Is there ROOM Outside? Emma Donoghue at Roehampton

by Idman Omar
8 Jan 2018

Emma Donoghue visited the University on 22nd November 2017 and read extracts from her bestselling novel, and held a question and answer session for #RoeReads. Emma discussed her inspiration behind the novel, her choices surrounding the narrative of Room and the complex characters in this gripping tale of escape and healing.

Donoghue read from the latter half of her novel, and revealed that the more traumatic moments were now over for the main characters and the escape no longer the focal point - a choice Donoghue did not take lightly. She wanted the effects of the escape to be understood and for readers to know Ma and Jack would be saved in more ways than one.

cover of room book

Donoghue reinforced the importance of research when writing and exploring different ideas for books. Donoghue made clear to students that she researched several disturbing stories in the run up to writing Room, ones that she would never be able to unsee, all in aid of portraying authenticity. These included exploring stories on feral children, the Joseph Fritzl case and interestingly she considered the effects of abduction on families whose children go missing.

When probed on why she decided on a mother/son relationship for her main characters instead of father/daughter, Donoghue declared. ''Ah! Students ask the best questions! I love going to universities. No journalist has ever asked me that.'' Donoghue revealed that she wrestled with this decision, choosing Ma and Jack as her lead characters in link to her primary source of inspiration - her own son. She decided to take notes for about six months and study her five-year-old sons’ speech, jotting down almost everything he said and did. Jokingly, she noted that now her fourteen-year-old sees himself as quite something, with direct quotes she used in the book coming straight from his infant lips.

Donoghue’s inspiration for Room came from the joys and complexities of being a mother and also to the thoughts and ideas that come to her while driving. ‘‘I’ve always been an anxious driver, but one day the idea just came to me. I could see it all in my head.’’ Donoghue reminded English and creative writing students to always take notes, to consistently write wherever they may be. She recommended taking notes in your phone, or in a small notebook because ‘‘at least you’ve written something.’’

Furthermore, she recommended that if any writer is ever offered a movie deal, that they ought to write the screenplay themselves. Donoghue invested in this story so much so, that she wrote the screen play before the book was finally published, simply to put herself in a stronger position if the book were to ever be a success. She felt she owed her readers a great film too, and so picked film director Lenny Abrahamson to work closely with after he wowed her with a ten-page letter on his understanding of the book.

There was definite fulfilment in the air when the one hour event was announced over, but Donoghue ended the Q&A session with a generous book signing, and answered further questions for students. If you missed the event, and you haven’t read Room, I’d highly recommend it. Read it with an open mind, and if possible in one sitting. When you’re done, I’m sure the world will seem altered slightly and maybe bigger too.

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Is there ROOM Outside? Emma Donoghue at Roehampton
Idman Omar, 8 Jan 2018

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