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  • Martine McDonagh

    Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:38

    Mark Thwaite: What gave you the idea for I Have Waited, and You Have Come?

    Martine McDonagh: An artist friend of mine in the States was rummaging through a skip one day and pulled out a journal that someone had dumped.

    MT: How long did it take you to write it?

    MM: On and off about 4 years. There were some very long breaks between drafts and I spent about 6 months researching climate change.

    MT: How do you write? Longhand or directly onto a computer, straight off or with lots and lots of editing?

    MM: First draft is longhand to curb the temptation to look back over what I’ve done, it’s too easy to find things and edit on a computer. Also it allows me to sit on the beach or in a cafe to write if the mood takes me, or to move easily when I get the fidgets. The first draft will be fairly unreadable as a result but by the time I get to the end of it I think I’ll know where to start. If that makes any sense. I did too many drafts of I have waited, it drove my agent mad.

    MT: What do you do when you are not writing?

    MM: I manage a band called Fujiya & Miyagi and grow vegetables on my allotment. And I’ve recently finished working as an editor on Dan Smith’s The State of the Middle East. I seem to be not writing quite a lot of the time.

    MT: Did you have an idea in your mind of your "ideal" reader? Did you write specifically for them?

    MM: I didn’t have anyone particular in mind. I just wanted to write the kind of novel I like to read myself (not that I can bear to read it now) and I suppose anyone else who doesn’t like having every little detail of a story spelled out to them. I like to have to work a bit when I’m reading.

    MT: What are you working on now?

    MM: I’m about a third of the way into the first draft of another novel, which is about a narcissist with a guru complex. It has a few more jokes in than I have waited, but it’s still quite dark. It’s going to have sub-plots and everything.

    MT: Who is your favourite writer? What is/are your favourite book(s)?

    MM: I’ve numerous favourite writers, which I suppose means I don’t have one: Ian McEwan, Samuel Beckett, Margaret Atwood, John Pilger, Gary Younge, Richard Yates, Richard Brautigan are among them. When researching for I have waited, the SAS book of Survival was a favourite for many months but in general my favourites are: William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Guiseppi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The best new books I’ve read in the last year are Khaled Husseini’s The Kite Runner and James Meek’s The People’s Act of Love. The book I keep coming back to is Geoff Hamilton’s Organic Gardening Book.

    MT: Do you have any tips for the aspiring writer!?

    MM: In David Grossman’s See: Under Love one character tells another to ‘write the madness’, which really struck a chord for me. I don’t think it means to write only about mad things or people but to look for the unusual or the extreme in a situation no matter how mundane. The best advice I’ve ever come across was in Robert McKee’s screenwriting manual Story – he says about writing a first draft ‘Don’t get it right, get it written’. Genius.

    MT: Anything else you would like to say?

    MM: A big thank you for the interview!

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