Friday, November 6, 2009

How Hilary Mantel wrote Wolf Hall

From the Wall Street Journal:

British novelist Hilary Mantel likes to write first thing in the morning, before she has uttered a word or had a sip of coffee. She usually jots down ideas and notes about her dreams. "I get very jangled if I can't do it," she says.

She's an obsessive note taker and always carries a notebook. Odd phrases, bits of dialogue and descriptions that come to her get tacked to a 7-foot-tall bulletin board in her kitchen; they remain there until Ms. Mantel finds a place for them in her narrative.

Ms. Mantel spent five years researching and writing the book, "Wolf Hall," her Booker Prize-winning Tudor drama set in the court of Henry VIII, out in the U.S. this month. The trickiest part was trying to match her version to the historical record. To avoid contradicting history, she created a card catalogue, organized alphabetically by character. Each card contained notes showing where a particular historical figure—such as protagonist Thomas Cromwell, Henry's adviser—was on relevant dates.

"You really need to know, where is the Duke of Suffolk at the moment? You can't have him in London if he's supposed to be somewhere else," she says.

One day, she was in a panic over how she would fit everything she needed to into the novel. She took a shower—her usual head-clearing ritual. "I burst out of the shower crying 'It's two books!'" says Ms. Mantel, who is writing a sequel that will end with Cromwell's beheading in 1540.

No comments:

Post a Comment