David Mitchell on writing

Black Swan Green

Unlike a lot of novelists, David Mitchell doesn’t do a lot (if any, actually?) journalism, so the lulls in between his novels can be hard for rabid entirely reasonable fans of his like myself. Having just finished his latest book, Black Swan Green, I’ve been ploughing the interwebs to see what’s out there, and it turns out Mitchell does give interviews to a very wide range of magazines and websites, and he seems generous with his time and thoughts; I thought I’d put together a list of some of the interviews of his that I’ve enjoyed recently:

First up, a piece by Mitchell himself that seems to have been written around the time Ghostwritten was published, when he still lived in Japan; it focuses on the country’s influence on his writing:

“When I was a kid, my main talent was sulking — spectacular, multi-day sulks. I don’t think I sulked to manipulate: the point was to isolate myself. I sometimes believe that my real motive behind living abroad is to enjoy the same fruit. This lack of belonging encourages me to write: I lack a sense of citizenship in the real world, and in some ways, commitment to it. To compensate, I stake out a life in the country called writing… a mental state (mental is the
word!), where characters and plots in the head achieve the solidity of people and lives outside the head… For me, my ability to compound inner-skull reality is a direct result of my life away from where I ‘belong.'”

BBC Nottingham’s interview with him dates from the Cloud Atlas publicity tour; it’s short and to the point, but worth it for the list of five books he recommends to reading groups, and his five tips for writers at the end.

The Morning News has a great, meandering, post-Black Swan Green discussion which focusses on the craft of writing:

“I think all novels are actually compounded short stories. It’s just the borders get so porous and so squished up that you no longer see them, but I think they are there. And I do structure my novels in that way.”

Finally, worth a listen is a recent podcast/interview with Mitchell by novellist Ian Hocking. It’s an engaging half hour which covers Mitchell’s current project, along with a lot of stuff about Black Swan Green.

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