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‘The Book Thief’ Author Talks About Writing April 24, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Book Reviews, On Writing.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

zusakFollowing my book review of The Book Thief by Australian author Markus Zusak, I decided to look a little deeper into the life of this wonderful writer.  And so I came across a series of videos from Sutherland Shire Library in Australia, where Markus Zusak (who grew up in Sutherland) discusses his childhood experiences and how he came to write The Book Thief.

What struck me as amazing (and gave me plenty of both hope and despair) was how much Zuzak struggled to write The Book Thief.  Reading it, you would have thought that the words must have flown effortlessly from his pen (or fingers), but reality could not have been more different.  He claims that it took him 2 years (!) to write the first half of the book, where he struggled especially with the point of view the story would be told from and the characteristics of the narrator.  But when he figured it all out, it took only a month to write the second half of the book!  Further, he says that he revised the first 90 pages of the book 150-200 times just to get it right!  Wow.  Success really doesn’t come easily.

The video is split into 3 parts.  Click on the links to see them.

Part I – Zusak discusses his childhood through a funny memory, and uses it as a lesson in storytelling before discussing how he came to write The Book Thief.

Part II – Zusak answers questions about The Book Thief and writing in general.

Part III – Zusak concludes the talk with a story about the impact of his work on people and a short passage from the book.

PS: I’ve been hearing rumors of a possible film version of The Book Thief.  IMDB has a preliminary listing for it with a 2010 release date.  While this doesn’t surprise me, I wonder how they’ll convert the book onto the big screen.  It’s certainly not going to be easy and the results could potentially be disastrous if they don’t do it right!



1. Alexander Field - April 25, 2009

I haven’t read this book yet, but I may have to check it out now. Thanks for the links to the videos…I love reading about authors whose words seem brilliant, though they struggle just like me to get them on the page…. : )

pacejmiller - April 26, 2009

Likewise mate. Though I still like to think I struggle more than they do, hehe.

2. Nate - April 25, 2009

Very cool. Yeah, it is quite surprising…in a way I guess, when you find out that X book took the author quite a long time to finish, especially after you read it and think that it all was so seamless, everything so well connected, no holes, etc. that it’s hard to think they struggled to come up with it all during the writing process; wrote themselves into a tight spot and had to regroup until they could work it all out. And yet to me that shows you a truly gifted writer, and a natural. If you can challenge yourself, not give up and press on until you know it’s perfect without taking any short cuts? That’s magic. A good example, and the second book that I’m going to recommend to ya, (if you haven’t read it already) is Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.” It took her 10, TEN! years to work every detail of the plot out and finish it, but boy if that book isn’t flat out a perfectly written masterpiece from cover to cover! There are really brilliant books out there that I love that have a flaw or two or a few through out, but not “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.” That book along with “The Shadow of the Wind” are the representation of what I want to be able to achieve. I may never get quite up there, but it’s nice to have a goal, to challenge yourself to be that good. Oh, what’s “Jonathan” about? I’m actually doing a post about it later on today, that’ll be a better explanation than giving you a quick summary here. I’ll let you know when it’s posted.

pacejmiller - April 26, 2009

No, I’ve heard to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (sounds very interesting) but haven’t had a chance to read that either! (Added to the list). 10 years. I don’t know if I can last that long…looking forward to read what you have to say about it!

3. Juliette Le Corre - May 10, 2010

i read his book as an assigment in my history class and i absolutly adored it. it made me break down and cry at the end but i guess thats what good books do to people. =) love julie

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