She posted two interviews, and I watched both of them--and took notes! The Book Thief is one of my favorite novels, which is exactly what the author intended. (I talk back to him about that in a moment.)
Yes, the novel is fabulous, wonderful, poignant, contradictory, spine-chilling. But mostly it is human, so I wanted to hear what he had to say.
Markus: The inspiration for The Book Thief came from my own life, the stories I grew up hearing at the kitchen table about my family's experience in Nazi Germany and Austria. (A paraphrase. I never took shorthand, a true regret.)
Me: Hey, that's where I get my inspiration, only my family didn't live through a horrendous war and the cruelty that rode its back. My family's history is boring. But you're so right about writing out of your own life.
It took me three novels to write through my biggest fear, being left alone like my mother. My father died when I was three, so the reality of brevity is very real to me. I'm surprised I didn't fill a bookshelf with that bit of inspiration.
The rest of my novels are like that, too, Markus--ordinary people caught up in dramas that require extraordinary strength. Not so different from yours, really, if you squint down hard.
Markus: Try to write someone's favorite book.
Me: What do you think I've been doing? Sorry, that was snarky. Obviously, I have some room to grow here. The key, I think, is that I must, must, must forget about selling the story, which is tough, but oh so necessary if I'm to write my favorite book. Only by writing my favorite story will I write someone else's favorite story.
Markus: I edited the first 80-90 pages of The Book Thief 150 to 200 times.
Me: Shut up! That's crazy. You weren't under contract, were you? This is how it was for my first book, too. I have a tub the size of a casket filled to the top with my edited pages. I use the tub as a visual aid when I talk to classrooms about self-editing. Kids are relieved to see all those pages. They mean they don't have to get their words spot-on perfect the first time. Thanks for reminding me of the same thing.
Markus: The Book Thief changed my life. I always want to write stories that means something. This story meant everything to me.
Me: The trick then, I suppose, is to write about things that move us as authors deeply, so that every story we write means everything to us. We'll need a vacation to places with umbrella drinks between those stories, or, at least, we should need a vacation.
Thanks for letting me talk back to you, Markus. Do you have a critique group? Yeah, that's what I thought. Just thought I'd ask.
Where do you get your inspiration? Do you think book contracts stifle creativity or spur it on? Is it possible for every story to be our everything story?