A Q&A with Anne Enright

With the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist about to be revealed, we caught up with Anne Enright, one of this year’s longlisted authors to discuss her new role as Ireland’s inaugural fiction laureate, her longlisted book The Green Road and why Irish women’s fiction is currently having a boom.

How did you feel about becoming Ireland’s inaugural fiction laureate?

The Laureateship is a new post, but it builds on a role that writers already enjoy, representing Ireland to itself and also abroad. So it makes sense. I felt ready for the job at this point in my writing life. I am not a typical Irish writer – if there is such a thing – so I also felt like I was coming home, somehow, and that is a wonderful feeling to have.

There seems to be a lot of female Irish writing talent emerging right now (three of this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlistees are Irish) – why do you think there’s a sudden boom?

It comes as a surprise to many people abroad how male Irish intellectual life is, and how old fashioned. A lot of certainties collapsed in 2008, along with the Irish economy, however and the terms of cultural engagement shifted a little. There is a new confidence, or a new sense of urgency, in a new generation of writers, many of them women. We have had a lot of ground to catch up.

The matriarchal figure Rosaleen is a very pivotal character in The Green Road, exerting an inexorable force on her children. How did you go about inhabiting her?

I stalked her, through the eyes of her children, for half the book. Eighteen months, it took me – maybe two years. Then, you know, I just wrote her.

Your books never shy away from discussing the erotic – was it important for you to remove yourself from Irish conservatism about sex in your writing?

Well of course. But, you know, it was equally important to remove my thinking from pornographic discourse. Not that either was a wrench, for me. My characters are subjects, not objects, and their experience of sex is particular to each of them. It is just part of the way they are.

Do you have a particular place where you like to write?

On my computer. I sometimes like to write in my head, but it really works better if you type. The surroundings aren’t really important. Though I do hate pneumatic drills. I have travelled the world over and discovered this one fact, you are never more than five hundred metres away from a man with a power tool.

Find out more about our 2016 longlist here. Stay in the loop with this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction by following us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.