Sunday, 10 March 2013

In which There is A Booker Prize Winner

After Friday night's soiree with J.K. Rowling, last night's treat was an event with Hilary Mantel, author of 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring up the Bodies' and twice winner of the booker Prize.

I have to confess that I have only read a couple of her books, but they (particularly the historical ones) are high on my reading list, and I was also interested to hear her speak, based on her reputation.

It was an interesting interview, once an initial problem with her microphone was fixed. She confirmed that while journalists love to write stories about 'overnight success', she has of course been having books published since 1974, and has been writing all her life. She described herself as having loved stories from before she could read, and having had a book about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table which she demanded any adult she came across read her, so she learned many of the stories before learning to read, so started school with a baroque vocabulary of 'base seneshals' and 'varlets'.

She then discovered Shakespeare through an extract from Julius Caesar and became a "distressing child, wandering around the house muttering 'if you have tears, prepare to shed them now'" She described Shakespeare as being, for her, more of a "principal of life, or a Demi-god", than anything else, and commented that when writing the books she has to remember that she is writing pre-Shakespeare, and try not to be too influenced by his vocabulary.

Hilay Mantel, Bath, 09.03.13

She described her early education from Catholic nuns as being a study in superstition rather than religion, and described herself as being a 16th C peasant, rather than a theologian.

Although the main focus of the evening was on the Tudor books, Mantel also talked about her other work. She revealed that she started writing Historical fiction as she saw it as needing less imagination, as the characters make the story, and described herself as being "little miss card-index, with a filing cabinet for a heart". In researching Beyond Black,her novel featuring a psychic, she saw a palm-reader whose initial comment was "Oh dear, you don't have much imagination, do you?" I think it is fair to say that the audience did not agree!

She also made the point that if you talk to dead people you get sectioned, but if you get paid for it, whether as a novelist or as a psychic or medium, you're fine!

In answering questions at the end of the interview, Mantel made it clear that she has never seen her novels as satire on, or comments about, current politics. As she said - they are political, but they are about the people they are about, not an allegory of anyone else.

After the interview, Mantel signed books, so I was able to get my copy of Wolf Hall signed, and was able to ask her how it felt to have the books 
adapted for the stage for the RSC - she told me she was very excited, particularly that it was the RSC at Stratford.

All in all, a highly enjoyable evening. 

No comments: