You write a character we can root for, and then throw them into jeopardy.

– David Mitchell, on how to construct a narrative

David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and the new novel The Bone Clocks, came to the Kabuki Theater in Japantown to answer questions about life, writing, and literature in a lovely event hosted by The Booksmith.

MITCHELL_BoneClocksThe Kabuki Theatre is huge and immaculate, and reminds one more of a symphony hall than a movie theater. It’s the kind of place that you may not need to wear a necktie to visit but, hey, since you wore a tie you look great and fit right in. There was a VIP cocktail hour for those who wanted to mingle with Mitchell before the event; everyone ate, drank, and made merry, including Mitchell, who mentioned he was weakened by a cold but still managed to be exceptionally congenial to friends and fans alike.

The Booksmith’s gem Amy Stephenson introduced David Mitchell and Pulitzer prize-winning Adam Johnson (The Orphan Master’s Son), who would star as the Q in the Q&A. The event began with Mitchell giving an impassioned reading from The Bone Clocks. Adam I-would-go-on-a-road-trip-with-Humbert-Humbert Johnson immediately joked with Mitchell about being fathers and watching children grow (“they grow up so fast…”) and “the right amount of cocaine” to write. There was laughter, as well as a truly meaty discussion of literature and writing.

At one point, Mitchell said, “Purely likable characters aren’t likable, they’re irritating.” With regard to the structure of his books, which tend to portray seemingly unconnected narratives that tie together with mystical threads, Johnson asked Mitchell point-blank if he believed that people in the real world are really that interconnected. Mitchell’s elegant response, “it isn’t mysticism, but mimesis,” spoke both about his view as a writer and a human—that we really are all tied in a tight web. Many kudos must go out to The Booksmith for hosting this top-notch discussion.

Photo credit: Turi Fesler

IMG_20140118_173902Christopher Patrick Steffen is a bartender in San Francisco. He wrote the short story collection Thank You for Supporting Our Dreams and the novel The End of All Things Planned For