Emma Donoghue is the author of the bestselling and Orange Prize-winning book Room. The novel is written from the perspective of 5-year-old Jack, who is being raised alone with his Ma, while they are held hostage in a single room. Donoghue has just finished translating her novel to the silver screen, starring Brie Larson and Jack Tremblay.
  1. Let me start by saying that I loved Room. Although I’ll admit it made me cry and I read it rather timidly, just waiting for something terrible to happen the whole time. Being held hostage in a room, for YEARS at that, is a pretty terrifying concept, how did it come to you?
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    I heard about a kidnapping case that included children born into captivity - the Fritzl case in Austria - and it struck me as not just fascinating in itself, but a perfect metaphor for the claustrophobia and intimacy of the parent-child bond.
  2. I was especially struck by the detail you created in revealing just how limited Jack’s world view is, for example, when he has trouble distinguishing between what’s “real life” and what’s not. Was there any trick to getting into a place mentally to explore what growing up in an environment like that might be like?
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    Yeah, a bit of a cheaty trick actually: I followed my five-year-old son around and paid him a lot more attention than before or since. He wasn’t growing up in Room but he had that ‘What are the facts and rules of this strange world?’ mentality of all small children.
  3. If you were stuck in one confined place for years, what’s the first thing you think you would do when you got out?
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    The poetic answer is, swim in the sea. The realistic answer is, try to publish the book I’d have written on a toilet roll.
  4. Congratulations are in order as the movie adaptation for Room is in theaters now (and getting great reviews, I might add!). What was it like adapting your book to the screen? Is there anything you would avoid in the future?
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    No, I think I ended up making all the right decisions: waited till I found a director whose taste I trusted before selling the rights, worked with a small company rather than a huge studio, insisted on being the only screenwriter. I learned so much in the process - for instance, I came to realise that you shouldn’t fixate on the dialogue in a scene, which may change or get cut, but it’s still your scene. I’d love to do it again.
  5. What book(s) have you read recently that just knocked your socks off?
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    Hanya Yanagihara’s A LITTLE LIFE: my socks are not yet back on. Seriously, I don’t know how this long, relentless study of how childhood trauma messes up lives is such a page-turning novel, but it is.