Michael Morpurgo, bestselling author of Private Peaceful and War Horse, will be making two appearances in Exeter on Friday 26th April. Ahead of these events he spoke to Tom Bond and Emily Lunn about writer’s block, inspiration, and lessons that can’t be taught…
You’ve written over a hundred books – how do you find inspiration to write that many and do you ever get writer’s block?
M: No I don’t get writer’s block. I was once advised by a good friend of mine, Ted Hughes, when I was having some difficulty during the writing of War Horse. He said, what’s really really important, before you ever set pen to paper, is that you have enough confidence built up through the way you’ve envisaged the whole story, the places, the people – you’ve done enough of the story-making, the story-dreaming before you ever look at a blank page. Then you’ll be ready to write – your mind is simply full of the story. He said, you may not know and it’s probably a good idea not to know where the story will end up. It’s rather a good thing to let it have its own organic movement.
Have time to have your dream time. It’s so important not to be faced with your own inadequacy when you’re trying to write stories or poems. If you think there is such thing as writer’s block, sure as hell you’ll get it.
Why I’ve written so much, is that like most writers, I am very interested in the world around me. I read a lot, and I talk to people, and I go places, and I make notes…I fill up the well, if you like, of my story-making equipment all the time. So there’s always something that is making me write the story.
Michael’s most recent novel, A Medal for Leroy is partly inspired by his own life, as well as the life of Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British Army. Although he was an incredibly brave soldier, he never received a medal for gallantry and has no known grave. A Medal for Leroy is a tale of bravery, family secrets and heritage.
As an ex-teacher, what would you say is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learnt?
M: I think I learnt it quite recently, from a friend of mine, John Lloyd, who was asked on the programme ‘Desert Island Discs’ what was the most important human characteristic. He said kindness, and I think that’s what I’ve learnt in my 70th year. Nothing is more important than kindness and consideration towards other people. I think in all of the lessons I’ve taught as a teacher I was grasping towards that all the time – what I was trying to do, both in my own reading and in the way I was teaching the children was to have us learn about the lives of other people, which literature is wonderful for. With that understanding of each other comes what John Lloyd was talking about – kindness – so I’d say that was the most important lesson, but I don’t know that you can teach it, it just has to be encouraged and discovered.
For the complete interview, look out for the next issue of Exeposé. From the necessity of not patronising younger readers, to the future of libraries and publishers, this is not to be missed!
And if you simply can’t wait until then, read our new online feature ‘Four Books for the Apocalypse’ to learn what books he chose!
Michael and his wife Clare co-founded the charity Farms for City Children, which is the chosen charity for this year’s food festival. Michael will be talking to visitors at the Exeter Food Festival in the Farms for City Children tent from 2pm-4pm on Friday 26th April.
Michael will also be giving a lecture at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum at 6pm on Friday 26th April.
For more information on the festival: http://www.exeterfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk/
To find out about Farms for City Children go to:bookmark me