David Mitchell and a hut in County Cork …

David Mitchell and a hut in County Cork …


David Mitchell is an award-winning English author. He was born in Southport,Lancashire in 1969 and raised in Malvern, Worcestershire. He was educated at Hanley Castle High School and at the University of Kent, where he obtained a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature.

He lived in Sicily for a year, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England, where he could live on his earnings as a writer and support his family. He currently lives with his wife and children in County Cork, Ireland.


He has written eight novels. His first novel Ghostwritten was published in 1999. This was followed by number9dream (2001), Cloud Atlas (2004), Black Swan Green (2006), The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010), The Bone Clocks (2014), Spade House (2015) and From Me Flows What You Call Time (2016). Ghostwritten won him the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (for best work of British literature written by an author under 35) and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. Both number9dream and Cloud Atlas were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2012 Cloud Atlas was made into a film.
In 2003, he was selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. In 2007, Mitchell was listed among Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in The World.


David Mitchell. Photograph: Patrick Bolger

He was interviewed by Adam Begley in 2007 for the Paris Review’s The Art of Fiction series. During the course of the interview he discussed aspects of his writing habits and routines. This is a summary of what he said.

I can write pretty much anywhere. If I’m in a loud place where I know the language, then I can’t write, but generally the universe needs to contrive circumstances to stop me writing, rather than contrive ones to allow me to write. But I am happiest in my hut in County Cork, with a pot of green tea and a large, uncluttered table. 

I do my thinking in longhand on paper, and act on my thinking on the laptop. When travelling I like to use moleskin notebooks to write in just because they stay flat when you open them. Most notebooks want to close. I move from longhand to electronic media as soon as I hanker to see my words in a neat on-screen font, and when a laptop is at hand, which means after a few hours at home, or a few days if I’m away. 

I could probably write for ten hours a day if I had them, but I’ve got two young children, so I can either be a halfway decent dad or I can be a writer who writes all day. I can’t really be both. As things stand, I might clock in three hours on a poor day, and six or seven on a productive day. Writing describes a range of activities, like farming. Plowing virgin fields—writing new scenes—demands freshness, but there’s also polishing to be done, fact-checking, character-autobiography writing, realigning the text after you’ve made a late decision that affects earlier passages—that kind of work can be done in the fifth, sixth, and seventh hours. Sometimes, at any hour, you can receive a gift—something that’s really tight and animate and so interesting that I forget the time until my long-suffering wife begins to drop noisy hints. 


Full Paris Review article

David Mitchell’s website


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