Tuesday, November 20, 2007

David Mitchell is one of the really big names coming to the NZ International Festival next year

HERE THE AUTHOR OF CLOUD ATLAS AND NUMBER9DREAM explains how his writing began as a dark secret and continues as he tries to make worlds and people them

Interview by Sarah Kinson in The Guardian Monday November 19, 2007 .Author pic from same article.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I have to split it three ways: The Sword in the Stone by TH White, The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula le Guin, and The Dark is Rising books by Susan Cooper.

When you were growing up did you have books in your home?

Yes. Now I have a home somewhere in my books.
Was there someone who interested you in reading and writing? My parents encouraged me to read: all responsible adults should, and did, and do, encourage children to read. Writing was more of a dark secret nobody knew about. An antiquarian bookseller in Malvern used to greet me with the words, "So, are you published yet?" The gradual realisation that he wasn't joking was as encouraging as the discounts he gave me on his paperbacks.

What made you want to write when you were starting out?

The satisfaction of crafting a sound sentence, and dovetailing them; an urge
to make worlds and people them.

Do you find writing easy?

No. Yes. I don't know. I do know I love it.

What makes you write now?

The above carrots, with the added sticks of deadlines and spent advances. Plus
the desire to be a better writer.

What preparation do you do before writing?

Work out what tea is right for the day and make a pot; put the heater on in my
hut, if it's winter; maybe read a page or two of something imperishably
brilliant to remind me what I'm supposed to be aiming at.

Do you have a daily routine?

We have two young children. I seize any gaps that come along, write in them,
sometimes expand them, and pay later.

How do you survive being alone in your work so much of the time?

What's the choice?

What good advice was given to you when you were starting out?
Keep the writers you admire at the edge of your vision: don't let them hog the

What advice would you give to new writers?

On a Post-It note by my laptop is something Tom Stoppard said on the radio a
few years ago: "It's all about people, Stupid!" (I don't think he
added the "Stupid": that's there for my own benefit.) A maximum of
one killer metaphor or simile per page should be ample, and watch out for the
word "seem": it debases one's own currency, somehow. Think about how
the writers who you love manage to make you love them. Prose that contains too
many sentences beginning with the word "I" soon gets as tedious as
people who begin too many sentences with the word "I".

Is there a secret to writing?

What secrets there may be are either open secrets, or secrets that would be
true only for the individual. Everything you need to know you'll learn, and
can only learn, from writing, provided you don't delude yourself.

What are you working on now?

A long Japanese-Dutch historical novel set in the Napoleonic Era.
In case you haven't read Cloud Atalas here is a selection of reviews of that brilliant book.

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