Donal Ryan: ‘Writing is like being gloriously drunk, and it’s always followed by a hangover of guilt’

The award-winning author made headlines when he went back to his day job in the civil service. He talks about seeing ghosts and almost giving up writing

Donal Ryan made his name with his debut novel The Spinning Heart, a portrait of recession-hit rural Ireland in 21 voices, which won the Guardian first book award in 2013 and was longlisted for the Man Booker prize. Two other novels and a short story collection quickly followed, set around the same fictional village, a composite of various places in Limerick and Tipperary. Ranging from the boom years of the Celtic Tiger to the experience of Irish Travellers, they dug deep into the psyche of Irish communities, with marginal voices summoning the intensity of small-town loves and hates to uncover a complicated history and uncertain present.

His fifth book, From a Low and Quiet Sea, begins with a very different story: ...