Adam Foulds has written three critically acclaimed books and was included by Granta Magazine on a once-a-decade list of the best of young British novelists, but he says he enjoys a non-consuming type of fame.
His next book, "In the Wolf's Mouth," is due to be published next year. His earlier novel, "The Quickening Maze," was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2009, and his narrative poem, "The Broken Word," won the Costa Book Award for Poetry and Somerset Maugham Award.
Foulds, 38, spoke to Reuters during a visit to New York to receive the E.M. Forster award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters about fame, writing techniques and his next book.
How have these prizes and fame affected your approach to your craft?
This is a non-consuming kind of fame. No one really knows who I am. Only very occasionally has someone recognized me on the street. It is not like the world reflects fame to me.
Can you describe your writing process?
I tend to be cautious about when I get to the page. I make notes. There usually are not massive changes between first and second drafts, certainly nothing significant structurally in the last few books.
I wait until I have quite clearly resolved the next step before I write. I will set up particular phrases and images that I am reaching to insert. I tend to write short chapters with intense bursts of particular experience that tessellate together.
Can you give us a preview of "In the Wolf's Mouth"?
The new book takes place during the Second World War, particularly in Sicily. I explore trauma and violence and society in a way that I had not written about in "The Broken Word."
It is an attempt at reconstruction of a country after a devastating conflict and sits at an interesting angle to contemporary attempts to do the same in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was chaotic in the sense that power sometimes wound up in the hands of the wrong people.
In the case of Sicily, the mafia really entrenched after having been driven out by the fascists, and in certain places, the Americans installed them as mayors of Sicilian towns following the Allied invasion.
This book would like to give the reader a sense of history as being very complicated and rapid in these high-conflict situations. It is one thing after another. The events are too massive to care for particular individual stories, so there are a number of stories. For a while, one is unsure if they are going to converge but they do.
Could you discuss some of these stories?
There is one character who is English and fancies himself as a Lawrence of Arabia figure, someone who can play The Great Game in shaping events both humanely and in the interests of the British Empire. The other significant character is a young Italian-American infantryman. His story is a study of post-traumatic stress disorder and what the war did to millions of individuals.
When did you begin working on this novel?
My first three books were published in successive sprints from 2007 to 2009. I was pretty tired at the end of that spell and needed to have new thoughts and look at the world for a while.
I have been lucky to receive some prizes since then ... I wrote an introduction to a new edition of Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain," which involved putting his collective works in one's inbox. I did some essays and travel projects as well. Quite soon after that prize period, I started thinking about this current project and it took a while to work my way in.
Who are some of the big influences on your writing?
I do read contemporary writing, but not as much as earlier writers. D.H. Lawrence is important to me. I have been reading Saul Bellow recently. James Salter is a new discovery for me, and I enjoy Richard Ford as well.