Emma Donoghue’s new novel emerges from the jagged rocks of Skelligs. The author took a boat trip around the islands in 2016 when their strange terrain tricked her imagination.
It’s just the weirdest place I’ve ever seen,” she said. “I’m looking up at this particularly spiky scene and thinking, ‘Okay, how did someone land here? How will it work? What would you even do on your first date? ‘
“I was approved. Then I thought, ‘Well, I bet there have been a few failed landings here’, so I would imagine a landing went wrong, and why. By the end of the boat ride, I had the whole story in my head.”
That story is Haven. This slow-motion novel is set in 7th century Ireland and follows three monks, Artt, Cormac and Trian, as they leave the cloister of Clonmacnoise and attempt to establish a retreat on a remote island, no one here. Artt believes that God will provide what they need: food, shelter, safety. Things get tense as they try to navigate their wild new surroundings and each other.
“Almost immediately, I knew I was going to make the book, and the whole shape of it, and how many monks there were, etc., the energy exploded.
“It was an overwhelming feeling. Not, ‘Oh, this is going to sell well’, not a little bit. It was like, ‘I think I need to write a book to explain to myself how [situation] can happen. So it’s not a kind of career decision, by any means. “
Donoghue is not threatened by her past success. Her 2010 novel Room shortlisted by Booker and adapted by the author into an Oscar-nominated film directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Brie Larson.
For some writers, the pressure to create a similar quake that follows or repeats the formula may be crushing. Instead, Dubliner’s output has been varied, not to mention unacceptable. Just one contemporary novel, 2019 Akinbeen following since Room. Instead, she took on jobs during the 1918 flu pandemic (The pull of the stars), in the 19th century Irish countryside (Marvel) and 19th-century San Francisco (Frog Music).
“I am not worried about anyone expecting a blockbuster from me. So I don’t always have that pressure,” she said.
“Two things really helped shield me from it. The first is that my publishers are never stupid enough to say to me, ‘Give me something like Room‘, because they know it doesn’t work that way. The second thing that comforts me is that you never know in advance which book will be your bestseller. If someone asks me to describe the plot of Room, “In which a young woman is kidnapped and her son is held captive,” sounds ridiculous. Like who would want to read it? Similar to The pull of the starsthis seemed like a very specific kind of novel, didn’t sound like a bestseller, but then it sold like cupcakes.
“And look, if you try to manipulate the market, you will inevitably write something that is a poor copy of the last bestseller you read,” she added. “I feel as free as I am at 23 to write whatever book I like.”
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This means that no two of her novels are alike. But there is one thing in common of the types that run through them.
“The voices are not always the same, like when you buy a book by Cormac McCarthy,” agreed Donoghue. “I think what my method is because it is usually the close-up kind of thing. They are usually restrictive situations, with a limited time frame. It will not be an epic, covering three generations. It’s all going to be pretty up close, and hopefully a kind of intensely suggestive of a world you’ve probably never been to before, and it’s going to be very lively and world-building. “
A self-confessed historicist, Donoghue wrote her PhD thesis at Cambridge University on gender friendships in 18th-century England. She was completely in her comfort zone when she wrote about worlds in the world. the past few centuries, but it is admittedly more difficult to construct an impression of 7th-century Ireland.
“The basic challenge of trying to get into the mind of someone who is not of my time or place is the same, but this is like instead of trying to understand, let’s say, an Englishman, I am try to understand. a Martian,” she said.
“I thought because I was stuck at home during Covid, I wanted to go somewhere completely different in my mind, and I had to think like ‘How the hell did you find firewood? ?’; ‘How do you decide which bird dish to cook for your dinner’? But there are also big existential questions, “What’s the point of our lives here?”
She didn’t set foot on Skelligs, as she writes in her author’s note to Havenat risk of overeating after they were used as the setting for Luke Skywalker’s hideout in the Star Wars films Divine Power Awakens and The Last Jedi. The first records of monks living there date from around 790-830, later than Donoghue’s arrivals.
“The very alien thinking of a really committed monk in 600, who genuinely thinks of himself as a slave to God… that is clearly far from what I would have imagined,” she said. speak. “I like that, taking a mental leap.”
Short stories, plays and screenplays have always been constants in her creative life, but in another spiritual leap she turned to writing for children (The Lotterys Plus One launched in 2017 and Lottery more or less one year later).
“They went through a completely different editing and drafting process, because children’s publishers were very worried about what would adversely affect them,” said Donoghue.
“It’s funny, kids are probably accessing pornography without their parents realizing it, but everyone is worried they’ll learn a rude word from a novel.
“There is also the worry of how many difficult words you can include for the age group. But I love writing for younger readers, visiting schools etc turned out to be a great experience. Children are very unfiltered and open, so in a way it’s even harder [than usual]. “
The next few months showed more dramatic leaps and bounds. Her next novel, which she can’t talk about, is already done. Among her many other projects is a musical.
“Our daughter, 15, is particularly fond of musical theatre,” she said, referring to Una, the youngest of her two children with wife Christine Roulston, whom she met at Cambridge University ( their 19-year-old son Finn). “We’ve seen basically everything in musical theater lately, and it feels like a great genre in which you can tell a story in such a succinct manner.
“I really have my limits,” she added. “For example, one of my old plays [Trespasses] was turned into an opera in Ireland last year. They asked me if I wanted to adapt it, and I said, ‘Oh, I could try writing libretto!’. That’s definitely my limit. “
After the resounding success of Room, it’s safe to assume that any stage of a screen project with Donoghue’s name attached will be guaranteed to get the green light. Not so, she said.
“I guess the name gets the initial interest, but it doesn’t guarantee you have enough money to make it,” she said. “[In general], most things never make it past development, or they happen and then it doesn’t get production funding at all. To put it this way, I have a lot of film and TV projects and movies that haven’t been made.”
A project that has been a hit from site to screen and is set for a major screening in Donoghue’s home province at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), is the 2016 novel. Marvel. A psychological thriller based on the 19th century Irish countryside, Marvel revolves around the remarkable story of 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who has survived for months without food.
Florence Pugh plays Lib, an English nurse sent to investigate the miracle. Elaine Cassidy plays Anna’s mother, while Cassidy’s stepdaughter, Kila Lord Cassidy, plays Anna with what Donoghue describes as “an intensity and intimacy”.
The movie reunites Donoghue with RoomDublin-based production company Element Pictures, where she co-wrote with director Sebastián Lelio (Disobedient, a wonderful woman) and Alice Birch (Successor, Ordinary People).
“I mean, most novelists are very skeptical of the filmmaking process and say, ‘Hollywood bought my books and they’re monsters. But I got lucky both times,” she said. “I don’t sell the rights until we’ve actually shot the film, which means I can stop the project from going badly, for example, if there’s a red flag. I want to participate fully. “
Donoghue certainly doesn’t have to worry about red flags.
“We are a fun kind of Venn skill graph,” she adds. “I have done stage plays and some films and novels, and Sebastian has written his films and Alice has written Lady Macbeth for Florence before. Ed [Guiney, of Element Pictures] has a good eye for thinking about the people who will work together, so he is really excellent at forming working relationships between people. We all brought different things into the mix. It’s not a typical classic drama. It’s really thoughtful and spooky. It tried to avoid all those clichés of 19th-century Ireland. It’s almost like Westerners.”
Donoghue is eagerly looking forward to the premiere of Marvel, for many reasons. “We had a great time at TIFF when we won the Audience Choice Award,” she recalls. “The book club I’m in, which has always supported me and my novels, rented a van and took it up the highway from London, Ontario. They were all lined up as I passed in the limo, waving. Definitely one of the most magical moments of my life. “
Emma Donoghue’s ‘Haven’ is published by Picador on August 18. ‘The Wonder’ will be released later this year on Netflix.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/emma-donoghue-on-leaping-inside-the-minds-of-monks-in-the-haven-and-the-new-netflix-adaptation-of-the-wonder-41906193.html Emma Donoghue on the leap in monks’ minds in The Haven and the new Netflix adaptation of The Wonder