I am really glad you’ve accepted my interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you became a writer?
I was 44 when I started to write. ‘When All Is Said’ was published in the UK and Ireland when I was 50 so I was very late to the craft. I’d worked in bookselling in my twenties and had hung out with some pretty impressive aspiring writers at the time like John Boyne but it never occurred to me to write too. I left bookselling to work in the charity sector and did so for twenty years. And it was only when I hit a cross roads in that career in 2013 that it was suggested I write. And I did just that, starting on the 1st September – the day will forever be etched in my brain. It felt right from the off, like this was the thing I should have been doing all my life. Having said that I wouldn’t have changed my journey to finding it in any way, I believe those years of working at other things helps in what I produce on the page.
Was it difficult for the first book to find a publisher?
In Ireland we can make submissions directly to publishers without having to have an agent, so I did that. The rejections poured in. My next step was to look to the UK. There, you have to have an agent. I started by going through the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book systematically but again was getting nowhere. It was while scrolling Twitter one day, a great place for unpublished authors to keep up with what’s going on in the writing world, I saw a submission call out from Louise Buckley who was to become my first agent. I submitted to her and within a couple of days she signed me. It had taken me nine months. Within a month or so of that we had the first offer on the book and then a bidding war. Since then ‘When All Is Said’ has been sold into nineteen territories including the UK and Ireland.
Could you describe literature in three words?
Can I use six? Of the imagination, for the imagination.
Is there a book you would never read? Why?
I think that’s a hard thing to say. I think there are genres I don’t read much, for example sci-fi and crime, but that doesn’t mean I don’t read them at all or I don’t appreciate the talent that goes into writing them. It’s just literary fiction engrosses me more.
What’s your favorite book?
‘Nobody’s Fool’ Richard Russo. I don’t have a favourite quote from a book but if I were to go looking for one I think it would be invariably be something Donald Sullivan has to say, the main character of ‘Nobody’s Fool’, a wonderfully witty, flawed man you can’t help loving.
But I do say this, when I’m asked advice about writing novels: Get it down now, get it right later. Meaning get the first draft written and then worry about the editing later. Not all writers work this way but it works for me. I wish I’d coined that phrase. I saw it written on the wall of a friend and I thought it was simply golden.
EBooks or paper print?
Print. But I do see the advantage of ebooks especially when travelling. But I’m all about the feel of the book, the spine, the smell. I worked in bookselling in my twenties and one of my favourite moments was when the American import delivery arrived and we’d stand around handling these precious items like they were diamonds. The American’s are great at using deckled edges, I loved those.
What inspires you?
Writers who consistently produce good work like Maggie O’Farrell, John Boyne, Richard Russo, Mary Lawson, Jonathan Coe, and Sarah Waters, to name a tiny handful.
Imagine you were given the opportunity to meet a book character in real life. Who would that be?
Donald Sullivan from ‘Nobody’s Fool’, because he’s funny, doesn’t suffer fools and because he is terribly vulnerable despite his tough exterior. But I think I’d like more to observe him rather than talk to him. I’d just sit in the corner drinking a beer at the bar watching him, listening to how he interacted with the world.
What’s your worst nightmare?
As a writer, that I lose confidence in myself permanently.
The best decision of your life was?
To become a writer.
Thanks for the great questions. People can follow me on Twitter @AnneGriffin_ Instagram @annegriffinwriter http://www.annegriffinwriter.com