Writer's Block with Rob Doyle - The Gloss Magazine

Writer’s Block with Rob Doyle

In the latest in our weekly book series, ROB DOYLE tells SOPHIE GRENHAM of his disjointed relationship with Rosslare and how his FIRST EVER ACTING EXPERIENCE involved starring in a feature film 

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One might imagine that Rob Doyle, Irish literary fiction’s man of the moment, pinches himself most mornings. His scorching first novel Here Are the Young Men (2014) was named book of the year with The Irish Times, Sunday Times, Sunday Business Post and Independent, and his feet have barely touched the ground since.

The coming months will see the release of his eagerly awaited second book This Is the Ritual, for which a film adaptation is already in the works. This year will also feature the unveiling of Rob’s acting debut with independent film Hit The North, due for release this summer.

On the quiet life

I’m currently living in Rosslare Harbour, though I spend time in Dublin too so that I have access to other human beings and don’t go insane. It’d be nice to have a dog, or failing that a pet baby, or even just a Tamagotchi, but the current instability of my life doesn’t allow for it. I live alone on an estate above the Europort. There isn’t much in the town, not even a pub. There used to be two hotels, but since the Mail Boat closed there is only one. I sometimes go to the bar there to read or write. Rosslare Harbour is a useful place to get some work done but it’s quite isolating, especially as I don’t have my car for the moment. I’m living here mainly because it’s cheap: Dublin rents are dismayingly high these days. I spent time last year in Paris, so I needed somewhere to live when I came back to Ireland, and this was convenient.

On work spaces, past and present

I write in many places. Sometimes I write in bed, with a cup of tea or coffee. In Paris I wrote in cafés a lot, as I found the atmosphere agreeable. I wrote much of my first book in the libraries of north London, because I shared a house with a swarm of Bulgarian hard-house DJs who were vehemently opposed to the production or consumption of literature. Whichever room I’m in, I’ll have books with me: I carry a stack of them from room to room, due to uncertainty about what will take my fancy at any given moment. I’m always rereading passages, or dipping in at whim to an assortment of books.

On his booksellers of choice

Dublin has some fine independent bookstores, such as Books Upstairs, Chapters and the Winding Stair. These are an important part of the city as I experience it, and it’s dreary to think that global corporate dinosaurs like Amazon (who I am guilty of having supported) might spell doom for these kinds of shop, through their rapacious business practices.

On his eclectic reading taste

I love 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, Limonov by Emmanuel Carrére and Factotum by Charles Bukowski. There are certain fiction writers I keep coming back to, such as Borges, Bolaño and Kundera. A few years ago I was fixated on Martin Amis, particularly such novels as The Information, London Fields and Money. A great many of my favourite books are not novels – I reread writers like Nietzsche, E.M. Cioran and Geoff Dyer continuously. When I was in my early twenties, I loved science fiction authors like Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke (you need an initial in your name to write sci-fi, it seems). Writers who upset me, like Houellebecq or Bret Easton Ellis, I value highly.

On his foray into acting with Hit the North

It’s the first time I’ve ever acted in my life. I play the lead role – that of ‘the Hitcher’. It’s a sort of existential road movie set in the UK in 1984. It was tremendous fun to make, and involved a lot of travelling around Britain, over the course of seven or eight months. Dan Sayer, the director, became a great friend. The film is without compromise, a sort of throwback to the heyday of art cinema in which commercial imperatives were not allowed to interfere with artistic vision. It’s being edited at the moment. I have no idea what kind of distribution it will get or how many people will be able to see it, but I think it will be beautiful. I’ve been writing an account of my experiences making the film, which will probably conclude with the night of the premiere.

On the year ahead

Eoin Macken and I have written a screenplay of my novel Here Are the Young Men. It’s blindingly good (I’m allowed to say that because most of it is down to Eoin). There’s a production company and a great crew on the case, so hopefully the film will be made later in the year if we are able to get funding. Hit the North will be released in the summer, Inshallah. I’ve pretty much finished a collection of non-fiction writings, which will probably be called King of the Feminists. As for new year’s resolutions, I vowed only to be less tolerant of other people’s failings, and even more indulgent with my own.

Here Are The Young Men (€12.99, Bloomsbury) is available nationwide and This Is the Ritual (€25.50, Bloomsbury/Lilliput) is out this January.

Sophie Grenham

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