Mike Interviews: Tom McCarthy Part 3 of 3

Mike Interviews

Part 1 of the interview can be found here.

Part 2 of the interview can be found here.

Win a signed hardback copy of Men in Space here.

The book cover for Men in Space and the new cover for Remainder are kept simple with clean uncluttered designs. Did you have any say in them and do you think it is important to have a cover that reflects the book, or gets the book off the shelf?

I really don't have an opinion on this one. I once saw a crazy cover for an early paperback edition of Heart of Darkness, and it had Kurtz (who appears in the book for about two pages) looking all macho and heroic like Burt Lancaster or someone, and his African mistress (who appears for about one sentence) standing all brooding and sexy right beside him.

Are you content to stay within the "art world" or do you want your work to reach more of a mainstream audience?

Remainder's a bestseller in the US, and I don't think there are enough artists there to make that happen on their own, so other people must be reading it too! The Alma edition's been in the 3-for-2 piles of all the big bookshops here as well, so that's pretty mainstream. It broke out of the art circuit even with the Metronome Press edition in that all the mainstream papers were writing about it. And the movie version that Film4 are making certainly isn't shaping up to be an arthouse film. I don't have preconditions about who I want to read my books: the more the merrier.

I didn't know about the film. Can you tell us a bit about it and what involvement you have?

It's being produced by a partnership of Film4 and Cowboy Films, who won an Oscar with their last collaboration on The Last King of Scotland. The script's been written by John Hodge, who wrote the script for Trainspotting. I've read it; it's good. Officially I don't have any involvement, but they're keeping me in the loop. Plus, when they film the re-enactments, with loads of back-up people and back-up back-up people standing around in the background with clipboards, I want to be one of the most insignificant of those people, someone whose head you see from behind for half a second.

What art presses and small publishers would you recommend to an author trying to get literary work into the public arena?

I finished Remainder in a kind of gap, when the older great independent publishers like John Calder and Marion Boyars were in decline, Granta weren't doing fiction and smaller presses were getting swallowed up by conglomerates or going bust. Now it's much better: Alma have bought Calder and revived his remarkable list, Granta are firing on all cylinders, and new art-literature crossover ventures like Sternberg Press in America or Bookworks here are taking off. There are also smaller presses like Twisted Spoon in Prague and Social Disease here. Things are getting better; it was dreadful for a while.

What advice would you give fellow writers?

Read voraciously, and don't go anywhere near a 'creative writing' class.

Thanks Tom, it's been great talking with you. I'm looking forward to reading your future stuff and seeing the film when it comes out.

Don't hold your breath. These things take ages.



Paul Burman said...

Thanks, Mike. I was interested to hear Tom McCarthy's views about publishing and the way it's changed in recent years. It always seems to be in a state of flux---moreso than other businesses---although that might simply be my perception because the changes affect those things I'm interested in. A very interesting interview in every respect.

Mike French said...


Glad you liked it Paul! It was a thrill doing it and I was really pleased that Jonny Pegg came on board and ALMA BOOKS to make the package work as a whole.

You're first novel is out this month. Have you got a date? And how are you feeling?!

Paul Burman said...

The publication date has been pushed back for the time-being, Mike. You're right, it was supposed to be this month, but I reckon it might be a couple of months away again now. Publishing seems to be that sort of business. There's always a lot happening that can get in the way of a publication date. Never mind, it'll happen before too long, and then ... oh, the relief!

Mike French said...


Right I'm off to Paperbooks to have a word with Keirsten!

Now where is my A to Z of Essex?

Stella said...

Interesting interview, Mike!

I commend Mr. McCarthy for being so stoic about having someone else adapt his book. If (by any chance...) I'm in the same position some day, I hope I'll be able to be as calm about it.

TAG - you're it! You are kindly requested to write a six word memoir. Details on my blog, blah blah.

Mike French said...

Stella: Glad you liked the interview. More to come in the future.

And I'll have to head off to your blog now!