Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell says JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer are like "drug pushers" - but in a good way?
The Harry Potter and Twilight series act like “crack cocaine” for young readers by giving them a life-long love for books, the author David Mitchell has said.
The work of Stephenie Meyer, author of the phenomenally successful Twilight books, is sometimes sneered at for a perceived lack of literary merit. But Mitchell, author of the Booker-nominated Cloud Atlas, said the critics are wrong.
“Look at how well Harry Potter sells. Look at how well David Walliams sells. Teen fiction and the Twilight books, John Green [author of The Fault In Our Stars] – these planetary-wide, behemoth books that just consume and are consumed by a generation.
“They’re my future readers. Bring it on,” Mitchell told an audience at the Hay Festival.
“Authors like this are the drug-pushers who get kids addicted to crack cocaine levels of an addictive drug called reading, which has only benign side effects.
“It’s wonderful for the imagination, rather than closing it down. I actually think the future for books is really pretty good.”
Mitchell is promoting his latest novel, The Bone Clocks, which features a pompous novelist named Crispin Hershey.
The literary world has its fare share of self-regarding authors, but Mitchell has no time for them.
“The moment a writer comes on dressed like Gandalf – watch out. When they start talking about, ‘Oh, the characters just take over and tell me what they want to do’ – no, I don’t think so,” he said.
“We complain like hell, but we shouldn’t. If you work in a factory in Bangladesh, you really have something to complain about. We have nothing to complain about.
“So you have a licence from me: the next time a writer says, ‘Oh, it’s so hard,’ just slap them. It’s not hard.”
The secret to good writing is the same for everything from children’s stories to Booker Prize winners, he added. “It’s the oldest trick from the Wife of Bath to Game of Thrones – you just create a character the reader can care about and worry about.
“A superlative style is a nice extra. A plot with unexpected twists and turns is always a good ride. But it’s the character, the human being, that you worry about and worry for.”