Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks both prove that author David Mitchell has an incredible knack for world-building. So it's probably not a huge surprise that he was obsessed with Tolkien as a child, to the point of drawing his own maps of Middle Earth.
Talking to the Irish Times, Mitchell praises George R.R. Martin as "a world-building genius" who's created a massive cathedral in the form of A Song of Ice and Fire. And then there's this tantalizing tidbit:
Tolkien was his first literary love. Mitchell spent time as a child in Malvern, England (whose landscape inspired Tolkein), drawing his own maps of Middle Earth, "inventing all that was happening in the lands beyond the edges of the story".
In previous interviews, Mitchell has made it sound more like he became obsessed with the maps in Tolkien novels, and then graduated to drawing his own maps of fantasy lands. Either way, the notion of the young Mitchell being inspired by Tolkien to draw his own fantasy maps is kind of awesome.
In the same interview, Mitchell says it's silly to worry about whether a book is "high-brow" or "low-brow" — that's not what you should be thinking about as you read:
I mean, who cares? I am more interested in whether a book is any good or not. That's what counts. When you are reading, you should just, well, not be thinking at all. Are you held by the narrative? Are you nourished by the ideas? Are you pleased by the style? Are you mostly oblivious or admiring of the structure? If you are, great: the author has reeled you in and it is working. That's all – and it's a huge all – but that is all I am concerned with. How it is read: I cannot possibly control that. It's a bit like asking a duck-billed platypus what type of a mammal he should be. He is just busy going about business as duck-billed platypus.
The whole thing is definitely worth checking out. [The Irish Times]