In the run up to Christmas, we’ve been doing some fun online things, and what finer way to close off our Twitter live chats for 2015 than with Matt Haig, author of The Humans, Reasons to Stay Alive, and the seasonal delight A Boy Called Christmas? Here’s a little recap of the Q&A, or as Matt put it, “It’s kind of like a Christmas party, but a sober one on Twitter where you just ask me questions.”
We start with his latest, A Boy Called Christmas. “I wrote it – like the whole book – to cheer me up. My son asked me ‘What was Santa like as a boy?’ A Boy Called Christmas was my answer.” Matt is a man of many genres – so what next? “I’d love to do a horror, and tried once,” he says, “but I scared myself, so put a Labrador in it.”
Reasons to Stay Alive has been a revelation in bringing mental health into the public consciousness – did he anticipate the success? “Absolutely not. No one did. A book about depression? Who’d want to read that. So it was nice.” It has also been described by many as life saving – are there any books which have had a similar effect on him? “Lots. Fiction. Stories do that. Because they help you believe in change. The Outsiders, The Power and the Glory.”
Which book is he most envious of? “I envy every single book I enjoy. There is too much talent in the world.” Or the classic he would have liked to author? “Hamlet. I mean, I know it’s not a book. But ‘I wrote Hamlet’ would be a good line at dinner parties.” And his favourite fictional characters? “Anna Karenina. Madame Bovary. Childe Harold. Or Huck Finn. Actually, Huck Finn.”
What are his tips for editing a novel? “Tip for writing: love yourself,” says Matt. “Tip for editing: hate yourself. And delete half of everything.” Another person questions, to accept an independent publisher’s contract or keep trying for an agent? “Can’t you do both? Get your work out there. Get it liked. Agents like that.”
When did Matt first realise that writing was his thing, and if it hadn’t worked out, what would he be doing now? “Scary question,” he notes. “I felt I had to write because [I] was agoraphobic/anxious and couldn’t do proper work.”
In a Christmas theme, if he could have a good ol’ Christmas dinner with any author (dead or alive), who would it be? “Emily Bronte. I’d just be, like, wow, I’m having Christmas dinner with Emily Bronte.”
And what are his favourite Christmas movies? “Top 4 Christmas movies: 1. Scrooge. (1968). 2. It’s A Wonderful Life. 3. Scrooged. 4. Elf.” Speaking of Elf, what’s his favourite colour? “Indigo. Because it sounds as nice as it looks.”
Let’s close with his next projects: A Girl Called Christmas, novel for grown-ups about a 400 year old man, a screenplay, non-fic.
We can’t wait!