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Emma Donoghue

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in October 1969, I am the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue (the literary critic). I attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one eye-opening year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 I earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin (unfortunately, without learning to actually speak French). I moved to England, and in 1997 received my PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. From the age of 23, I have earned my living as a writer, and have been lucky enough to never have an ‘honest job’ since I was sacked after a single summer month as a chambermaid. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 I settled in London, Ontario, where I live with Chris Roulston and our son Finn and daughter Una.


I write drama for screen, stage and radio.

Room, which I adapted from my novel for the big screen, was my first feature film, and I was shortlisted for an Academy Award, Golden Globe and Bafta for Best Adapted Screenplay. I have a variety of other projects (adaptations of  my own and others' works of fiction and memoir, as well as original screenplays) in development for film and television.

Emma Donoghue: Selected Plays, containing my first five works for theatre, is available from Oberon Books. In 2017 I adapted my novel Room (2010) into a play with songs (by Cora Bissett and Kathryn Joseph), which premiered at Theatre Royal Stratford East in London before moving to National Theatre of Scotland in Dundee and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Its North American premiere in Canada in March 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis. My first play, I Know My Own Heart (1993), was inspired by the decoded diaries of a Regency Yorkshirewoman, Anne Lister, and was premiered by Dublin's Glasshouse Productions in 1993. Glasshouse and the Irish Arts Council commissioned me to write Ladies and Gentlemen, a play with songs about vaudeville stars (including two women who got married in 1886), which premiered in 1996. My adaptation of my fairy-tale book, Kissing the Witch, premiered at San Francisco's Magic Theatre in June 2000. My one-act comedy Don’t Die Wondering (based on my radio play of the same name) received its world premiere at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival in 2005. The Talk of the Town, about the Irish writer Maeve Brennan in New York in the 1950s, premiered at the 2012 Dublin Theatre Festival, directed by Annabelle Comyn in collaboration with HATCH Theatre Company, Landmark Productions and the Dublin Theatre Festival.

My radio plays are (for RTE) Trespasses (1996, about a seventeenth-century Irish witch trial), and (for BBC Radio 4) Don’t Die Wondering (2000, a romantic comedy set in a small Irish town), Exes (2001, a series of five short plays about getting on with your ex), and Humans and Other Animals (2003, a series of five short plays about pets). Mix (BBC Radio 3, 2003) is an hour-long drama about an intersexed teenager.