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The stories in This Is the Ritual, on the other hand, were mostly written in glee, as a break from the sorrows of the novel.

When you write about raw, autobiographical subjects, it’s often a fine line you have to walk. He has always had a perfect grasp of what it is I’m trying to do as a writer, ever since he first read Here Are the Young Men and insisted that Lilliput publish it. Tending, like many writers, towards pessimism and self-questioning, I find it encouraging and refreshing to be around that kind of energy. I have always felt that Alexa looks beyond the more extreme, upsetting elements in my writing that might give others pause, and perceives the deeper concerns that justify that extremism. Rob Doyle’s first novel, Here Are the Young Men, was chosen as a book of the year in the Irish Times, Independent, Sunday Times and Sunday Business Post, and was one of Hot Press’s 20 Greatest Irish Novels since 1916.

He gets my sense of humour, and does not become alarmed as my work becomes less conventional in style and form. His second book, This Is the Ritual, was published in 2016 by Bloomsbury and the Lilliput Press.

It’s a comical story that to me felt like a three-minute pop song, whereas I was all about High Seriousness. But Dan and the others at Lilliput, and then Alexa at Bloomsbury, all insisted that not only should it be in the collection, it should also be the opener.

There has scarcely been a review that hasn’t commented favourably on that story. You’ve written a novel and a collection of stories. The writing of Here Are the Young Men might be compared to a prolonged and shattering nervous breakdown.

Envying other writers’ success is a theme explored in This Is the Ritual.

What contemporary writer are you most envious of and why?

I felt like it achieved something I’d been trying to do for quite a while: combining narrative, literary criticism, comedy, autobiography and philosophy in a piece of writing that doesn’t sit easily in any one genre.

It was also written in the heat of a personal crisis all but identical to the one the narrator is describing, so there was the consolation of transmuting, in real time, a painful experience into a piece of writing I consider honest, funny and insightful, constructing, in Nietzsche’s words, “a monument to a crisis”.

What was the most helpful feedback you received from each? In This Is the Ritual your characters often have literary-influenced dreams. Many of the characters in the book are writers, often failed or obscure.

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