Elaine Feeney is an award-winning poet, novelist, short story writer and playwright from the west of Ireland

How to Build a Boat, longlisted for the Booker Prize 2023, is Feeney’s second novel. Her 2020 debut, As You Were, was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize and the Irish Novel of the Year Award, and won the Kate O’Brien Award, the McKitterick Prize, and the Dalkey Festival Emerging Writer Award. Feeney has published three collections of poetry, including The Radio Was Gospel and Rise, and her short story ‘Sojourn’ was included in The Art of the Glimpse: 100 Irish Short Stories, edited by Sinéad Gleeson. Feeney lectures at the National University of Ireland, Galway.  


Elaine Feeney on writing How to Build a Boat

How to Build a Boat took many years, and several drafts. I was desperate to simplify it. I wrote much of it longhand and, as with all projects, there was a copious amount of research. But there was a moment where I said, it’s fiction, stop reading about boats.   

I am a ‘sudden burst of activity’ person, and then long naps. Much like my cat.

I live with my family in a small bungalow surrounded by fields and stone walls, it’s the house I grew up in. There’s a farm across the road and I look out the windows a lot. I write in the kitchen at a desk, watching the farmer’s cows grazing, or crows picking stones, or the rain – that’s never far away. I write with my back to the wall. But ultimately, I write anywhere. And when I get stressed, I take off for a walk or I jump into the sea.  

Read the full interview here.

Elaine Feeney

The interweaving stories of Jamie, a teenage boy trying to make sense of the world, and Tess, a teacher at his school, make up this humorous and insightful novel about family and the need for connection. Feeney has written an absorbing coming-of-age story which also explores the restrictions of class and education in a small community. A complex and genuinely moving novel

— The Booker Prize 2023 judges on How to Build a Boat

All nominated books

How to Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney