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Comment from the book world in August 2018

August 2018

Switching off the adult editor

6 August 2018

‘I can't stop writing. It's not something I physically enjoy, but I can't switch off the head. There was something else, something I'd lived with all my life - the fear that I wouldn't live to finish a given piece. Having finished Boneland at the age of 77, with no idea in front of me whatever, I thought - that's it. Now, given that it takes me between five and nine years to write a novel, the joke runs a bit sour when you're in your early eighties...

No book of mine has ever had so many drafts. What I had to do was remove myself as an observer and let the voice of me at that age genuinely establish itself. The trouble was that I didn't want to be arch or twee or laced through with dramatic irony. I like technical challenges. I just let it settle and listened, I didn't try to impose anything on that voice as it emerged. It couldn't be infantile, it must be simple. It expresses the complex thought of a child of that age...

There was no research. To a fault, I love the research and it puts off the writing. But with this, I simply had to not interfere. It's not mystical, it was just allowing myself to switch off the adult editor until the words were there.'

Alan Garner, author of just-published Where Shall We Run to? (a wartime childhood memoir), The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Stone Book Quartet and many other books for children and adults in the Observer.