Mark Mills: ‘I’m deep in research for the next book’ | Interview

April 9, 2014, Article by Tom in Books

Mark Mills, author of THE LONG SHADOW, answers our questions…

Mark, THE LONG SHADOW covers the complex relationship between two friends over time. Was balancing the different time strands difficult?

Balancing is the right word. It’s a question of what to reveal and when in each of the time periods so that the two narratives are continually complementing each other, feeding off each other, but not in a way that leaps out at the reader. I suppose it’s like flashbacks in film – they don’t work if they feel too expositional.

Were there any books in particular that you’ve read or that you were reading whilst writing THE LONG SHADOW that were especially influential?

It’s my first contemporary novel, and therefore the first time I haven’t had to steep myself in months of research before turning on the laptop. The only book I read specifically for the novel was ‘The Big Short’, Michael Lewis’ superb account of those who made a mint from the 2008 financial crisis by betting on the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage-bond market.

In THE LONG SHADOW, lead character Ben Makepeace is offered what initially seems like the dream job. But what’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

That’s tough, there have been a few! The most mindless and repetitive would have to be Eden Vale yoghurt factory in Burgess Hill back in the 1980s. I spent all day in front of a huge machine, clipping sachets of muesli to the top of yoghurt pots. There was so much noise you couldn’t hear yourself think, which was probably no bad thing!

Ben is a proud father; how much has your writing changed since you had children?

That’s interesting. I was writing screenplays when we first had kids, and I remember a distinct shift in my tastes when it came to the sort of material I was drawn to. Graphic tales about serial killers were in at the time (as they are now) and I definitely felt more soiled at the end of a day’s work, to the point that I eventually turned my back on those kind of projects.

What’s next for you? Have you started thinking about your next novel? Or are there any other projects on the horizon?

I’m deep in research for the next book. It’s a crime/mystery thriller set in the 1930s, a pan-European chase, quite different from my other novels, which take place in clearly defined, rather static locations.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished reading ‘Land’s Edge’ by Tim Winton (the quiet power of his prose is something else). Next up is some research, a book on life in the East Anglian Fens in the 1920s.

Moving away from books: we know know you’re a big Arsenal fan, so how hopeful are you for the Gunners next season? Arsene knows or Arsene goes?

Pah! Arsene knows, of course.