What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?
Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?
I hope it qualifies as reading, but I listened to an audiobook of David Copperfield during a lengthy stay in hospital.
Do you re-read books? And if yes, what was your last re-read?
Yes. The last was Emile Zola’s Therese Racquin.
What are your go-to genres?
Fiction normally, but I also like to read about domestic stuff like gardening and cooking.
What is your favorite childhood book?
What books are on your bedside table right now?
My TBR is dangerously high at the moment. Tess Gunty’s The Rabbit Hutch, John McGahern’s Creatures of the Earth, and a pile of galley copies of books by Irish writers.
Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?
Bookmark ideally, but when I am doing readings I dog-ear, as it is easier than fumbling with pieces of card.
What is your ideal reading setting?
In bed while drinking a mug of strong tea someone else made for me.
Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?
I can’t pick just one! Kenny’s Bookshop, Galway; No Alibis, Belfast; Liber, Sligo.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
In primary school, I was in a choir. One day at practice, we were giddy, and the choir master exclaimed that our ‘Danny Boy’ was diabolical. It seemed like such a grand put-down I was terribly impressed.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I visited Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire when I was 14. I was already 5ft 8in and felt like a giant in the tiny rooms.
Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?
In a shed in my back garden, but when it is very stormy I work at the kitchen table.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both; I feel happily wrecked after a few hours at the desk.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
None. I stick doggedly at every idea until I get it to work.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do. Reviews in the press have been terribly kind, so I have not yet had to deal with a bad one. When this run of luck comes to an end I hope I will not take them too much to heart, but fear I might throw myself onto the couch, wailing ‘Is there one who understands me?’
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I began writing at the age of 47, and have no regrets about that.
When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?
Cooking, cleaning, gardening.
What are your three favorite things right now?
Faded hydrangea blossoms in the garden, a hand-painted teapot from Pakistan, and a pair of thick grey cashmere socks.
Your favorite travel destination and why?
Northern Spain for green hills, Atlantic waves and the freshest seafood.
What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?
Steak tartare and french fries with a glass of Cotes du Rhone.
What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
My parents, sisters and brother, which makes five. Adding anyone else would feel like an intrusion.
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, and who would play you?
Comedy, as I can’t take myself seriously. Also I am too modest to be involved in the casting.
What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?
I am addicted to The Crown.
You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?
I’ve Never Been to Me by Charlene, delivered with great irony.
If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?
A blank notebook.