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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
'I tried not to imagine winning'
Anne Enright
Enright says she has barely had time to come to terms with her wins
Rank outsider Anne Enright has picked up this year's Booker prize for her novel The Gathering.

Born in Dublin in 1962, Enright worked as a TV producer before publishing her first collection of short stories, The Portable Virgin, in 1991.

The Gathering is her fourth novel, and is narrated by Veronica Hegarty - who is prompted to delve into her family's history after her brother commits suicide.

Despite a mere four hours sleep since winning the 50,000 prize, Enright talked to the BBC News website about her victory.

How does it feel to win?

I don't know yet! I was swept away from the stage, I couldn't even hug my husband - and I had to talk to a lot of strange people about it all.

You know, I had scheduled next Tuesday for a little cry come what may. And I think I'll have it, actually.

Does that mean you didn't think you would win?

I planned for any eventuality. But there's a small corner of a writer which is always a monster, and the monster will want to win.

I tried very hard to imagine not winning, but it's easier to imagine winning. We imagine things for a living, us writers.

2007 Booker prize nominees
Other nominees included Ian McEwan and Lloyd Jones
The Gathering has an enormous cast of characters. How did you keep track of them all when you were writing?

By the end I had no difficulty. But in the interim I had huge wallcharts and files on the computer with details of all their ages.

I realised late in the book that I wasn't writing in 2005, but in 2001. So I had to look at my chart of all their ages and pull it down five years. But I realised it all worked. My subconscious, my intuition worked better than my charts!

It sounds like quite a cluttered writing environment - is that the case?

I have a small room to write in. One wall is completely covered in books. And I face the window with the curtain closed to stop the light hitting the computer. I did put a lot of the stuff on the wall one year - but it was a very bad year, so I tend not to do the mad woman's wall now!

The Booker judges called The Gathering bleak, depressing and uncomfortable. How do you feel about that?

Bleak, bleak, bleak! It is a fair assessment but it's also funny. And redeeming somehow. I hope the readers find that the resolution of the book satisfying.

There was great privacy in a big family. No one got into your stuff except to steal it or slag you off

The themes of family and sexual abuse are quite common in Irish literature. Do you see yourself as an Irish novelist?

Those themes are actually big things in Irish memoir - they're not so big in Irish fiction.

But I do see myself as very strongly as an Irish writer engaging with the Irish tradition. I'm very keenly aware that there aren't very many women writing literary fiction in Ireland and so that gives me a sense that what I say matters, in some small way.

Why do you think there are so few female Irish authors?

I have various theories. There is an amazingly buoyant and successful market for mass-market paperbacks among women writers in Ireland. That is a very generous genre - it's very keen to please people and keep them happy.

I wonder whether Irish women are also very keen to please people and keep them happy. And maybe if they weren't, there'd be more unsettling novels.

A copy of The Gathering
The book is Enright's fourth novel
Do you think that's true outside literature, too?

Yes. You see it in Indian culture as well, so I wonder if it's some sort of post-colonial thing. You're not the dominant culture so you adopt other values which are not to do with arrogance and dominance.

The Gathering has had relatively modest sales, but I looked at Amazon this morning, and its already number four on the best-sellers list. Is it gratifying that your profile has been raised?

I was happy enough to be on the shortlist, and that was enough profile for me. I don't know if maybe this is too much, so we'll see!

You left a career in television to pursue writing - have you any advice for other budding novelists who want to make that leap?

I always say that you have to build a springboard. I had written a book of short stories before I left, so I had a toe-hold. I had somewhere to stand. I also had a down payment on a flat, so those were the two necessary things.

So, yes, build a springboard. Don't jump clean off the cliff.

Anne Enright was talking to Mark Savage.

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