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Interview with Author Charlie Mackesy Pt.2

Here it is! Part 2 of our Charlie Mackesy interview! Part 1 is on our Noteworthy Posts page.

9.What comes first, the picture or the writing?

Thats a really good question but to be honest I think they both work together.

10. How long does it take you to draw the pictures?

Well if it's a very simple drawing of the boy the mole talking together, the drawing can take a minute but if it's a very involved drawing of the boy standing on a rock in a river with all the landscape around it, then that can take me an hour and a half. So it entirely depends on what the subject is. That said, the problem with those simple drawings is that the tiniest change in the mark can affect the whole mood of the drawing. I mean, because generally I did it with ink and not with a computer or anything else, you have to get it right. You just end up doing drawing after drawing. I’ve probably got 10,000 drawings to put in the book, but 99.9999% of them didn’t work or they weren’t quite right. Or the hand, or the face, or the back or the leg or the horses neck wasn’t right. So the answer to that question is that it can be quick but it's probably the result of months of drawing and building up to it, you could even say a lifetime.

10. Where do you write?

At a standing desk, an old wooden standing desk; I don't sit down. I just stand and have paper, ink and pens and just put the radio on. So in this barn, I have been for the last couple of years or in Brixton. And if I have an idea and I'm not at home I usually stick it in the notes on my phone.

b) And why standing?

I think I can draw better standing than sitting and I've never understood that until I heard that a drawing school, I think it was the Prince of Wales drawing school, refuses to let students draw sitting down. When I heard that I was really pleased to see that someone else thinks the same thing. I think that if you can draw with your whole body- if you can ,if you're able and you have the freedom to do so- when your standing you have more fluidity in your back and arm.

11. Have you always had that ability with words or did you work to develop it?

I don't know, I’m not sure if I have an ability with words. I think for me sometimes, the only ability I have with words is to get rid of the ones that I don't need, and work out which ones really matter.

12. Which of the characters do you most relate to?

I don't know, actually, I think I am genuinely pretty equal with all of them. On different days I relate to different characters. Sometimes I feel really like the Fox, and just want to withdraw from the world. Other days I feel like the boy where I just want to know why, why anything. When I feel like the mole I just want to bury my face and watch eight episodes of ‘Friends' and comfort myself with crisps and cake. But other days, if a friend calls me, I talk to them and try to be wise like the horse. It's interesting about the horse because the more I think about it the more I realise that the horse is just as vulnerable as the other three. The horse has been rejected because he can fly and why was he in the wood? Why was he alone? And he's in pain, they drew him out of the woods and they drew him out to play. They pulled him out of his own self isolation, self exclusion. So in answer to your question, all of them in equal measure.

13. Do you have ideas for others books?

Not really, I mean I think we probably might, I think we will stick with the same four characters if we do another one. But I just think that if they have further to go with their journey into themselves and each other then maybe will do another one. I think this last year has been so hard for so many. There have been drawings that have come out this year that maybe we could work out how they fit into a book. I don’t know.

14. Are you going to continue the journey for The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse? If so, how?

Well we did the audiobook this year which was a journey we made, an extended journey. Then we are doing the film, which again we've had to really look deeply at the characters and work out their back story and why they are where they are and what is they fear and what did they deserve and what does it stop them from getting what they want. So I think we'll take them on in different forms, certainly in the film, maybe another book. I mean, I know it sounds mad, but I think I will just let it unfold gently. I'm not good at making big plans and so I think I'm very frustrating to work with because I just say “let it unfold, just don't force it. We can't contrive this it's like if it's there, it's there. Let it come out slowly.” So who knows where it’ll go? I know that we’ve got the film to do but beyond that, I have no idea. No idea. We’ll just keep talking about it and see where it goes.

15. Lastly, What words of wisdom would your characters have for coping with the last few months?

Be extremely kind and patient with yourself and remember to breathe and know that you're loved and that this is a very tough, very, very tough time for everyone and you're not alone. Just take take it day by day and just do what's in front of you on that day and try not to work out what's going to happen next, be in the present. Try to get into nature, even if you're in the city look at ladybirds, or the trees, or listen to the birds. I do, every morning I go out and I really enjoy looking at birds because they have a difficult life, but they have no idea about the pandemic. They’ve got no idea at all about what is going on. Neither does Barney (my dog.) I enjoy being around nature that is removed from our plight. I try to exist in it because it's the opposite of the news, it’s oblivious to everything, it's just living and I love that. So I would advise you to do all those things I've said, be gentle with yourself, be patient and forgive yourself and when you're anxious, talk about it. Don't be ashamed of what you feel ever, about anything. Because we’ll feel all kinds of things.

Your questions were brilliant, well done! It’s so good what you’re doing, this Book Review Society. It’s genius, long may it last. This was a real pleasure, thank you.


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