Sally Rooney has always written fiction, but she concentrated on poetry in her teens. When she took her Masters at Trinity, she was working in two different jobs.
“I worked in a restaurant, and at Trinity, as a debating coach.” (Sally is the former number one student debating champion for Europe.)
Once she’d handed in her thesis, in September 2014, she focused on her debut novel.
“I wrote it in a total whirlwind, and had a first draft in a few months.” After this, she had short stories published in Granta, and The Winter Pages, and an essay in The Dublin Review.
London Agent Dublin Tracy Bohan read the essay, and contacted Sally asking for a novel.
“I said it wasn’t ready, and put her off for ages and ages. I spent a year editing it.”
Who is Sally Rooney
Date of birth: 20th February 1991, in County Mayo.
Education: St Joseph’s Castlebar. Trinity College Dublin: English. Masters in American Literature.
Home: The Liberties, Dublin.
Family: Boyfriend, John.
The Day Job: Fulltime writer.
In Another Life: “I’d love to have been a dancer.”
Favourite Writers: JD Sallinger; Virginia Woolf; Margaret Drabble; Ben Lerner; Juno Diaz; Zadie Smith.
Second Novel: She has a two-book deal. “I’ve finished a first draft.”
Top Tip: “Don’t feel you have to write about literary themes. Find something you’re interested in, and willing to immerse yourself in for three years.”
The Debut: Conversations with Friends. Faber & Faber: €14.99. Kindle: €9.26.
Students Frances and Bobbi, fall in with a glamorous married couple. Bobbi is entranced by Melissa, but it’s Frances who enters an affair with the older man. Their relationships progress over dinners, parties, and launches, but can such chicanery between the four maintain its equilibrium?
Focusing on Frances, as narrator, it explores her inner life, her insecurities, and her witty conversations on everything from sex and friendship, to politics and gender issues.
“The basic scaffolding is drawn from my life, because I needed to write about the social milieu I’m familiar with, but all the characters are made up. I was interested in how the dynamics between the four would play out.”
The Verdict: Simply perfect! Analysing social mores, it’s clever and sophisticated. Echoes of Margaret Drabble, but updated for Millennials.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 3rd June.
© Sue Leonard. 2017.