Monday, October 20, 2008

China Miéville interview

In Horizon Review, Steve Haynes talks to Guild member China Miéville.
You’ve said that you plan meticulously and are ‘Never surprised’ by your characters. This surprises me because I often feel there is something organic about your books, as though there is something playful about how the story evolves? How do you plan? Is there an element of rolling-the-dice or game play?

I have a set of images or scenes in my head in my head, or a certain kind of emotional tone which I know I want to put in. I make a list of those scenes and then I try and string a narrative between them. The characters emerge from that. Then I plot all that out and then go through it. As it changes, as I go down, if I realise I’ve got something wrong, then I’ll stop for it and cascade that change all the way down, so that I’ll change it as I go along if necessary. There is an element of, I wouldn’t say rolling-the-dice exactly, but I do like randomness and I like that kind of element of spontaneous chance. It’s quite like an Oulipo strategy where you put restrictions in place before you go. So for example, in one of my books I’ll ask my partner to invent an alien and present it to me as a fait accompli and then I have to put that in, so that sort of thing. I like those restrictions and then a lot of ideas come from … I’m working on something at the moment which is entirely pegged upon a misheard word. I got really excited about it, realised I misheard it, but decided to take that word very seriously. So there’s an element of trying to tap into those spontaneous moments which I suppose, if you wanted to be self-important about it, you’d say it was a surrealist strategy because it’s that kind of chance juxtaposition.


  1. Thanks for the interview! I'm always calmed to hear that authors still use the sturdy outlining process... I wander blind without it, myself, and actually find freedom in the dicipline!

  2. Good interview, I love hearing how other writers actually write.

    Interviewers are always horrified by the notion of outlines, or anything other than a freeform-jazz, throw words at the page and see what sticks Jackson Pollock approach to writing. Why is that?


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