I have just discovered the tremendous resource that is Powell’s Books Interview Series. There are stacks of interviews with authors on the site and they make for inspiring and educational reading. I loved the interview with Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies, one of my favourite Irish novels of recent years. Here he talks about the long gap between his first novel and Skippy Dies and the reasons for it:
“…From pillar to post, it took a whole seven years. Even looking back on it now, it hasn’t been finished that long, but I ask myself, What was I doing for that long? It’s hard to understand even for myself how a book can take that long.
It took maybe two years to write the first draft. I wrote the first draft longhand. Then I typed it up, and then there was this endless period of revision and refinement that just went on and on. Because the original manuscript was so long, every revision would take a year and that would be another year of life gone.
There was a strange doubleness to it because, on the one hand, there was a lot of anxiety attached to writing something that long, because obviously there’s no money coming in during that time. On the other hand, more and more time’s passing since you’ve written the first book. People stop asking you to festivals, and maybe your first book isn’t in the shop anymore. You stop even thinking of yourself as a writer. On bad days, you start thinking of yourself as just some crazy person with an endless manuscript.
At the same time, there’s a strange comfort to working on a project of that length. It becomes your whole life in a really unambiguous way….”
I know exactly what Murray means in the last paragraph. To be honest it’s been a real wrench for me to enter the 9-5 world again after so long spent being a writer. Of course work is a necessary evil and I’m very grateful to have a job at all, but the book has been my whole life for so long that I really miss it!