Sebastian Barry is one of a small group of authors to have been nominated for the Booker Prize five times

The 2018-21 Laureate for Irish Fiction, Barry had two consecutive novels shortlisted for the Booker Prize, A Long Long Way (2005) and the top ten bestseller The Secret Scripture (2008), before Old God’s Time was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2023. He has also won the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, the Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His novels have twice won the Costa Book of the Year award, the Independent Booksellers Award and the Walter Scott Prize. Barry was born in Dublin in 1955, and now lives in County Wicklow.  

Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry on writing Old God's Time

‘I try to set aside a year just for reading and dreaming – that peculiar dreaming of writers. Then a year to write the book, and then a year to reconsider, edit, make raids on the text as it were. Like Billy the Kid. Pat Garrett would be the doubts and worries (quite important, if dangerous). I wait for the book essentially and once it starts, I try to give it its head, as judiciously as possible, hoping it won’t go and gallop off a cliff.

‘I write in what was once the rector’s study in an old rectory. It was also called the Bee Room, because gear for bee-keeping was kept in there. It has a good small stove, bookcases made by a genius carpenter I know (who accidentally gave me the title for this book), and since we came here it was been twice painted by me on the stern orders of my wife, Ali. The curtains have pineapples on them for some reason. An old post-office desk has seen everything written on it since 1986. Outside is Ali’s brilliant planting in the garden, but I face the wall to work.’

Read the full interview here.

Sebastian Barry

All nominated books

Old God's Time by Sebastian Barry
A Long Long Way
The Secret Scripture
On Canaan's Side
Days Without End