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Interview with Matt Haig

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Lou Pendergrast:
Congratulations on your great work the new novel The Humans.
Would you say this is your most personal story we will read?

Matt Haig:

Absolutely. It came out of the worst period of my life. It came out of a nervous breakdown, and when I came to write it I was telling my other self how and why life is worth living.

Lou Pendergrast:

You’ve mentioned in the afterward that you had a time in your life when you has to get to grips with dealing with panic attacks, tell me more about this, and what steps would you hold key important counter things to do to handle a panic attack?

Matt Haig:
Anxiety tells you everything is going to get worse. Panic tells you everything is going to get worse right now. The only way to deal with it is to ignore it, which is near impossible. But if you focus on it, it builds. It feeds on itself.

Lou Pendergrast:

How did you start as a writer?

Matt Haig:

Very gradually. I had no confidence at first. I started in PR, writing press releases, then journalism, then books.

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Lou Pendergrast:

In this story the poets Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are mentioned, do you like these poets and why?

Matt Haig:

Yes. I love the great American poets. I love the way their words feel in my brain.

Lou Pendergrast:

What authors are your inspiration, of which you re- read?

Matt Haig:
SE Hinton, Stephen King, Poe, Salinger, JG Ballard, Jeanette Winterson, Sylvia Plath, Bret Easton Ellis. I like one-off writers. Writers who don’t really fit into a school or movement. Writers who can’t be successfully imitated.

 

Lou Pendergrast:

Do you think some consecutive moral philosophy in fiction can be a good thing, will feature in your future writings?

Matt Haig:
Maybe. I don’t know. I like philosophy more than instructions. I think the job of fiction is to ask questions, not always give answers.

Lou Pendergrast:

What kick do you get out of the writing process and the finished work?

Matt Haig:
The kick comes when you are writing fast and your mind is moving even faster and you dissolve into the story. It’s an escape. A drug.

Lou Pendergrast:

Do you have a story plan first, a character, ending or a scene, how do lay down the writing of a story?

Matt Haig:
I don’t lay it down. I write what comes to me. Very rarely I start at the beginning and end at the end.

 

Lou Pendergrast:

When seeds are planted for characters and story ideas do you note them straight away and work on them at a later date or start writing straight away?

Matt Haig:
Sometimes I write down notes. Generally my focus is on the story I’m writing.

Lou Pendergrast:

Do you have many ideas that have not be fleshes out into a final short story or novel?

Matt Haig:
Yes. Far more than will ever actually happen.

Lou Pendergrast:

What sentences fiction do you hold with high regard above others?

Matt Haig:
I like Dodie Smith’s first line from I Capture the Castle: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.’

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Lou Pendergrast:

Other than writing what else occupies your time?

Matt Haig:
Spending time with my kids, reading, cinema, running, twittering.

Lou Pendergrast:

Which book do you recommend others to read?

Matt Haig:

Straw Dogs by John Gray, an amazing work of modern philosophy that has shaped my worldview.

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Lou Pendergrast:

Will The Humans be adapted to film?

Matt Haig:
That would be nice. The film rights have been sold and I am writing the screenplay. But still many hurdles ahead.

Lou Pendergrast:

Thank you for this chat on your writing life and I hope you receive all the success this story deserves.

Matt Haig:
It’s been a pleasure.

Visit http://www.matthaig.com/

Ten Writing Rules to Break by

About Matt Haig




Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 23 May 2013