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Hilary Mantel's Quotes

Hilary Mantel profile photo

Born: 1952-07-06
Profession: Writer
Nation: English
Biography of Hilary Mantel

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Like many people, I am addicted to the physical act of reading.

Tags: Act, Physical, Reading

Memory isn't a theme; it's part of the human condition.

Tags: Condition, Human, Memory

Much historical fiction that centers on real people has always been deficient in information, lacking in craft and empty in affect.

Tags: Empty, Fiction, Real

My first career ambitions involved turning into a boy; I intended to be either a railway guard or a knight errant.

Tags: Career, Either, Involved

My first two novels were very black comedies.

Tags: Black, Comedies, Novels

My thoughts have been the thing I can rely on.

Tags: Rely, Thoughts

Novels teach you that actions have consequences. They help you grow up.

Tags: Actions, Grow, Help

Psychics tap into what is collective: our regret and our sense of time going by; our common repression and anxieties.

Tags: Regret, Sense, Time

'Show up at the desk' is one of the first rules of writing, but for 'Wolf Hall' I was about 30 years late.

Tags: Rules, Show, Writing

Since I was a very small child, I've had a kind of reverence for the past, and I felt a very intimate connection with it.

Tags: Child, Past, Small

The more history I learnt, the less interested I got in winning arguments and the more interested in establishing the truth.

Tags: History, Truth, Winning

What fascinates me are the turning points where history could have been different.

Tags: History, Points, Turning

When you get fat, you get a new personality. You can't help it. Complete strangers ascribe it to you.

Tags: Fat, Help, Strangers

When you write, you are not either sex. But when you're read you are definitely gendered.

Tags: Read, Sex, Write

'Wolf Hall' attempts to duplicate not the historian's chronology but the way memory works: in leaps, loops, flashes.

Tags: Memory, Wolf, Works

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be.

Tags: Lost, Music, Sleep

Back in my 20s, when I wrote 'A Place of Greater Safety,' the French Revolution novel, I thought, 'I'll always have to write historical novels because I can't do plots.'' But in the six years of writing that novel, I actually learned to write, to invent things.

Tags: Revolution, Thought, Writing

Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change. This is especially important for historical fiction. When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that's the point to step back and fill in the details of their world.

Tags: Change, Character, Energy

Fiction isn't made by scraping the bones of topicality for the last shreds and sinews, to be processed into mechanically recovered prose. Like journalism, it deals in ideas as well as facts, but also in metaphors, symbols and myths.

Tags: Facts, Ideas, Last

Fiction leaves us so much work to do, allows the individual so much input; you have to see, you have to hear, you have to taste the madeleine, and while you are seemingly passive in your chair, you have to travel.

Tags: Travel, While, Work
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For myself, the only way I know how to make a book is to construct it like a collage: a bit of dialogue here, a scrap of narrative, an isolated description of a common object, an elaborate running metaphor which threads between the sequences and holds different narrative lines together.

Tags: Between, Book, Together

I once dreamed a whole short story. Wrapped in its peculiar atmosphere, as if draped in clouds, I walked entranced to my desk at about 4 A.M. and typed it on to the screen.

Tags: Once, Short, Whole

I once stole a book. It was really just the once, and at the time I called it borrowing. It was 1970, and the book, I could see by its lack of date stamps, had been lying unappreciated on the shelves of my convent school library since its publication in 1945.

Tags: Book, School, Time

I spend a great deal of time on research, on finding all the available accounts of a scene or incident, finding out all the background details and the biographies of the people involved there, and I try to run up all the accounts side by side to see where the contradictions are, and to look where things have gone missing.

Tags: Great, Time, Try

I think if I hadn't become a writer I would just have suppressed that part of my personality. I think I would have put it in a box that I never opened.

Tags: Become, Put, Writer

If you skew the endocrine system, you lose the pathways to self. When endocrine patterns change, it alters the way you think and feel. One shift in the pattern tends to trip another.

Tags: Another, Change, Self

In my 20s I was in constant pain from undiagnosed endometriosis. With no prospect of a cure, I decided I needed a career - writing - that could accommodate being ill.

Tags: Career, Pain, Writing

It follows that if you are not a mother you are not a grandmother. Your life has become unpunctuated, whereas the lives of other women around you have these distinct phases.

Tags: Life, Mother, Women

It is difficult to know how the Tudors actually spoke because we're going back before Shakespeare; much of the drama from that period is courtly, allegorical.

Tags: Actually, Difficult, Drama

Life being so short, and the possible books to write so many, it's good to function by night as well as by day; but would anybody become a writer if they realised at the outset what the working hours were?

Tags: Good, Life, Night

My childhood gave me a very powerful sense of being spooked. I didn't know whether what I was seeing were sensory images of other people's unhappiness. Perhaps that was just the way the world manifested itself to me.

Tags: Powerful, Sense, Whether

Novelists, it seems to me, are the very last people who should be asked to comment on the news of the day, and sooner or later, when they have been pilloried for their views, most of them recognise this.

Tags: Last, News, Seems

Sometimes I fantasize that all my furniture has been destroyed in a cataclysm, and I have to start again with only the stationery catalogue. My entire house would become an office, which would be an overt recognition of the existing state of affairs.

Tags: Become, Sometimes, Start

Sometimes people ask, 'Does writing make you happy?' But I think that's beside the point. It makes you agitated, and continually in a state where you're off balance. You seldom feel serene or settled.

Tags: Happy, Sometimes, Writing

Sometimes you buy a book, powerfully drawn to it, but then it just sits on the shelf. Maybe you flick through it, the ghost of your original purpose at your elbow, but it's not so much rereading as re-dusting. Then one day you pick it up, take notice of the contents; your inner life realigns.

Tags: Book, Life, Sometimes

The experienced writer says to the anguished novice: 'Just do it; get something, anything, on to the screen or page, just establish a flow of words, and criticise them later.' You give this advice but can't always take it.

Tags: Advice, Give, Words

The novelist has a responsibility to adhere to the facts as closely as possible, and if they are inconvenient, that's where the art comes in. You must work with intractable facts and find the dramatic shape inside them.

Tags: Art, Possible, Work

The old always think the world is getting worse; it is for the young, equipped with historical facts, to point out that, compared with 1509, or even 1939, life in 2009 is sweet as honey.

Tags: Life, Old, Young

There are plenty of books that tell you how to become a writer, but not one that suggests how, if you want a normal life, you might reverse the process.

Tags: Become, Life, Tell

Though I have never thought of myself as a book collector, there are shelves in our house browsed so often, on so many rainy winter nights, that the contents have seeped into me as if by osmosis.

Tags: Book, Rainy, Thought

What really disconcerts commentators, I suspect, is that when they read historical fiction, they feel their own lack of education may be exposed; they panic, because they don't know which bits are true.

Tags: Education, May, True

When I was a child, there was very little money, so I've always been concerned for my financial security, which has meant that finding myself as a writer was a bad move. The practical difference the money has made is that I can support myself by fiction. That is what I have been trying to do throughout my life.

Tags: Bad, Life, Money

When I was thin, I had no notion of what being fat is like. When I worked in a department store, I had sold clothes to women of most sizes, so I should have known; but perhaps you have to experience the state from the inside, to understand what fat is like.

Tags: Experience, Understand, Women

When I wrote about the French Revolution, I didn't choose to write about aristocrats; I chose characters who began their lives in provincial obscurity.

Tags: Lives, Revolution, Write

When narratives fracture, when words fail, I take consolation from the part of my life that always works: the stationery order. The mail-order stationery people supply every need from royal blue Quink to a dazzling variety of portable hard drives.

Tags: Hard, Life, Words

When you have committed enough words to paper, you feel you have a spine stiff enough to stand up in the wind. But when you stop writing, you find that's all you are - a spine, a row of rattling vertebrae, dried out like an old quill pen.

Tags: Enough, Words, Writing

Write a book you'd like to read. If you wouldn't read it, why would anybody else? Don't write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book's ready.

Tags: Book, May, Time

Writers displace their anxiety on to the tools of the trade. It's better to say that you haven't got the right pencil than to say you can't write, or to blame your computer for losing your chapter than face up to your feeling that it's better lost.

Tags: Blame, Feeling, Lost

Writers do not want to think they are less rational than other people, and at the mercy of compulsions, but in their hearts they know they are like those people who are taken for walks by their dogs, towed through hedges and ditches by an untrained sub-human energy.

Tags: Energy, Less, Taken

Writing comes from that territory of being invalidated. But I had a sense of purpose, too. I wanted to stop apologising for my health, and I thought I might do some good.

Tags: Good, Health, Writing

You can control and censor a child's reading, but you can't control her interpretations; no one can guess how a message that to adults seems banal or ridiculous or outmoded will alter itself and evolve inside the darkness of a child's heart.

Tags: Control, Heart, Her

I'm one of these children who grew up at the knee of my grandmother and her elder sister, listening to very old people talk about their memories.

Tags: Children, Old, Talk

Once you're labeled as mentally ill, and that's in your medical notes, then anything you say can be discounted as an artefact of your mental illness.

Tags: Illness, Medical, Once

But an experienced reader is also a self-aware and critical reader. I can't remember ever reading a story without judging it.

Tags: Judging, Remember, Story

Imagination only comes when you privilege the subconscious, when you make delay and procrastination work for you.

Tags: Delay, Privilege, Work

History offers us vicarious experience. It allows the youngest student to possess the ground equally with his elders; without a knowledge of history to give him a context for present events, he is at the mercy of every social misdiagnosis handed to him.

Tags: Experience, History, Knowledge

A novel should be a book of questions, not a book of answers.

Tags: Book, Novel, Questions

As a writer, you owe it to yourself not to get stuck in a rut of looking at the world in a certain way.

Tags: Looking, Writer, Yourself

Fear of commitment lies behind the fear of writing.

Tags: Fear, Lies, Writing

For many imaginative writers, working for the press is a fact of their life. But it's best not to like it too much.

Tags: Best, Life, Working

Hindsight is the historian's necessary vice.

Tags: Hindsight, Necessary, Vice

History is always changing behind us, and the past changes a little every time we retell it.

Tags: History, Past, Time

I am usually protective of my work, not showing it to anyone until it has been redrafted and polished.

Tags: Anyone, Until, Work

I am very happy in second-hand bookshops; would a gardener not be happy in a garden?

Tags: Garden, Gardener, Happy

I didn't cry much after I was 35, but staggered stony-faced into middle age, a handkerchief still in my bag just in case.

Tags: After, Age, Cry

I dislike pastiche; it attracts attention to the language only.

Tags: Attention, Dislike, Language

I spend a lot of my time talking to the dead, but since I get paid for it, no one thinks I'm mad.

Tags: Dead, Mad, Time

I think I would have been a reasonably good lawyer. I have a faculty for making sense of mountains of information.

Tags: Good, Making, Sense

I think it took me half a page of 'Wolf Hall' to think: 'This is the novel I should have been writing all along.'

Tags: Along, Half, Writing

I would have been a disaster as a career politician. I would never have toed a party line.

Tags: Career, Line, Party

I'm a very organised and rational and linear thinker, and you have to stop all that to write a novel.

Tags: Novel, Stop, Write

I've got so many ideas, and sometimes the more exhausted my body gets, the more active my mind gets.

Tags: Body, Mind, Sometimes

If you have a good story idea, don't assume it must form a prose narrative. It may work better as a play, a screenplay or a poem. Be flexible.

Tags: Good, May, Work

Insights don't usually arrive at my desk, but go into notebooks when I'm on the move. Or half-asleep.

Tags: Desk, Insights, Move

Like a historian, I interpret, select, discard, shape, simplify. Unlike a historian, I make up people's thoughts.

Tags: Shape, Simplify, Thoughts

Like every writer, I'm drawn by unlikely juxtapositions, precisely-dated and once-only collisions between people from different worlds.

Tags: Between, Worlds, Writer
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