The Hawthornden Anglo-American Interview

With The Hours, published in 2000 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Michael Cunningham established himself as one of the great American novelists at work today. Like his hero, Virginia Woolf, he is fascinated by the interior lives of ordinary people, and believes that a novel can explore these more profoundly and precisely than a play or a film. In By Nightfall, published in January, he lifts the lid on the lives of Peter and Rebecca Harris, a New York couple who appear both comfortable and successful, but who are, in fact, ravaged by uncertainty and terror of mortality. Cunningham talks to author and former publisher Christopher Potter about why his novels never turn out quite as he expects; why he sometimes struggles – as Virginia Woolf did – to find the confidence to write at all; and why, even on a good day, he is unlikely to write more than three sentences. Chaired by Paula Johnson.