After winning a Man Booker Prize in 2007 for The Gathering, Anne Enright has released a new novel, The Forgotten Waltz, and I had the opportunity to talk with her about the novel, her writing, success and failure.
Alisha: Congratulations again for the Man Booker Prize. Was it difficult to move to a new novel after the success of The Gathering?
Anne: Thank you. To be honest, it made me a bit grumpy, because it kept me from the desk. I felt like it was like another full time job on top of my other two jobs: as a writer and mom. But, I was very conscientious while on tour. I don’t regret it and wouldn’t have done it any other way. I knew I had this book (The Forgotten Waltz) and I could write this book and I was very grown up about it, but I felt sick because it added attention because it was “the book after the book”.
Alisha: Your novels focus on “the momentous drama of everyday life; the volatile connections between people; the wry, accurate take on families…” (from The Forgotten Waltz book summary), what types of things influence you?
Anne: It was Feb 2009, a day of snow, it was quiet, peaceful. It was the perfect setting with its sense of uncertainty and the economy failing. The boom had gone ka-boom, I just knew that this is the day in which to set the book. I steal stuff everywhere, other people’s lives, my life, other people’s books; I use anything I need for the story. Gina’s sister, Fiona’s house is in a setting just down the road from me, big, expensive houses built during the boom. I go there to have coffee sometimes.
With this book and all of my books actually, I want the reader to argue back to the books and the characters. I like the reader to have responses, like with Gina, her decisions and flaws. In real life, you don’t always listen to sound advice, sometimes you go against it knowing it is wrong, or later finding out it is wrong.
Alisha: Do you determine your chapter titles before you begin writing a chapter, or are these added at the end?
Anne: Some before and some after. The catchy, cheesy ones are added much later. “Love is like a Cigarette” and “There will be Peace in the Valley” were there from the word go. It’s what kept me writing. The “Leonard Cohen” one was there before. I think music is great because it is delighted with the foolishness is love. Pop music knows love is foolish. Music is a celebration of that foolishness.
Alisha: I’ve read that school wasn’t very rewarding for you, what inspired you to continue writing?
Anne: I have to set this a bit straight. I went for a Creative Writing MA and got a year of failure, but it was extremely useful to get ready for the truth of writing. Although it wasn’t the result I expected, no book at the end of the year, but a good understanding, of I suppose, what you are not to do. I knew I wanted to write, though it seems I wasn’t really able. You learn from the fact that you fail all the time. It was useful, you always go through terrible dark days where it’s all falling apart and I am used to it now, it will all pan out if you keep going. At a point, the darkness lasted up to a year with The Gathering, but I kept writing.
Alisha: Do you write every day, even on dark days?
Anne: Yes, every day for 10 years, but I haven’t been writing since summer – since the book. We went on our family trip, where I usually write, but I didn’t work this time. I feel young again.
Alisha: Thank you very much.
I have 1 copy of The Forgotten Waltz for a lucky reader!
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