Wolf Hall: author Hilary Mantel talks Tudors, historical accuracy and winning the Man Booker Prize

Hilary Mantel, author of the Thomas Cromwell novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, talks to Rob Attar about the process of writing historical fiction and shares some of the secrets of her tremendous literary success

Hilary Mantel

When did you first think of writing about Thomas Cromwell?

The idea first came to me about 40 years ago but I put it away on a shelf, if you like, tabulated under ‘good idea – might do it sometime’. I swung into action in around 2005 when I realised that the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession was coming up soon [in 2009]. I thought to myself that if there is a time to do it, this is the time.

The idea had been lying at the back of my mind but I hadn’t really been thinking about it or studying it. I was very much an 18th-century person: that was what deterred me and made me hold off. I felt so comfortably situated in the 18th century that I wondered if I had it in me to go and live in another era. But eventually I took courage, spurred on by knowing about that big anniversary.

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