Sunday, June 29, 2008

People of Influence # 2

Saw Markus Zusak, the author of ‘The Book Thief’ at Gleebooks this afternoon, as part of the monthly ‘Book Club’ author events. Not only was he very good looking, he was also a warm and open personality.

A few inspiring comments:

Of sharing his work-in-progress with friends and family he says he doesn’t really get into that – not because he is an ‘artiste’ who won’t share his work before it is ready, but because he figures ‘I got myself into this mess and I’m the only one who can help me find the way out.’

He accidentally talks of ‘Liesels sister’ when talking of the central character’s brother dying on a train in the beginning of the book. The assembled crowd murmured ‘brother’ – a collective exhalation and momentary horrified chuckling that the author himself would make a faux pas about his own book. It was clear where the crowd’s loyalty was, even when faced between choosing between the creator and his work. An author releasing his work to the public is also about surrender and giving it a chance to create its own life and become part of other people too.

He wrote the prologue to make sure that the wrong people didn’t read the book. The first 15 pages aren’t the easiest to read and a few people admitted they put the book down and walked away. It’s the sort of book that requires the passionate endorsement of those who have read it – to encourage others to ‘get past’ the introduction.

Zusak chose Death to be the narrator and inevitable comparisons to Terry Pratchett's ‘Death takes a Holiday’ emerge. Certainly other books about Nazi Germany have been written. An audience member asks about how that could influence his writing. But Zusak points out that ‘you find your own way’.

Another question relates to research and Zusak talks of other historical fiction writers who he speaks to at writer’s festivals – who claim they could research forever. But he says ‘Doing the work is the best research’ and that if a reader wants to know more about certain facts they can go and look it up. He wants the research to be secondary to the story.

He also wrote an actual message in my signed copy, not just a squiggle.

From the Random House microsite: It took seven years to get published and there were countless daily failures, but I’m glad those failures and rejections happened. They made me realise that what I was writing just wasn’t good enough – so I made myself improve.

I am momentarily smitten and will search out his other 4 books. They’re all categorized as ‘young adult fiction’.

No comments: