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.