Markus ZusakBy Sarah Hutchings
This interview with Markus Zusak was first published on The Deckchair website on 09/03/2009 when Markus was City Reads author 2009. Some material was taken from a Guardian interview, March 2008 by Sarah Kinson.
'No matter what anyone ever said about that book, whether good or bad, I know it was the best I could do, and I don't think a writer can ask for more of himself than that.'
On starting out
I wanted to be a writer when I was 16 and read the right books for me. It was that feeling of turning pages and not even realising it - I was so immersed in the world of each book. That was when I looked up from the pages and thought, "that's what I wanted to do with my life." I decided that I was going to be a writer and that nothing was going to stop me.
On advice to new writers
Don't be afraid to fail. I fail every day. I failed thousands of times writing The Book Thief, and that book now means everything to me. Failure has been my best friend as a writer. It tests you, to see if you have what it takes to see it through.
On the art of writing
I find writing extremely difficult. I usually have to drag myself to my desk, mainly because I doubt myself. And it's getting harder because I want to improve with every book. Sometimes I guess it's best just to forget there's an audience and just write like no one will ever read it at all. The best ideas come to you when you're sitting down, working. That's when most of the breakthroughs occur - simply by doing the work.
On writing routines
Basically I have two routines. The first one is the non-lazy routine, where I get up and work from about 7am and aim to finish by 11.30. That usually sees me through till noon or twelve-thirty (with some time-wasting in between). Then I'll take a long break and do a few more hours in the afternoon. The lazy routine usually starts at 10am and I'll write longer into the afternoon.
On the lonely road
'I think to be a writer you have to enjoy being alone. I was alone as a teenager and was always drawn to characters in books and films who were at the fringes. It comes down to the difference between loneliness and aloneness.'
'It took seven years to get published and there were countless daily failures, but I'm glad those failures and rejections happened. They made me realise that what I was writing just wasn't good enough - so I made myself improve.'
On inspiring reads
When I was a teenager, I read some books that brought me totally into their worlds. One was The Old Man and the Sea and another was What's Eating Gilbert Grape? When I read those books, I thought, that's what I want to do.
This page was amended on 14/01/2012