Colm Tóibin – whose next novel Nora Webster is due in October - insists that he is a writer, rather than a story-teller.
"Part of the idea of being a storyteller suggests that somehow or other the source of your inspiration is oral and natural," the Wexford-born writer recently told Johns Hopkins University on-line magazine, Hub.
"That's a particular problem with English people: they seem to think that everyone in Ireland is a writer, and very few of us are writers. And that somehow or other writing comes naturally to us, which it doesn't.
"So people love saying to you, 'Oh, you Irish—you're such marvellous storytellers, all of you!' And the answer is, I work quite hard on structuring what I do, or on putting shape on things.
He also took issue with so-called Post-colonial studies. The novelist is currently teaching at Columbia University and he said that he passed people every day who work in Post-colonial studies.
“To actually have a section called Post-colonial is to, I think, reduce the power of the literature that might come from such a country, or in fact suggest that it doesn't have a centrality."
Post-colonial specialists, he said, have a difficulty with Ireland. “Because Ireland, being where we are, we're obviously post-colonial: we were colonized and then we got independent.
"But it's very hard to read Joyce and Yeats as Post-colonialists without also trying to read them as centralists—central figures in the Modernist camp. So I suppose I was lucky that I came to reading before any of these categories started.”