Writers – Beginnings, Endings, Cloud Atlas and Lego

The Mountains to the Sea Book Festival in Dun Laoghaire provides a wonderful opportunity for the public to witness many writers discussing their works.

I made it to one of these discussions where David Mitchell and Claire Kilroy talked about their writing.

Both authors read excerpts of their work before any discussion began.

Kilroy’s latest novel, The Devil I Know, tackles the murky water of post-recession Dublin through the eyes of two male property developers while Mitchell read a piece from a new and unfinished novel, re-imagining himself as a British teenage girl in 1984.

Mitchell and Kilroy came across as authors with a stark difference in their approach to writing. Mitchell sees inspiration from a snippet of an overheard conversation or an old man falling asleep in a train listening to his iPod, while Kilroy writes a reservoir of ideas and picks up parts of her stories as beach combers find driftwood.

Mitchell rejoices in creation while Kilroy finds the process almost tortuous and painful.

Mitchell likes beginnings and Kilroy loves endings.

(There is a locked room inside my imagination, within lives a character, he listens to Mitchell and Kilroy and he knocks at the door because he wants to show you his world)

Mitchell responds to a question from the audience. What was it like to watch, Cloud Atlas, his most successful novel, made into a movie? Mitchell is ready for this one, he describes it like seeing his story which he had “made out of lego” disassembled and remade by different hands. He enjoyed the result even though he did not want any part of the process.

(The knock comes a second time and turns into a banging, he really wants to come out but I am afraid that I have misplaced the key… or did I hide it from myself?)

Kilroy was so terrified to write her second novel that she bought a violin and began to teach herself how to play the instrument. As she practised her cat would settle into the empty case. Weeks (maybe months?) passed and, while she did not become a musician, her second novel evolved; the main character is a professional violinist who owns a cat. That’s inspiration from perspiration.

Mitchell jokes about a comment that referred to him as a writer who writes books, “There are many writers out there who have not written a book”.

(The banging from the locked room has stopped and is replaced by a scratching noise, I think he is planning to make an escape)

Thank you David Mitchell and Claire Kilroy you have illuminated and inspired me.

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