Interview with Martine McDonagh

What do you read for pleasure?
Mostly novels, sometimes plays, sometimes non-fiction. At the moment I'm reading Tuer le Pere by Amelie Nothomb, my new favourite author.
How do you approach cover design?
I ask someone else to do it and then I interfere and spoil it.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
A favourite book has to be able to withstand multiple readings in my opinion, which eliminates a lot of great books I've enjoyed once, but wouldn't want to read again. Even so it's still hard to narrow it down to five, but at the time of writing...

1. L'Hygiene de l'Assassin by Amelie Nothomb. I read this recently for the first time and definitely want to read it again. It's very unusual in that it's mostly dialogue between one constant character and a second character, who changes as the book progresses. I'm not usually a fan of lots of dialogue, but this is more like a play with a static setting and the dynamic between the characters is great. It's also very funny in places.

2. High Rise by JG Ballard. A dystopian nightmare set in a high rise apartment block, which serves as a microcosm of society. This story shows how close we are at all times to falling into complete and utter chaos.

3. The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Georges Simenon. It's not an easy call to pick my favourite Simenon, but this is the one I've read the most often and for me is one of his best. A man stumbles into committing a murder and disappears to live on the streets of Paris, from where he follows the progress of the police investigations and enters into a deliberate game of cat and mouse with his pursuers.

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I've read this so many times. Nelly Dean is an underestimated character if you ask me, she's as nasty and manipulative as Heathcliff himself. I love the fact that no one's managed to make a decent film of this story, it only really works as a novel.

5. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Some of the character description in this book is the best I've ever read. Steinbeck manages to portray a heartbreaking mix of hopelessness and positivity in this story of a group of drunken down and outs who despite their own best efforts and those of Doc, can't quite deliver what society expects.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I don't have one. I spend too much time in front of a computer screen already so I'm sticking with books!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the grounds of the psychiatric hospital where my father worked, on the outskirts of Bristol. It directly influenced my second novel, After Phoenix, which is partly set there.
Who are your favorite authors?
William Boyd, JG Ballard, TC Boyle, Amelie Nothomb, Georges Simenon, Jane Austen, AM Homes, David Sedaris, Richard Ford, Richard Yates
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Thinking about writing. Doing my day job. Cycling. Walking. Reading. Watching films.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Not really, only that I nicked the phrase 'happily unaware' from an Enid Blyton story and was given high praise by my teacher for doing so. I think I was eight.
What are you working on next?
I'm writing a novel with multiple locations and multiple voices. It's quite challenging.
What is your writing process?
It varies. I really dislike sitting at a computer all the time so I try to write longhand as much as I can. In general I tend to start with a paper and pen and switch to the computer when I absolutely can't avoid it any longer.
Published 2013-10-16.
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