It’s taken me a while to add this post but it’s better late than never I say!
Last year my sister was lucky enough to interview the very talented Hilary Mantel for an article published in Australia’s Who Weekly Magazine. I thought it might be nice to share with you the insights she offers.
Why are readers insatiable when it comes to the Tudor period? And what drew you to it?
Henry’s story has all the ingredients of great soap opera, but it’s also a deeply interesting era in English history. The decade between 1530-1540, when my character Thomas Cromwell was a major political force, was a decade that shaped modern England. What mainly drew me was the character of Thomas Cromwell himself. He’s an enigmatic, fascinating man. Blacksmith’s son to Earl of Essex – how did he do it?
* Have you watched the cable television show The Tudors, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII?
I’m 4 episodes in to the 3rd series, just waiting for Anne of Cleves to show up. It fascinates me – whoever came up with the deeply unlikely idea of casting the weedy little JRM as the athletic, powerful, six foot plus Henry, who towered over most of his courtiers? It’s fantasy, of course, not history. And I do pity the cast for some of the lines they have to deliver.
* How do you feel about being a front-runner for the Man Booker Prize?
Waiting for the Man Booker judges to pronounce is very hard. I am trying to get on with my work, but it’s hard to keep cool when you know the prize makes such a difference.
* Is it true that you once lived in a building that used to be a lunatic asylum?
I still live in an apartment (under the clock tower) in the former Brookwood asylum, which was built in the 1860s and converted for residential use about 10 years ago. Some of the Victorian hospitals were very beautiful buildings and it’s good that they are preserved. It’s a peaceful place to live. I haven’t come across any ghosts.
* Reading Wolf Hall was like time travel for me. I find myself wondering if you might have some psychic connection to these events and characters, so truthfully were they rendered. What do you think?
I’m delighted if it felt like time travel – but that’s not psychic power, that’s research. I do care a lot about the people I write about, and I try very hard to get them right. History isn’t always tidy or convenient, but you have to ease your imagination around its shape, rather than distorting it to fit your preconceptions. I think very differently from the makers of The Tudors. It’s best to stick as close to the facts as you can, I find. Where the facts run out, you must work hard to come up with a plausible version on the basis of the information you have.
* Do you have any plans to visit Australia?
I have had very happy visits to Adelaide and Sydney in the past, but because my health’s not great I don’t want to make the journey at present. I look forward to the prospect of visiting again in a couple of years.