People love talking about writers as storytellers, but I hate being called that: it suggests I got it from my grandmother or something, when my writing really comes out of silence. If a storyteller came up to me, I'd run away.
Solitude is good in the evening. Dublin is a quiet city when you get to a certain age, when your friends settle down and have kids. Nothing much happens here.
Between the time I was 16 until I was about 20, the books I read were by people like Thomas Mann, James Baldwin, Thom Gunn, Elizabeth Bishop. All gay, of course, although I swear I didn't know that at the time. Yet all of them, it turned out, had had a parent who died during their childhood. Sexuality is nothing compared to that.
Look at Austen. In her novels, you get a dance, followed by an encounter, followed by a letter, then a period of solitude. No flashbacks and no backstory. Let's have no more back story!
In Ireland, novels and plays still have a strange force. The writing of fiction and the creation of theatrical images can affect life there more powerfully and stealthily than speeches, or even legislation. Imagined worlds can lodge deeply in the private sphere, dislodging much else, especially when the public sphere is fragile.
In my 20s, as I began to travel in Europe, I found comfort in religious paintings. Even though my own belief in Catholic dogma had been shaken and weakened, I found that the beauty and the richness of the art still held me.
I lived in the Republic of Ireland. I wrote a book about the North but as an outsider. The hatreds there were not mine. I never felt them. I liked how open in most ways Catalan nationalism was, compared to Irish nationalism. I disliked the violence and cruelty in Ireland.
I still have a stammer that I can control by not opening a sentence with a hard consonant, or by concentrating for a moment, breathing softly down. Growing up, the 'Our Father' was lovely, made for me, the 'Hail Mary' was gorgeous, and 'Glory Be to the Father' was an absolute nightmare.
The best thing about New York is working late into the night. At 1 in the morning on a Saturday, to be still working, there's an immense satisfaction in being enclosed by it.
I feel just fine about ignoring or bypassing the rights of people I have known and loved to be rendered faithfully, or to be left in peace, and out of novels.
When I was 19, I thought I wanted to be an English civil servant. It was the most exotic thing at the time - can you imagine, in the middle of the IRA bombing campaigns? I saw an ad inviting Irish applicants for an induction course, so I signed up.
The only routine I have is that I finish everything I start. I wake up early every day - about 6.30 A.M. - but I do not work every day. I could laze for a day or two, but I wouldn't do it for three.
I don't think we have a right to enjoy our neuroses; in fact, I believe that we have a duty not to. But we cannot walk away from ourselves. Who else is there to become?
The next time I write a play - in order to get audience trust for a particular sort of tragic line, I'll try to bring the audience a good distance before that. Part of that is allowing comic moments to occur. I had been afraid of that - that once the audience started laughing in the play, they would never stop.
Everyone who's in America spends the first few years not experiencing it. The person is frightened by the newness of the place and doesn't see things. Her emotional universe becomes the entire universe. And then when she thinks of home, her distance in space can seem like a distance in time.
I think the whole business of people emigrating was that no one ever told them, although everyone knew, especially if it was to the United States, that it was forever, and the party before you left was called an 'American wake,' in the sense that they knew you wouldn't come back.
I think that was one of the things that happened, especially in Ireland, that you left in order to improve yourself, and you couldn't write home and tell people, 'Look, I'm really lonely,' because you'd realize how much those letters were going to matter, that you needed to put good news or uplifting news into them.
Describe character using dialogue. Describe character using what the characters see or do or think, but not what they had done or where they had been.
People's interest in glamour and clothes and nylon stockings and all those things were, when I was a little boy, the sort of world that I listened to.
My first novel was turned down by about twenty publishers over a period of two and a half years. Because my name is Irish and would not be familiar to English editors, one of them said: 'If she writes anything else, do let us know.' Slowly, very slowly, the books began to sell and be noticed.
History is a way of interpreting, rather than, say, knowing, the past. It is usually a set of disputes between those who have access to the same sources. It depends on ideology as much as voting in an election does.
I'm slightly influenced by sport in that I like the idea of trying, like an athlete, to keep absolutely ready. That's an emotional thing, almost. I don't mean physically, although I play tennis. But you try to keep yourself ready.
You have to keep writing. It's almost like practice, almost like tennis, that actually after a few days of not writing, first of all it makes you slightly depressed and uneasy, but it also affects the style when you start up again. You need to get the show on the road.
The novel space is a pure space. I'm nobody once I go into that room. I'm not gay, I'm not bald, I'm not Irish. I'm not anybody. I'm nobody. I'm the guy telling the story, and the only person that matters is the person reading that story, the target. It's to get that person to feel what I'm trying to dramatize.
As I settled down to sleep in that new bed in the dark city, I saw that it was too late now, too late for everything. I would not be given a second chance. In the hours when I woke, I have to tell you that this struck me almost with relief.
The old Victorian laws against homosexuality were still on the statute books until the early 1990s. As a gay man living in Ireland, I and people like me found it easy to feel less than citizens.
It may be enough to study history in all its nuance and ambiguity for its own sake. But there is no country free of the need to find new ways of reading the past as an inspiring way of thinking about everything else, including the present.
I am violently untidy. My desk is overcrowded. I write my first drafts in longhand in a long notebook using a plastic throwaway fountain pen. Then I work on a word processor using a different desk and a different room.
I did think of becoming a priest quite late on, when other boys were thinking of knocking over fences and going out with girls. I would have made a very good bishop: nice housekeeper, nice clothes - god, the clothes.
I first went to Barcelona in 1975 after university, and I stayed for three years. I learnt Catalan because that's what everyone speaks in the mountains. They speak English to foreigners, but what people say to each other is much more important than what they say to you.
Anyone who works in the arts knows, if you're writing a novel or a play or anything, you have to be ready for someone to say, 'Your time is up.'
It really matters to writers to find and treasure readers, all the more when they're on the other side of the world.
I work very deliberately, with a plan. But sometimes I come to a point that I planned as the end and it needs softening. Ending a novel is almost like putting a child to sleep - it can't be done abruptly.
If you have to read to cheer yourself up, read biographies of writers who went insane.
I wrote every day between the ages of 12 and 20 when I stopped because I went to Barcelona, where life was too exciting to write.
I live in words. I like looking at things, but I don't have a strong visual imagination.
You create a world away from home and make new rooms for yourself. But when you arrive back home in your old rooms, the world you've made for yourself ceases to be real. Everything seems to crumble. Anyone who's been sent away to boarding school can understand that.
..Some of our loves and attachments are elemental and beyond our choosing, and for that very reason they come spiced with pain and regret and need and hollowness and a feeling as close to anger as I will ever be able to imagine.
Three of my novels and a good number of my short stories are told from the point of view of men. I was brought up in a house of women.
I have to write a first draft with a fountain pen before I type it up as a second.