TOAST Magazine

A Short Q&A with Sally Rooney

BOOK CLUB

Sally Rooney's second novel Normal People has become a literary sensation - a love story for our times, admired and read by all generations. The BBC is currently airing a beautifully frank adaptation of the novel. To celebrate, we have a short Q&A with Rooney on her writing process.

Where do you write?

At my kitchen table, or on the couch. If neither are available I’ll make do with whatever is.

Which writers have influenced you?

I think it must be hard to read a book and not take at least a little influence from it, consciously or otherwise. I believe I’m probably influenced by everything I read. Certain prose styles can even be too influential—after I read The Wings of the Dove I couldn’t remember how to write a normal sentence for days.

Do you draw from your own life?

Yes, in the sense that it’s the only one I have. I am sadly unable to draw from anyone else’s. But none of the events or characters in my books are based on real events or people, to my knowledge.

What is it like to be immersed in the lives of your protagonists?

I like being immersed in the world of a book while I’m writing it. It makes my own reality more useful to me, because I can imagine how my protagonists might move through it, and that helps me to understand who they are.

What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?

Wait not to be in one. That method has worked so far, but there’s always a chance it will fail next time.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just started reading Annie Ernaux’s The Years, translated from the French by Alison L. Strayer.

What would you be if you were not a writer?

A very different person, I think.

Portrait by Jonny Davies.

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