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Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:38
The Book Depository: What gave you the idea for Death of a Superhero Anthony?
Anthony McCarten: I was talking with a friend, also a writer, and he mentioned a news item that we had both seen, where an Australian psychologist had taken a 14 year old with terminal cancer to a hooker just so the boy wouldn’t die a virgin, and we both agreed it would make a great story. The real life event was an enormous scandal, mainly because the shrink, a close friend of the boy’s family, had not consulted the parents at all. I became curious about the relationship that must have evolved between the boy and the shrink to make the guy perform hara-kiri with his career: he was subsequently struck off the register. As with every novel I have written, I liken this embarkation point to standing outside a strange house at night and seeing the people inside dancing to some music I cannot hear. Working out exactly what that music might be is, for me, the business of writing.
BD: How long did it take you to write it? Is that typical for you!?
AM: This was not a typical book to write for me. Either I took in too much coffee or it was something in the air in Corfu where I wrote the bulk of this short book, but it all came to me in a mad exhilarating dash. At one point I was writing 20 pages a day and in four weeks I had finished the first draft. But then, of course, the real business of writing began: the art of rewriting. Anyone can write but only the professional has the ruthless tenacity to polish and polish and polish. For me, the struggle is to stop polishing and I tend to tail my publishers car to the printers shouting out last minute changes.
BD: How do you write? Longhand or directly onto a computer, straight off or with lots and lots of editing?
AM: Starting out as a journalist at 17, I learned to type with two fingers on bulky old Imperial typewriters and so a computer is best for me, a liberation, though I can imagine the old demand of physically rewriting every sentence for the ‘final copy’ would make you really re-listen to the music of your sentences.
BD: Have you been happy with the response to your book?
AM: Death of a Superhero is only just out in the UK so it is too early to say what the critical reaction will be but in New Zealand where the novel came out last year the reviews were very, very kind.
BD: You do you read the critics/reviews then Anthony?
AM: I am unable to resist this unique self-torture. Perhaps it is because I was raised Catholic, or perhaps my curiosity makes me want to know whether I have created a strong reaction in readers, and the reviewer is often your first reader so for a while its all you’ve got to go on. But in the end, I feel about the reviewer as a tree must feel about a dog!
BD: Do you have much contact with your readers?
AM: Book groups, library readings and literature festivals are the show biz of being a novelist and I do enjoy these ventures into the sunlight.
BD: Do you have an idea of your "typical" reader? Do you write specifically for them?
AM: I write specifically for everyone and no one. So far all my books have reached their target audiences.
BD: What are you working on now?
AM: As always, I am currently writing the best novel I will ever write. I shall be writing with this elevated belief till the day I die. Today this passion is embodied in a tale about an endurance contest, which really happened, but which also looks at multiple storylines of people who are enduring all manner of human troubles.
BD: Who is your favourite writer? What is/are your favourite book(s)?
AM: The list is obvious to me, but we are all so different. For me, Garcia Marquez is the living master who has lately succeeded Saul Bellow and the playwright Arthur Miller, RIP.
BD: Do you have any tips for the aspiring writer!?
AM: Read the best writers with joy and allow yourself to imagine you are great. Then, even if the music you describe, the music which the people in the window are dancing to, is strange to the world, persevere, because it will be your own bold and unique music.
BD: Anything else you would like to say Anthony?
AM: Unprompted I never have anything to say. Thank you. Good luck. And be careful when you cross the street.
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