Hilary Mantel

Write What You Don’t Know

Writers are allowed to make shit up. What made me decide to set one of my first short stories in New York, when at that point I hadn’t been to America? It felt right for the tale but I got the details wrong. Luckily a good editor bailed me out and made it more authentic. […]

Fact VS Fiction II: Lying For A Living

The great thing about children is that they talk rubbish with more conviction than politicians. Lies, fantasies and half-truths are glued into a kind of surreal pudding that defies you to disbelieve your ears. I should know; at the age of the boy in this story I used to tell the kind of whoppers that […]


What makes a book, a film, a scene, a song or a play stay in the mind? It’s a question writers wrestle with constantly. Often it’s a case of the ‘sevens’; when you’re seven years old everything is exciting and new, and any old rubbish sticks with you forever. I’m horrified at how often the […]

Are Bryant & May ‘Cosies’?

  I’m at Bristol Crimefest on Friday 16th May, where I’m on a panel about ‘cosies’. ‘Cosies’ are a form of crime-writing that remind readers of Agatha Christie’s safe, ‘nice’ stories, and it’s a tag I vehemently resist (so it should be a feisty panel). The Bryant & May books are most decidedly not cosies, […]

Mantel’s Magical Writing

The first book I read by Hilary Mantel was ‘Eight Months On Gaza Street’, a brilliantly disturbing account of a woman’s time in Saudi Arabia and the clash between her beliefs and those of her Arabic neighbours. It was short, tense and oddly disturbing. Her double-Booker winning Thomas Cromwell story has yet to be finished, […]

On Being A Professional Writer No.4: Creating Characters

Classics are good for you, like losing weight and eating vegetables, which is why no child wants to read them. But you don’t just learn from the classics. I learned a lot from reading ridiculously square-jawed adventures as a child, particularly the stories of Jules Verne and virtually lost novels like ‘Coral Island’ and ‘The […]

Books For Non-Readers

I don’t approve of reviewing terrible books; The William McGonagalls of the world have always been with us, and press space is at such a premium that I usually make sure I’m recommending something good rather than complaining about lousy writing. But over the last few years a pattern has emerged whereby a poorly written […]

In Praise Of Hilary Mantel

I brought an awful lot of books away with me (don’t say ‘Kindle’ – most of them aren’t out yet; I’m judging) and there were a lot of awful books. Not that I had time to do any reading on this trip. The hotel libraries I checked had books in English, Japanese, French and German […]