Interview with Mark Haddon

The View From Here Interview:
Mark Haddon

Interview by: Mike

'Zorner ment. Cruss mo plug.'
'Bo. Bo. Tractor bonting dross.'
'Are you hearing what I'm hearing?' asked Charlie.

In 1992 Walker Books published a very funny adventure story called Gridzbi Spudvetch, and ever since the book went out of print fans have been asking Mark about it. A primary school in Oxford finally managed to convince him that he should bring it back to bookshelves. Mark has now completely rewritten the story, given it an instantly pronounceable title, and illustrated it with his own black and white drawings.

David Flicking comments, "Keep your expectations under control, but Boom! just might blow your head off with laughter."

I thoroughly enjoyed the book as did my young kids. In this short interview to camera Mark talks to us about Boom! and about plans for a film of The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time.

And for those who prefer the written word to videos (or you're reading this at work!), here is the interview in type:

I read sections of the book to my young kids ( aged 7 and 6 ) and they loved repeating the alien language - how did you make that up?

Well the first thing to say is that I made it up twice. There’s one alien language in Gridzbi Spudvetch and there is a completely different one in Boom! The alien language is spoken by these giant hairy monkey spiders, whose words all seemed to come from Abba songs and other disco hits of the eighties. And how did I come up with it? I think if you are a writer you spend a long time lying on the sofa and wandering around with a million ideas fluttering around your head, so coming up with ideas is not the difficult bit. The difficult bit is working out which five, ten, twenty of those million ideas is actually going to work.

You obviously had great fun writing boom! What are your favorite bits in the book?

I think that alien language was my favorite bit and I’m embarrassed to say that I quite often laughed out loud when I was writing it myself, which is a slightly shameful thing to say.

You are also a literary writer with such books as A Spot of Bother and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, how does the approach differ to writing those as compared to children's books?

Well they’re longer, there’s more swearing and I guess more of the characters die.

Can you tell us something about your next adult book?

In fact my next adult book is a play which I’ve just finished writing. I’d written two radio plays and I’ve written quite a lot of TV, both for children and for adults, and I thought writing a play for the stage would be really easy. In fact it’s incredibly, incredibly hard, it’s a completely different thing from film and from radio. But, hard as it is, one of things I enjoy most about writing is doing stuff that is difficult. There’s nothing worse than doing the same again but slightly different.

Do you know anything about how the plans are going to turn The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time into a film?

Curious Incident is going to be turned into a film, the writer and the director is Steve Clovis and that explains why it has been delayed for quite a long time because he has written all but one of the Harry Potter screen plays. He stopped for number five I think, to work on a number of other things including Curious Incident, but he was tempted back, so we have to wait until Harry Potter is over and done with.

Do you still teach creative writing for the Arvon Foundation and Oxford University? And what are your thoughts on teaching creative writing - how useful is such a course to a an aspiring writer?

I teach creative writing usually about once a year for the Arvon Foundation, which is a wonderful organisation that has four residential centers throughout the UK where people come and spend five days with two writers and a visiting reader. I think it’s hugely useful. I see light bulbs going on over people heads during those five days and discovering things they never knew. I think the one thing you can’t teach, which is absolutely vital for a writer, is the ability to sit in a room for days, months, years on end and work without any company and I think that is something you can’t teach.

Finally, can you tell us your favorite alien?

I think my favorite alien, this week maybe, is in the Star Trek film which came out earlier a month or so ago which I went to with my eight-year-old son. On an ice planet there’s a fantastic huge red, high speed octopus
alien with many tentacles, hideous fangs and an enormous amount of spittle.

Mark is best known as the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which won 17 literary prizes including the Whitbread Book of the Year and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize; it has sold over 5 million copies to date. Boom! is released in shops today.

To read an extract or listen to Mark reading an extract click here.
To visit Mark's web-site click here.
To visit the Arvon Foundation click here.

Author photo:
Nigel Barklie

1 comment:

Jen P said...

Great interview Mike, and so GREAT on camera - I hope we'll see more of these! It feels like a real 'meet the author' session. What an easy to talk to chap. Interesting to see him taking on new formats. I've read a Spot of Bother, and found it hilarious and easy reading. Must tackle Curious Incident in the coming year - PRE film! ..."if you are a writer you spend a long time lying on the sofa and wandering around with a million ideas fluttering around your head, so coming up with ideas is not the difficult bit. The difficult bit is working out which five, ten, twenty of those million ideas is actually going to work." Yes, indeed.