What's in a Page: Matt Haig reflects on The Midnight Library phenomenon
Last fall, Matt Haig captivated readers with The Midnight Library, a supernatural novel following protagonist Nora as she discovers a library wherein each book represents a different life she could have lived. (Imagine the literary version of Arrival meeting that really eerie bookshelf in Interstellar.) The book was a Good Morning America pick and a New York Times best-seller, among other accolades. Now, as the author prepares to launch his next title — The Comfort Book, a collection of notes and lists that offer reassurance to readers — he answers EW's burning book questions about the phenomenon that was The Midnight Library.
What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
I wrote about a day trip to London. My parents still have the piece of paper. It went like this. "I went to London. I went on a train, an UNDERGROUND train, and a taxi." The narrative was very transport-focused. I drew the pictures too, in crayon. It arguably remains my best work.
What is the last book that made you cry?
When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön. But not out of sadness. Out of a therapeutic feeling of self-acceptance.
Which book is at the top of your current to-read list?
Okay, it's a bit of a strange one, I admit, but I am really looking forward to reading a book called Entangled Life, by Merlin Sheldrake. It is a nonfiction book about fungi, so not my usual thing, but it sounds strangely fascinating and is an area I know little about.
Where do you write?
I used to write in my shed. I thought it was what a writer should do. Have a special writing place. Now, alas, I tend to just write on the sofa.
Which book made you a forever reader?
Oh, such a mean question! I will cheat and give you three: The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne; The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton; and The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene.
What is a snack you couldn't write without?
Toast and peanut butter. I am also British, so I occasionally place a layer of Marmite under the peanut butter. If toasters hadn't been invented, I doubt I could write.
If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?
More dogs. There can never be enough dogs in a story. And sometimes I forget that golden rule.
What is your favorite part of The Midnight Library?
I think the most fun for me was envisioning the actual Midnight Library itself. This infinite library between life and death where every book offers the central character Nora a chance to enter a life where she made different decisions. I struggled with the mechanics of it for ages, but when I got it, I knew it felt right.
What was the hardest plot point or character to write?
The hardest thing, aside from envisaging all of Nora's lives, was talking about the mental health themes in a way that was honest but also not pessimistic. I think it is an optimistic and hopeful novel, but it took a lot of work to get the balance of dark and light where it needed to be.
Write a movie poster tag line for the book:
"One library. Infinite lives."