Don't expect any more historical fiction from me, says Hilary Mantel

Writer tells Edinburgh festival audience she wants to focus on short stories and theatre

Hilary Mantel has spent the last 15 years consumed by Tudor intrigue and writing award-winning historical fiction, but fans should not expect much more in that vein.

“I haven’t got another big historical novel in view,” she told the Edinburgh international books festival on Sunday. “I think that’s quite important to say, so I hope people will stop writing to me with suggestions. It’s lovely that people have the appetite for it but considering the pace at which I proceed, I would like some life before it’s too late.”

Mantel published the final instalment of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, to much acclaim in the spring. The previous books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, both won the Booker prize and she is the bookmakers’ favourite to win again this year.

It had been an all-consuming experience, she said in conversation with the Guardian’s chief culture writer, Charlotte Higgins. “I will frankly say that the last three, four years particularly have been hard. I haven’t really had any break or downtime in between.”

Her entanglement with Thomas Cromwell continues because she is involved heavily with a stage adaptation, hopefully to be put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company next year, and to a lesser extent with a planned BBC television adaptation of the third novel.

She said she was “increasingly interested in working in the theatre”, with plans to disinter “my box full of scenes for other plays”.

Mantel also wants to devote more time to short stories. She had ideas while she was writing The Mirror and the Light and scribbled things down for three hours before putting them in a box.

She said: “It may be that none of them will work out. I don’t have a great strike rate with short stories. I often find they fall over and I have to abandon them, but I’d like to see if there’s any potential there.”

Whatever comes next, Mantel said she was determined it would not be “some sort of mere coda” or “a sort of tailing off of effort. I think I can do original work. What I hope is, I might surprise myself.”


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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