Small talk: Kevin Barry

Born in Limerick, Ireland, in 1969, Kevin Barry worked as a newspaper reporter before turning to fiction. His debut short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms (2007), won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and his first novel, City of Bohane (2011), was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. Barry lives in County Sligo, Ireland.

Who is your perfect reader?

A 14th-century Italian patron, some wowed Medici, who would provide me access to big castles, heavenly wines and adoring wenches.

The last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

A note to self, scrawled while half-conscious in the middle of the night, urging that I should become “a warm and decent man”.

What books are on your bedside table?

Dermot Healy’s tender, mad, hilarious novel Long Time, No See.

What book changed your life?

Don DeLillo’s White Noise, which I read when I was 19. It showed me that a book can be funny as hell and deadly serious.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

When I realised that I was hysterically inept at everything else.

What is your daily writing routine?

Very first thing in the morning, I spew some rough genius directly on to the laptop. Then I have coffee and rewrite for three hours.

What is the strangest thing you have done researching a book?

I wanted to write about Jews in Montana so I went there by plane and bus, only to discover that there are no Jews in Montana. It didn’t deter me.

Where do you write best?

Probably in my house in County Sligo. It’s an old police barracks set in a very rainy terrain, so there are few distractions.

What music helps you write?

1970s dub reggae compilations from the Trojan record labels of Jamaica.

Which literary character most resembles you?

Girly Hartnett, a malevolent 89-year-old weapon, addicted to pills and booze, who rules over my “City of Bohane”.

Who are your literary influences?

Emily Brontë, Anthony Burgess, Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett – and that’s just the Bs.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?

The Nobel literature panel, as we attempt to ascend to the prize-giving ceremony.

What are you scared of?

Rats, heights and policemen.

What would you go back and change?

I’d be 6ft 3in and able to sing like Scott Walker.

If you could own any painting, what would it be?

One of Goya’s Black Paintings would look well in the lavatory.

What does it mean to be a writer?

It makes you an independent kingdom, a Republic of One, where you set all the rules, and they can be as daft or as cruel as you like.

Kevin Barry’s latest collection of short stories ‘Dark Lies the Island’ is published by Jonathan Cape

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.