The Book Thief: The Man Behind the Story

A couple of years ago, I caved and bought a copy of The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. The story centers around a young girl named Liesl, and her life in Germany at the height of Hitler’s reign of terror. The story takes us through the girl’s adolescence and the effect the war has on her relationships, but most uniquely, the story is narrated by Death himself.

It’s an interesting, devastating take on one of the darkest times in world history, and I found myself researching the author to find out what compelled him to write something like this. In this interview with The Guardian, author Marcus Zusak offers a look at his own childhood and the things that inspired his work.

Here is a brief sampling of the Q&A session, which you can check out in its entirety by clicking this link: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/mar/28/whyiwrite.

When you were growing up did you have books in your home?
I think we had just about every Doctor Seuss book available in Australia. My parents couldn’t speak English when they came here, so it was important to them that their children at least had the chance to be good communicators, as well as good readers and writers of English. A lot of my childhood memories seem to have books in the picture.

What made you want to write when you were starting out?
I wanted to be a writer when I was 16 and read the right books for me. It was that feeling of turning pages and not even realising it – I was so immersed in the world of each book. That was when I looked up from the pages and thought, “That’s what I want to do with my life.” I decided that I was going to be a writer and that nothing was going to stop me.

What advice would you give to new writers?
Don’t be afraid to fail. I fail every day. I failed thousands of times writing The Book Thief, and that book now means everything to me. Of course, I have many doubts and fears about that book, too, but some of what I feel are the best ideas in it came to me when I was working away for apparently no result. Failure has been my best friend as a writer. It tests you, to see if you have what it takes to see it through.

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