshop and was introduced to a wealth of contemporary fiction that I hadn't read in college. Also, we had a great readings programme so I met many writers when they came to the shop to promote their books. I learned a lot from listening to them talk.

You appear to be an avid reader. How many books do you get through?

About 100 in a year.

Why did it take some time before you explored Irish themes in your work?

I wanted to wait until I had a story that I really wanted to tell, and not just feel obliged to write about my own country.

Which two books would you take with you to a desert island?

LP Hartley's The Go-Between and Charles Dickens' David Copperfield.

If you weren't a writer, what would you be?

An aspiring writer.

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