The highlight of day 4 at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for me was the Hilary Mantel event. This event was chaired by James Runcie.
James started the event by paying tribute to Hilary Mantel, making the point that books like her’s are a ‘sacred relic in the modern world of the kindle.’ The event started with Jame’s asking Hilary if she had always wanted to be a writer? Hilary answer was brilliant and had the audience laughing. “I wanted to be a knight of the round table, until about 6 years old when I realised I was not going to turn into a boy. In a way the act of writing is like the act of jousting. It is so easy to settle with what is easy but you must always write on the edge of your competency. A novel is not written from the top of your head, it is always written from your heart and gut.”
Hilary informed us that the letters Thomas Cromwell is reading in parts of Bring Up the Bodies are real letters. All Cromwell’s letter were kept and she has read the vast majority of them. They give you so much information about the Tudor world, through the letters you get a sense of the big picture as well as the minute picture. You can’t do as well a job inventing things when writing a historical novel as you can by researching the world you are writing about.
James then moved on to asking Hilary, what she thought about Bring up the Bodies being described as a modern historical novel and did she write it any different from how she writes her other books? “Tried to write as I would any other novel. I wanted it to have a literature quality as well as a historical quality. I feel that many great historical novels are missing characterization, they focus too much on the historical aspect and the characters get lost in the process. I feel like you shouldn’t have to compromise.”
An audience member asked how did Hilary come up with the titles for her 3 historical novel?
Bring Up the Bodies – ” Bringing up the bodies for trial.”
Mirror and Light – “It is part of a quote from Cromwell. The last book is aimed to shine a different light on the past, while holding up the mirror and viewing past events. It will mean one thing to you when you start the book and another when you finish it”
I don’t normally post pictures of my signed books but Hilary’s writing is so beautiful, I just have to share it with all of you.