Sally Rooney, whose debut novel Conversations with Friends is a frank and funny examination of intimacy, infidelity and what it means to be a young woman in the 21st century, has scooped the 2017 Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award. She takes a break from editing her next book to answer our quickfire Q&A.

Where are you now?

Sitting at the kitchen table at home, on my laptop.

Where and when do you do most of your writing?

As above, which I’m convinced is doing long-term damage to my posture.

If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual?

Getting out of bed is the first step, and indeed the only crucial prerequisite.

Full-time or part-time?


Pen or keyboard?

Keyboard! Always keyboard. Just recently the ‘T’ key on my MacBook has come loose and it frequently detaches now when struck too hard. This can really interrupt the flow of writing. Other than that, the noble keyboard has always served me well.

How do you relax when you’re writing?

The writing life seems to me a pretty relaxing one in itself. I have plenty of time to read and watch films. I can’t think what else I would rather do.

How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?

To pitch something is, I think, to present it convincingly as an investment opportunity. Thankfully it’s outside my remit as a writer to have to do such a thing.

Who do you write for?

Just myself (I suppose everyone says that). I can make this claim with a little bit of confidence because I wrote just as much when I didn’t have any readers, or the prospect of any.

Who do you share your work in progress with?

Primarily two writer friends of mine: Thomas Morris, who wrote the exceptionally fine collection of stories We Don’t Know What We’re Doing, and John Patrick McHugh. I don’t know where my work would be without them.

Which literary character do you wish you created?

That’s a tough question! Maybe Gwendolen Harleth from George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda.

Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose.

I’m always moved by Lucille Clifton’s poem ‘won’t you celebrate with me’, which ends with the lines:

my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

There are many books I’ve loved reading, but if I’d written them, I could never have experienced them for the first time as a reader. I don’t think I’d deny myself that pleasure.

Which book/s have you most recently read and enjoyed?

I recently finished Elizabeth Hardwick’s 1979 book Sleepless Nights and found it strikingly beautiful.

What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?

I’m reading Henry James’ novel The Ambassadors at the moment, so far very funny and charming, with sentences that go winding on for miles.

This_Is_How_Ypu_Lose_Her_290Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?

There are too many to mention. Next on my list is Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

Which book/s do you treasure the most?

Like any avid reader I could keep you here all day answering that question. For maximum brevity, I’ll just pick one perennial favourite: J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.

What is the last work you read in translation?

I think it was Yoko Ogawa’s captivating short novel Hotel Iris, translated (from Japanese into English) by Stephen Snyder. It’s a fantastic book.

Which story collections would you particularly recommend?

Junot Díaz’s This is How You Lose Her is just masterful. I’m also a great fan of Miranda July’s strange book No One Belongs Here More Than You, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s 1999 collection Interpreter of Maladies.

What will you read next?

I have a pretty substantial pile of books I should be reading, but I’m particularly looking forward to beginning Meaghan O’Connell’s book And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready.

What are you working on next?

I’m in the process of editing my second novel. After that I don’t know what I’ll do.

Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Honestly, I don’t long to meet any great literary figures face-to-face. Just being with their work is enough.

If you weren’t writing you’d be…?

A very different kind of person.


Sally_Rooney_featureSally Rooney was born in the west of Ireland in 1991. She lives and works in Dublin, where she graduated from Trinity College with a BA in English Literature and an MPhil in Literatures of the Americas. Her work has appeared in Granta, The White Review, The Dublin Review, Winter Papers and The Stinging Fly. Conversations with Friends is published by Faber & Faber. On 7 December she was anounced as the winner of the 2017 Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, in association with the University of Warwick.
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Author portrait © Jonny L. Davies