‘In the early days I tried out names a few times, but the book wouldn’t stand for it.’
In this Man Booker Prize 2018 longlist interview Anna Burns tells us her favourite Man Booker-winning novel and what her next story after Milkman will be.
What’s it like being on the longlist?
Unreal, until I remind myself it is real. Then it’s lovely.
Did your past experiences inspire the novel?
Yes, in that I grew up in a place that was rife with violence, distrust and paranoia, and peopled by individuals trying to navigate and survive in that world as best as they could.
What made you decide not to name the city or the lead protagonist?
The book didn’t work with names. It lost power and atmosphere and turned into a lesser – or perhaps just a different – book. In the early days I tried out names a few times, but the book wouldn’t stand for it. The narrative would become heavy and lifeless and refuse to move on until I took them out again. Sometimes the book threw them out itself.
Favourite Man Booker-winning novel?
The Lost Man Booker Prize: Troubles, J G Farrell.
What are you working on next?
The book I started after my second book. It gave most of itself to me between 2006 and 2009, then decided that was all I was getting for now. My writing then led me to other stories, including Milkman, so when I can, I’d like to return to that third one.