[First published in the February 2011 issue of Words with JAM]
Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma studied English and French at University College, Dublin. She moved to England in 1990 and went on to gain a PhD from Cambridge University. She became a writer at the age of 23.
Her novels include the award-winning Hood (1995); Slammerkin (2000), a historical novel; Life Mask (2004), which tells the true story of three famous Londoners in the late eighteenth century; and The Sealed Letter (2008), joint winner of the 2009 Lambda Literary Award (Lesbian Fiction). Her short story collections include Kissing the Witch (1997), a collection of re-imagined fairytales; The Woman who Gave Birth to Rabbits (2002); and Touchy Subjects (2006), stories about taboos.
Her non-fiction includes Passions Between Women: British Lesbian Culture 1668-1801 (1993), a survey of printed texts on lesbian themes published between the Restoration and the end of the eighteenth century. She is also the editor of What Sappho Would Have Said: Four Centuries of Love Poems Between Women (1997); and The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Short Stories (1999).
Her most recent novel is Room (2010), shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. She now lives in Canada, with Chris, Finn and Una.
Which was your favourite childhood book?
The Narnia cycle.
Where do you write?
Anywhere I happen to be.
Which was the book that changed your life?
Jeanette Winterson's The Passion taught me what should have been obvious, that I could be an out lesbian and a great writer at the same time.
What objects are on your desk, and why?
Every bloody thing I'm trying to keep out of my small kids' mouths or am meaning to file away... plus some beautiful wooden bowls I can't see because everything else obscures them.
Short stories or novels - which is more you?
Can't choose, won't choose, and that goes for plays and nonfiction too.
Do you have a word or phrase that you most overuse?
Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn't?
Many - the chemistry is most mysterious - couldn't stand The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, for instance.
What have you learned from writing?
We're here on earth to let out the stories in our heads that no one else can tell.
Which book do you wish you'd written?
Today? Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle.
E-books - nemesis or genesis?
Haven't read one yet but all in favour.
Which book/writer deserves to be better known?
Catherine Austen, Walking Backwards.
What are you working on at the moment?
Wading through email up to my eyeballs ... but also a novel about a murder in 1870s San Francisco.
Which nostalgic snack do you wish they still made?
Acid drops like I remember them from Ireland circa 1975