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An Interview with Emma Donoghue

So I loved reading “Room” by Emma Donoghue. You can read the review here I was so taken in by the book, that I decided to interview Emma Donoghue via email. Here is a quick interview:

How did the story of “Room” come about? Why the unusual theme?

Oh, I’ve written about more unusual things in my historical fiction: one of my short stories is about a woman in eighteenth-century England who pretended to give birth to rabbits! So you can see I have no fear of freakish subjects.  ROOM came about because I had two kids (of 4 and 1) when I heard about the Fritzl case in Austria, and I instantly thought of writing a novel from the point of view of such a child-set-free.

How was it to envision a novel from the perspective of a five-year old? Did it have its own set of challenges?

It’s a limitation, yes, but limitations are writers’ friends: it meant there was no danger of the book rambling or losing its way.  I worked hard on coming up with a form of grammar and idiom which would be child-like but not actually as confusing as a real five-year-old’s.

The theme of “Room” is a very strong one. How did it impact you as a writer?

It was a joy to write.  I knew what I was doing, technically, and I knew that my themes were ones that matter to everyone.

 There was underline, “Fear” that I felt while reading the book. I wanted Ma and Jack to be safe. Was the element of fear and apprehension difficult to deal with while writing the book?  

No, I must admit that thinking ‘aha, my readers will feel terrified here’ is a great comfort and reassurance to a writer.  What frightens us is the idea of you readers getting bored and putting down the book.

How does it feel to be short-listed for “Room”?

Absolutely wonderful.  I think the Booker endorsement will persuade many people to tackle this book who might otherwise have been turned off by the premise.

If you were the one parent in a room, how would you manage things?

Badly.  I suspect I would let the child watch TV 24 hours a day.

Was the approach to Room deliberately fairy-taleish?

Absolutely.  I wanted the novel to work as realism but also to have this whole other archetypal pattern, which alludes to fairytales as well as Greek myths and above all the Mary and Jesus story.

How is beauty found in the unbearable, just like Jack and Ma do in the book?

I have frequently found that my best writing emerges from the almost unbearable.