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  • agarcia 4:00 pm on 2020/03/10 Permalink
    Tags: , bring up the bodies, , the b&n podcast, the mirror & the light,   

    The B&N Podcast: Hilary Mantel on The Mirror & The Light 

    Our guest today is Hilary Mantel, the two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize.

    Hilary joins us to talk about her latest novel, The Mirror & The Light, a triumphant close to the trilogy she began with her peerless, Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

    The post The B&N Podcast: Hilary Mantel on <i>The Mirror & The Light</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Lauren Passell 8:31 pm on 2015/06/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , bring up the bodies, ,   

    “Strange Things Happen at Wolf Hall:” 14 Things We Learned At Hilary Mantel’s #BNAuthorEvent 

    HMpose

    Photography by Andrew Katzowitz

    Hilary Mantel is the author of the wildly popular Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, two books that focus on Thomas Cromwell and the Tudors, and have been turned into a hit TV show and plays in both London and the US. With Mike Poulton, she wrote Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies: The Stage Adaptation, on sale now, and she spoke before an audience in New York City about watching her characters come alive on stage and screen.

    She’s aware how dark and difficult her books are. “Being so close to this material, I probably forget how disturbing it is. How far off from the kind of redemptive narrative that tends to carry away awards. We make our audience feel but it isn’t feel-good. It’s dark. It’s difficult. The kind of narrative that is easy to like and easy to judge and easy to reward is the kind of narrative where they are lying in the gutter but are looking at the stars. And it’s about self-realization it’s about triumph agains the odds. It’s against smiling through your tears. But in our plays and in my books if you’re lying in the gutter you’re lying in the dirt. You’re not smiling through your tears, youre spitting out your teeth. It’s harsh it’s violent. But it’s Tudor life, we get on with it.”

    She didn’t plan to write three books about Cromwell. “When I first wrote Wolf Hall, I thought I could tell the whole of Thomas Cromwell’s story in in one book. That was my plan. It was only when I got part way through that I came to realize the complexity of the material.”

    Mike Poulton was a great teammate. “We worked together and we worked productively, usually in different parts of the country, sitting up all night, emailing each other draft after draft, scene after scene. I think we entered some sort of match or contest, who could be at the word processor the latest, and who could get up the earliest. I think Mike won because I don’t think he ever slept. And the plays had these amazing disposition to grow longer and longer. In those scant hours when I was asleep and Mike was doing whatever Mike was doing, I think the characters rose from the dead sat down at the keyboard and tapped out more parts. It’s the only explanation I can come up with for why we went to Stratford-on-Avon (where the play is being produced) with plays that were at least a half an hour too long.”

    Finding the perfect characters for the play was all about their energies, not their looks. “When they cast they weren’t after look-a-likes. We wanted someone who could embody the energy of the characters. Because that’s how they are in my mind. Each one was a distinctive energy. And it was much more important to capture that than to match them up feature for features.”

    Writing the play helped her write the third book. “The process of the rehearsal would give me insight as to what I should do, how I might develop characters, even going onto the third book. You might say by the end of the second book, the second play, “isn’t everyone mostly dead?’ This doesn’t stop character development. How can they develop or evolve? Because they go on in Thomas Cromwell’s mind and in memory, that’s where history changes. The dead change long after they’re buried.”

    The third book is taking its time to be written. “People ask me when the third book will be done and I say, “when it wants to be.” This is a big project in my life. I don’t want to compromise it. I owe it to too many lovely readers, a respective audience, to get it right. And if that means taking another season so be it.”

    HMaudience

    Photography by Andrew Katzowitz

     

    Stage production changed greatly when Mantel and Poulton brought the play to the US. “It wasn’t a question of translating it for an American audience as people sometimes think. I have always found that my American readers are as well informed as my English readers. And I anticipated, and thankfully I was right, that Broadway audiences would be very quick. When we were asked was to shorten the scripts, that meant big restructuring, big rewriting and it gave me the chance to put into play some new ideas to consider from the actors and what they brought to it and allowed me to profit from the experience and their commitment to the characters. The actors give me so many ideas often unconsciously. They’re quite capable of turning around to me and saying, “I would never do that,” I like that. Because it means they’re thinking inside that person.”

    HMclap

    Photography by Andrew Katzowitz

    She is enjoying the ride. “This is a central part of my life but it is also the most interesting creatively. I never imagined for myself the creative gains of the last two years, the way it may change what I do in the future, the ideas that have poured in, simply the amount I have learned, I would say more about writing in the last two years than in the previous ten. And I never imagined the success—the phenomenon—that the books have become. So many people have poured their talent and their commitment into them. I never imagined it but then as one of the characters said, “Strange things happen at Wolf Hall.”

    Her high school history teacher inspired her to fall in love with historical fiction. (But not as you’d think.) “It’s a very great challenge to write historical fiction. You can always tell who’s done their research and who hasn’t. What goes on the page has got to be the tip of the ice berg and supported from below by all the other things you learned. I think I learned this from my history teacher in high school. When we think of inspirational teachers we think of wonderful stories and making the past dramatic. She didn’t do that. She just stood eloquently and we took notes as best we could. But why she was intriguing and led me on into the study of history was that you knew that there was much more to it than she was telling you. It’s a great lure that you know that there is a greater complexity waiting. And having learned that from her that has always been the way I’ve tried to work—from the great mass of facts you have you must select the right one, the telling detail, the one that makes a page sing. Don’t tell the reader all you know just to make the reader want to know more.”

    Writing for theater has made her a better writer in general. “I’ve enjoyed facing new challenges in storytelling, which is always good for a writer part when yo’ve come to a certain part in your career when frankly you could just get by doing just what you did. But you don’t want to get into that groove. I’ve had the invaluable experience of being a beginner, walking into the rehearsal room thinking, “I have no idea what’s going on.” It’s so valuable to be plunged back into that creative chaos. There are things I’ve learned about the characters and storylines that I would not have invented if I hadn’t been working with the actors.”

    For Mantel, history comes alive in her research. “In the early days of the play, the week before we went into preview, I was going back to my hotel room reading Thomas Wyatt’s poem written after the death of Anne Boleyn about the lovers, the men who died with her. A verse for each one. It’s an awe-inspiriting and shaking poem. Wyatt has watched these men go to their death. We know where he was held. I read his verse around again and again and again and suddenly I think, “Oh my god he thinks Henry Norris is guilty!” And I can’t prove that. It came flying to me as an instinct. And I read it again and again and again and convinced myself I was right. But that portion of that book is already done. There’s always flashback.”

    Some of the parts of the play are not in the book. “There were reasons I didn’t feel comfortable writing Thomas More’s trial into my novel but everyone said, “Come on, Hill. People expect the trial.” And they do. So I put some stuff together and I was happy with the way it turned out.”

    Mantel cares about details. “In the play, people carry about all sorts of letters and piles of papers, and if by chance they were to drop one one night the audience would see that what’s inside is just what it should be. There’s a brillaitnt woman in Stratford-on-Avon who sits in a workshop at a big table and impersonates people’s handwriting. When I dropped into see her she was learning the script of William Tyndale so Thomas could have a letter from William Tyndale on his desk. It’s that degree of perfectionism, it isn’t seen by audience but it gives the actors a solid place to stand.”

    In Wolf Hall, constantly referring to Cromwell without the antecedent, instead using “he,” was no accident. “I was trying to be always inside his head. I know some readers complained about it, but some readers caught on in the first sentence. It’s always a question when writing historical fiction: how do you feed information to your reader? Two errors: one is to baffle them one is to spoon feed them. If I have to fall into one error or the other I prefer to baffle them. I’ve always wanted to write the book I want to read. I took a risk there and something interesting happens. When you’re inside Cromwell’s head, it seemed to me slightly false that he should be talking about himself, naming himself as Thomas Cromwell, so it became “he.” But as times goes on and the second book dawns, Cromwell is becoming a phenomenon that astonishes even himself. And so sometimes he does name himself he says “he, Cromwell” as if in astonishment that he’s got to be where he is with the people he’s with. I’m trying to do something very difficult with Thomas Cromwell. I’m writing from the inside of the head from a man who is not introspective. He doesn’t take a break to add himself up. He is what he says. People sometimes says “it’s such a deep psychological probing,” but actually it’s not. It’s all illustrated, it’s shown to you. which is why it could take on a visual form.”

    signingbooks

    Photography by Andrew Katzowitz

     

     

     
  • Lauren Passell 8:26 pm on 2015/06/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , bring up the bodies, , ,   

    A Bookish Conversation with Hilary Mantel at her #BNAuthorEvent 

    HillaryMantel3 (1)

    Artwork by Grant Lindahl

    Hilary Mantel recently visited the Union Square Barnes & Noble in Manhattan to sign copies of Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies: The Stage Adaptation, Mike Poulton’s two-part stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s acclaimed novels. Before the event, we had some questions for her.

    Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are written completely around facts, and you stick to that methodology. Why?
    I only make things up when the facts run out.

    So you look in the gaps?
    Exactly. But you have to make sure that whether a fact is unknown or whether you personally do not know it.

    How do you do that?
    That’s where the work lies, in making sure you’ve covered every possible angle and being very careful and only in the last inch saying ‘nobody knows this and nobody could ever know this.’ Because the last thing you want is to be proven wrong.

    Has anyone ever called you out on anything?
    No, they haven’t, to be quite honest. Sometimes I’ve found things out afterwards that I wish I’d known. But it’s seldom quite as simple as that. It’s usually that you get a little bit of knowledge after. Or sometimes you wish you had the courage of your convictions. There is an instance in Wolf Hall where my guess was better than the usually accepted version but I didn’t have the confidence right at the beginning to go with my guess and now I wish I had. And now more things have come to light since. You think that it’s the sixteenth century and nothing will come up, but things come up all the time.

    Do you think that’s because of you and what you’ve done?
    I think it is in a way because it makes people go looking. There’s a particular instance, Cromwell’s son, there was no known portrait of him. And yet it’s obvious he must have been painted. Now we have two, by people’s best guess. I raise the question of his age. And they were looking for someone of the wrong age. I can’t take credit for that but I was very pleased to see it in his face.

    What was it like to reread A Place of Greater Safety after holding onto it. Was it hard to reread something you’d written so long ago?
    Yeah, it had been sitting on a shelf for years, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was quite possible that it was no good at all, and if it was no good at all, I’d have to say, ‘oh well, that’s where my twenties went.’ It was a frightening time. But it was my choice because I could have kept it quiet.

    You wrote it in the present tense?
    Parts of it, a good part of it. Some of it was in the past tense, unlike Wolf Hall which is in the present tense. But it’s actually technically a much more complicated book. It has everything you can think of. That’s what you do with your first book, you try things out.

    Are you ever tempted to stretch the facts and sneak in creative liberties?
    Never. The joy is in having the facts. The better the facts, the greater the triumph when you manage to work them into drama. It’s up to you as the writer to be s0 quick on your feet that whatever obstacles those facts present, you just work around them. And I don’t mean in the sense of avoiding them.

    So you have set up a challenge that most writers don’t want to work with?
    I don’t know if most people would. My kind of historical fiction is different than most people’s because I like writing about real characters. I write about real people. It’s a different set of challenges faced by some historical novelists. It’s not that I think they are shirking it, I think they’re just doing something different. Historical fiction covers such a multiplicity of styles and forms. Nobody is doing it wrong, it’s just a question of, this is how I do it.

    Who else does it like you? Did you learn how to do this from someone else?
    No, I didn’t. People have written with real figures in the foreground but I can’t say I was apprenticed to someone. When you come across a book that’s done that well, it gives you courage. I think that’s what influence is, the influence of other writers. It’s that they inspire you by existing.HillaryMantel4 (1)

    Is it true you like to write about the underdogs? 
    That’s fair to say. I’m not interested in people born to power. I’m interested in people who have to go out and wrestle with circumstances. A story with kings and queens can be very intriguing but it’s not really my story.

    When did your fascination with Cromwell begin?
    I’ve been thinking of him for all of my writing life, that is to say, I began writing in my early twenties, and I saw myself as a historical novelist. And I thought when I finished my book about the French Revolution but then I became a contemporary novelist and then I wrote other books and you come to a point where it’s very hard to break off from a certain period. It’s so time consuming. It’s easy to do when you’re unpublished and time stretches before you. But it’s not easy to stop the world and get off while you research a whole new period. Eventually I thought, “now is the time.”

    Do you know who else you would write about?
    I have no one in view, to be honest. I have other books in view. But not one single character.

    How does your creativity come into play when writing around facts?
    Every time I say, “he thought,” I’m making it up. I don’t know what he thought. It’s implicit in every line. The whole world is interpreted through Cromwell’s eyes. And I think also the creativity comes in the synthesis and the connections between one piece of knowledge and another. It’s always hard to think of examples. But you cast your net very widely. You don’t just study the politics but the whole era, its culture, and you go back a couple of hundred years because you’re thinking of what these people have read and what they see, Cromwell particularly as a young man in Italy being shaped by a very different culture. I think when a spark jumps, that is a real joy of writing historical fiction. Or when you make a connection that’s grounded in someone’s life, in their sensory experience.

    What do you do to inspire your creativity to write?
    Oh, I’m always in the mood to write, I’m never not. Sometimes it is true, there are spring breaks, and you’ve been exposed to too many words. And what I think you do then I don’t have to go look at something, I just have to think and walk. I’ll maybe just go and read some poetry. I’ll get some different rhythms in my head.

    If you didn’t win these awards and didn’t have millions of fans, if people weren’t dying to read what you’ve written next, would you still have to write?
    I would have to finish this project, yes. I think that if somebody came along and said ‘you will never be published again’ I think I’d do something else.

    What would you do?
    Another form of writing. Or I don’t know! Twenty years ago there were probably more choices. But I think I do know people who cease to be published and they just write their manuscripts and throw in the towel. I don’t think I’m like that. I think I’ll always find some practical use. I’ve worked in different forms. I think that if somehow I run out of steam as a novelist I’ll just skip to someone else. My problem is never lack of ideas. It’s how to prioritize which project to do next.

    You walk into a big, beautiful Barnes & Noble like this one. Which section do you head to first?
    I’d go to history to see what’s new. First thing you think is, “have I missed something? Has something sneaked out and been printed and I didn’t know?” And then I’d head over to psychology.

    Mantel’s husband: Followed by stationary.

    Oh yeah, I like to buy notebooks.

    HillaryMantel1

    Artwork by Grant Lindahl

    You write in a notebook?
    Yeah, I do. I keep a journal as a work book.

    If you were going to pick one book to be in the Hilary Mantel book club and make everyone read it, what would it be?
    I’d make it a book I dearly wish I’d written called Good Behavior, by Molly Keane. I think she would have won The Booker Prize if it hadn’t been published the year of Midnight’s Children. It is the perfect novel. It might not be everyone’s taste but technically it’s indivisible. She wrote it after recovering from a stroke and lost all her speech. And she produced this wonderful thing. It’s in a different league. I can read that book again and again.

    How many times have you read it?
    I don’t know because I pick it up and dip into it. How does she do it, wow! It’s one of those books the the narrator doesn’t know what’s going on. And gradually the reader grasps what’s going on. There a lot of books that use that conceit but it’s so exceptionally well done. You have a real love/hate relationship with the narrator. It’s a succession of beautiful set pieces. As someone who loves the theater, I love set pieces.

    What book did you like as a child or teenager?
    Kidnapped. It was the first time I read a story and thought, how is this done? And it was the beginning of reading analytically, I think.

    It was the book that made you a reader?
    It was the book that made me a writer. Although I didn’t form an ambition to be a writer then. But something got into my head as a template. Even though I wanted to know how it was done, I’m not sure I had any answers. I don’t think I had the vocabulary. I just knew it was working well.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:58 pm on 2015/06/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , bring up the bodies, , , , the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, the king and i, the tonys, ,   

    Four Books That Won Big at the Tonys (and One We’re Waiting For) 

    When you hear the word adaptation in reference to novels, you tend to think of big-budget TV series like HBO’s Game of Thrones or Starz’s Outlander, or big-budget films like World War Z. But in recent years, there’s been a surge in novels adapted for the Broadway stage. In a modern theater atmosphere where a bunch of ABBA songs and a plot so thin you can see through it can be a huge hit, these novel-based shows have become the most exciting tickets to snag.

    Case in point: the 2015 Tony Awards were dominated by shows based on books, with four books in particular winning sixteen major-category Tonys at the awards ceremony.

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    WINNER, Best Play, Best Actor in a Play (Alex Sharp), Best Direction in a Play, Best Scenic Design in a Play, Best Lighting Design in a Play
    Haddon’s award-winning 2003 novel is narrated by Christopher, a highly intelligent boy of 15 who suffers from a collection of symptoms—social anxiety, difficulty reading social cues, dislike of physical contact, difficulty appreciating subtlety—that point to something like Asperger’s Syndrome. When he finds a neighbor’s dog murdered, he decides to use his intellectual powers to investigate the crime, slowly expanding his narrow world in frightening ways, and discovering that all is not as it seems. Getting Christopher’s distinctive perspective into a live-action production is an amazing achievement. The play ingeniously captures Christopher’s humor, panic, unhappiness, and ultimately unique voice while showing the audience how the world appears to him.

    Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    WINNER, Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris), Best Direction in a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score
    The first Broadway play to feature a lesbian protagonist (no, really), this musical is very different from Bechdel’s comic memoir about coming out and discovering that her father, a teacher and owner of the local funeral parlor—the “Fun Home” of the title—was a man of mystery: a closeted gay man who may have had relationships with boys under the age of consent and who may have committed suicide. Bechdel’s surprisingly rich and humorous memoir is transformed on the stage into a thrilling, satisfying musical that stays true to the real heart of Bechdel’s memoir, which has everything to do with the simple universal tragedy that it’s hard to know even the people we love the most —and that we often do not realize this until it’s too late to do anything about it.

    The King and I, based on Anna and the King, by Margaret Landon
    WINNER, Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical (Kelli O’Hara), Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, Best Costume Design in a Musical
    Landon’s “semi-fictionalized” biographical novel has been beloved by readers for generations, and was originally adapted for Broadway in 1951. Based on the two memoirs of the real-life Anna Leonowens, the story of an English widow with two children who is invited to Siam by its king in the late 19th century to teach him and his family English and British customs has been a permanent part of the popular culture ever since, with Yul Brynner’s performance in the original production remaining iconic to this day. The 2015 revival is the fourth time this musical has been staged, and may well be the best, as its four Tonys suggest, and while he didn’t win a Tony like his co-star, Ken Watanabe is always wonderful to see perform.

    Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
    WINNER, Best Costume Design in a Play
    Mantel’s Wolf Hall is quickly turning into a phenomenon, as the stage adaptation took home a Tony and the television series produced by the BBC is some of the best appointment-viewing of recent years. By focusing on Thomas Cromwell instead of Henry VIII, Mantel gave us a view of the Tudor Dynasty seldom seen before, and the events of Henry VIII’s reign are still more dramatic and shocking than most completely fictional dramas, including Game of Thrones. The Broadway adaptation finds a footing and tone distinct from the books (or the series) and reads as almost a lighthearted, gossipy approach to the material, which works incredibly well in a live audience scenario and brings out aspects of Mantel’s work and actual history that might otherwise be missed.

    One We’re Waiting For: American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
    Look, no one’s saying adapting this novel into a musical was a good idea, or a workable idea—in fact, reviews from its London run, despite starring The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, were not great—but it’s coming to Broadway in Spring of 2016, and who could possibly resist the delirious idea of turning this book into an all-singing, all-dancing piece of live theater? We cannot. It may not win any Tonys, but any Broadway show that includes “Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and The News has already magically sold us tickets.

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