The Next Chapter

Emma Donoghue answers the Proust questionnaire

The author of Room on her favourite authors, her greatest fear and more.
Emma Donoghue's new novel, The Wonder, is set in Ireland in the 1850s. The book has been longlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. (HarperCollins)

Emma Donoghue's novel Room was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award. Donoghue adapted the book for the screen, and the movie was nominated for four Academy Awards. The star, Brie Larson, won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Ma. Donoghue has written a number of other historical and contemporary novels, including Frog Music, which she is now adapting as a feature film. Her new novel, The Wonder, is set in her native Ireland and will be released later this year.

Emma Donoghue shares her favourite authors, her greatest fear and more in The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire.

Name your favourite writers.

Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. I suppose it's partly nostalgia because I grew up on them, but I still say that Dickens can tell a more engrossing, complicated and vivid story than anybody around today.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would give myself a deep and rich radio voice. That's what I've always wanted.

What do you value most in your friends?

Wit. I suppose I feel that intelligence is pretty common, but if people can be extremely funny and laugh at themselves as well, that just makes them precious to me.

Your favourite painter?

It would have to be Van Gogh. He's got a painting called Wheatfield with Crows that's on the cover of one of my books in translation, and it just makes my spirits lift.

What do you regard of the lowest depth of misery?

For me, that would be 24 hours alone. I don't mind spending the working day writing on my own, because anyway I'm with my characters, but I have to have company in the evenings.

The quality you most admire in a man?

I would admire the same qualities in men as in women, and in both cases I would admire the ability to ignore the rules of gender, which are not really rules at all.

What is your favourite journey?

I like the one-minute run along the road to the school bus to pick up my kids every day. There's a little thrill about it — in a minute I will get to hug them!

What is your greatest fear?

Dying halfway through writing a book. Whenever I'm on an airplane I think, "Let me just get the corrected proof to the publisher first!"

Emma Donoghue's comments have been edited and condensed.