Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Interview: Sebastian Faulks

sebastian-faulks.jpg
twitter.jpg
novel.jpg

Sebastian Faulks, award-winning author of Charlotte Grey and Birdsong, speaks to Stylist about apossiblelife.com, a digital campaign that celebrates the launch of his latest book by charting human emotion via Twitter hashtags...

Your new novel A Possible Life weaves several different stories across different decades together: what inspired you to take this format and was it difficult to maintain?

I used this structure because it best articulates the main theme: the question of human individuality – whether the idea of a ‘self’ is a fiction, whether we are satisfactorily distinguished one from another and if death is as final as it seems. It was quite easy to stick to the plan, though I worked a lot at the individual parts and on deciding which order to put them in.

You often draw from the past in your works: how do go about recreating the colour and detail of a particular era (e.g. wartime France) and is there any reason why you’re attracted to the past rather than present/future?

My early books were really asking the question: who are we and how did we end up where we are? So naturally you have to find your answer in the past. The detail is drawn from research, from visits, books, films and so on, but mostly it is invented. That’s my job!

The most tweeted emotion is likely to be love, followed by irritation or disgust

Your Twitter project (apossiblelife.com) uses modern technology to chart various human emotions in a live barometer. What do you make of Twitter as a tool of communication – would it have been popular in the past if it was available, do you think?

As book sales are increasingly electronic, via Kindle etc., online visibility and chatter, which is often driven by Twitter, becomes important. I’m sure Twitter would have been popular in the past too. Richard III would certainly have tweeted “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.” Or Marie Antoniette: “Let them eat cake then.” The response might have been better too.

Do you think it will be possible for people to express their genuine emotions over Twitter and what do you anticipate the most tweeted emotion to be?

I think you can certainly express emotions in few words. Think of poetry or a haiku. I think the most tweeted emotion is likely to be love, followed by irritation or disgust.

What do you think the significance of knowing you are sharing emotions or experiences with others to be?

In my experience you don’t reap the rewards of sharing things until you meet the person face to face. But it may be different for seasoned tweeters.

Writer's block is God’s way of telling you to shut up

What are your writing routines – do you have anything you do to overcome writer’s block or do you write a set amount of words per day?

When I am writing a book I work from ten till six every day in a small office near my house. I never write less than a thousand words a day. Writers Block is God’s way of telling you to shut up. More people should have it…

A lot of our readers want to be writers. What are your top tips for writing a great novel and getting it published?

Top tip is: Write about what you DON’T know. Research, invent. Write about people of other ages, sexes, nationalities and periods in history. Then find a book you think is similar to yours. Write to the author care of the publisher and find out who their agent is. Good luck.

What’s the difference between real and contrived or artificial emotion in fiction? How do go about creating emotion in the reader?

Real emotion comes from inside the reader. You are unaware that the author has been trying to make you feel something; in fact, you wonder whether the author is really aware of how sad, funny or inspiring this passage is. Artificial is when you feel your arm being twisted. Too many adverbs is a bad sign.

Have you started work on your next book yet and if so, what themes will it explore?

I will start in January, I think. I don’t yet know what it will be about, though I have some character thoughts. While my first books were about Who we are, my last few have been about What we are. I think there is more to say on this fascinating subject!

Visit apossiblelife.com to find about more about Sebastian Faulks' Twitter emotion infographic and to take part in the project

A Possible Life published by Hutchinson is out now

Author photo: Rex Features

Related

hero.jpg

50 best free books on Kindle

hero.jpg

Top 20 books to argue about

Funny-Books.gif

The 50 funniest lines from literature

Comments

More

Daisy Ridley and Judi Dench to star in new Agatha Christie movie

All aboard the Orient Express... by Moya Crockett

30 Sep 2016

The best new books to read in October 2016

From murder mysteries, to magical dream-quests by Sarah Shaffi

27 Sep 2016

The 10 best book-to-film adaptations have been revealed

Can the film ever be better than the book? by Kayleigh Dray

27 Sep 2016

The girl power cast for the Peter Rabbit movie is beyond incredible

The cast of Star Wars and Bridesmaids are teaming up for the Beatrix Potter adaptation by Kayleigh Dray

27 Sep 2016

How to stop procrastinating and finally publish your own book

The UK's bestselling author shares her advice by Sarah Biddlecombe

26 Sep 2016

Judge orders sex offender to buy feminist literature for victim

Titles include The Diary of Anne Frank and works by Virginia Woolf by Harriet Hall

26 Sep 2016

Why India’s latest comic book heroine is a rape survivor

In Priya's Mirror, the resilient heroine teams up with acid attack survivors to defeat gender-based violence. by Moya Crockett

26 Sep 2016

Girl on the Train author on the moment that sparked her smash hit book

And it was all down to the commute... by Sarah Biddlecombe

22 Sep 2016

The cast for The Handmaid’s Tale is beyond incredible

Yet another talented star has been added to the Margaret Atwood adaptation... by Kayleigh Dray

22 Sep 2016

This bestselling author is offering her cottage as a free writing spot

"Are you a writer, and wish you had some peace in which to write?" by Sarah Biddlecombe

20 Sep 2016