Only two events today. It’s a hot sunny day, so between them I eat a sandwich on a bench overlooking the beach and read a book. Children are swimming in the sea and a man is selling fresh fish on the pebble seafront. Today is a very good day.
Day 2 – Saturday 19 September
Sarah Winman ‘A Year of Marvellous Ways’
It’s about the story of your life that you tell yourself.
This is an extra session for me. The original writer Liza Klaussman was forced to cancel at quite late notice and Sarah Winman stepped in to fill the space. This is fantastic news for me as I’m a huge fan, but it does mean that the room is only just over half full. It’s a real shame as Winman is interesting, engaging and articulate. So much so that I become completely absorbed in the talk and make hardly any notes.
What I learnt:
- Winman is absolutely passionate about the importance of the arts and creativity in education as she believes being creative is what helps us to become well-rounded individuals.
- Landscapes are very important in The Year of Marvellous Ways. Winman wanted to set the book in Cornwall, but she felt the Cornish landscape was masculine because of the rocks punching through the land, and Marvellous needed to be in a feminine landscape. She resolved this by putting Marvellous on a lake which was based on a creek she saw in South Carolina – and then dropping that in to Cornwall.
- Winman was an actor and narrates her own audiobooks. Someone in the room specifically asks about this because her reading from The Year of Marvellous Ways in the session is so beautiful.
- When the audiobook of When God Was a Rabbit was made Winman had to audition for the job of narrator; and the producer told her that she was doing the voices for her own characters wrong.
This was a really lovely session and I could have listened for much longer. I’m about 100 pages in to The Year of Marvellous Ways and I highly recommend it. It’s sweet, dark and very magical.
Hilary Mantel ‘The Mirror and the Light’
It’s in time’s erasures, in the white spaces between the lines, that the novelist goes to work.
The session at St Peter’s starts at 4.30pm and by 4pm there’s already a queue of festival goers snaking down the church drive. Inside, the church fills quickly and there’s a lively and expectant atmosphere for Budleigh’s beloved ‘bard’.
The lady next to me says; “For the last couple of years she’s told us that she hasn’t finished The Mirror and the Light yet. I wonder if it’s finished now.”
“I haven’t yet finished The Mirror and the Light!” announces Hilary Mantel as she arrives onstage.
What I learnt:
- The Wolf Hall universe now includes books, tv programmes, a stage play, a CD of the stage cast singing and a cast football team called Wolf Hall Wanderers; who are yet to win a match.
- The Wolf Hall tv programme was filmed using natural light and candlelight. Female cast members told Mantel that they spent large parts of their time on set afraid they were going to catch on fire. “Welcome to the Tudor World!” says Hilary.
- Mantel was writing new material for The Mirror and the Light while she was working on the stage adaptation of Wolf Hall in New York. One night she wrote a new scene in flashback between Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Moore and gave it to the actors playing those roles. From that point on they played the roles slightly differently as they incorporated the new information in to their performances.
- After visiting the set of Wolf Hall Mantel found herself stuck on a country lane while a convoy of trucks moved props to the next filming location. It occurred to her that very few authors find themselves in a traffic jam with the products of their own imagination.
- Household accounts were an important primary source for Mantel’s research. She used them to understand how Cromwell managed his home and family. The accounts show what things are in the household, but not how they got there, so Mantel has to imagine what happened. In The Mirror and the Light she explains the appearance of a leopard.
- Mantel is very, very, very funny. Her eyelash anecdote is hilarious and she seems to genuinely enjoy making the crowd laugh.
Two incredible sessions and my head is buzzing with new information. We have a walk along the seafront in the evening sunshine and then back home for wine and spicy chicken. Two days down; one to go…