Michael Morpurgo interview talks War Horse, success and more

Telegraph had an interview with the author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo.

He discussed his childhood, fame and many other topics. Here’s some excerpts.

How did War Horse become so successful?

War Horse was my sixth book, published in 1982, and it did not sell very well. For years after, it sold about 2,000 copies a year. That was the maximum, and my publishers, bless their hearts, kept it in print, along with all my books. I am very grateful to Egmont and I’m sure now they are very grateful to themselves.

The book was discovered 21 years later, by accident. I was on Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 in 2003 when I was Children’s Laureate and my work was becoming better known.

One of the listeners was the mother of the artistic director at the National Theatre, Tom Morris, and after reading War Horse herself she told her son to read it. He was looking for a story with an animal at its heart because he wanted to work with hand string puppets and bring them to the National Theatre. So it was pure luck.

Two years later the play comes out, and it is a huge hit that goes to the West End, Broadway and now Canada and Australia, then a nationwide American tour in June this year.

In 2009 Kathy Kennedy, the producer who works with Steven Spielberg, walks into the New London Theatre to see the play because her daughter was mad on horses. She then phoned Spielberg and told him this would be his next film!

He came to London within two weeks and was bowled over by the play. Then he went to the Imperial War Museum to research the role of horses in the First World War. The way it all happened is better than any of my stories. War Horse has now sold well over 1 million copies.

Has War Horse changed your life?

It has made all the difference in the world. The most important gift it has given us is not to have to worry about money, because there has always been a slight anxiety. It has been wonderful for my pension, and has allowed us to ensure our grandchildren’s education. And we’ve been able to donate to our own charity, Farms for City Children.

There is a downside to it as well, which is an assumption that you are super rich. You are not, actually. It is very nice and completely unexpected but you have got to go on writing.

If you are not careful you can alienate yourself from others. I do think there is great danger in the corruption of money because it divides people. I am really pleased this has happened to me coming up to 70.

When I was younger I think it would have gone to my head. Now I am too old for anything to go to my head. It is not the same as winning the Lottery.

What is your most treasured possession?

My favourite possession is a long multicoloured scarf that took my wife a year to knit.

Michael Morpurgo’s latest books are ‘Sparrow: The True Story of Joan of Arc’ and ‘Outlaw: The Story of Robin Hood’ (Harper Collins Children’s Books)


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