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Paul Kingsnorth - Longlist author interview

Paul Kingsnorth - Longlist author interview

In the first of our interviews with Man Booker Prize 2014 longlisted authors we spoke to Paul Kingsnorth.

What has it been like to be longlisted?

Strange and hectic and, above all, surprising. I feel like I have been living someone else's life for the past three weeks. But it's been a good ride.

What are you working on next?

I am about to embark on writing another novel, which has been slowly fermenting for some time. The Wake is the first book in a trilogy of novels set across 2000 years of time, each dealing with the strange and liminal mythworld of England. I can't say much more at this point other than to reveal that this next book will be set in the present day, and will be written, I'm both pleased and sorry to say, in modern English.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am usually reading at least three or four books at once. Right now I'm reading a treatise on Chan Buddhism by the Chinese Master Sheng Yen, a book on archetypes by the feminist writer Carol Pearson, a travelogue about 1930s Dartmoor and a new book about the Grail legend of Parzival, Snowy Tower, by the mythteller Martin Shaw. There are clues in there if you know where to find them.

What is your favourite Man Booker-winning novel?

Is it good form here to pretend I have read most of them? I'm afraid that would be a white lie. But looking at the list, I see several books that I have liked - and perhaps more usefully, several books, such as Rites of Passage by William Golding, one of my all-time favourite English authors, which I must read. Of those I have read, The God of Small Things is probably vying with True History of the Kelly Gang for my first place, and ultimately winning out.

How did you set about inventing the language of The Wake – part Middle English and part modern and did you worry that readers would struggle with it?

I didn't so much invent it as evolve it. I didn't start the book with a new language in mind, but I discovered as I wrote it that modern English was an insurmountable obstacle to accessing the inner world of the early English. What started off as a few Old English words inserted into the text ended up as an entirely new tongue. Now that I look back on it, it seems both an obvious thing to have done and a mildly crazy one. Did I worry that readers would struggle? In all honesty, I barely thought about readers at all. I don't think writers should have readers in mind as they do their work. That's what we have publishers for. The writer's job is to hunt down the story with as much integrity as possible, and to follow it where it takes them. Stopping to worry about whether anyone else will get it will simply give it chance to escape into the forest.