Matt Haig talks ‘How to Stop Time’

By Maria Vakmann

The marquee was packed to the maximum with readers and writers of all ages. They came to listen to bestselling author Matt Haig unpack his latest novel in a conversation with novelist Eleanor Updale.

Matt’s book, How to Stop Time, tells the story of 439-year-old Tom Hazard who has a rare medical condition making him age much slower than everyone else. Tom has been alive for centuries, since the 16th century to be precise. Yet, he looks like your average 40-something man. It has action, fantasy and a love story all packed into one. ‘In the heart of the book there is definitely a love story,’ admitted Matt. ‘Tom goes on a quest to find his possible daughter who might have the same condition as him,’ he continues to spill. Matt also confesses to it being quite an unrealistic story. ‘I like exploring the real world through fantasy and playing with time.’

One of the settings in the book is an East London school where Tom works as a history teacher, constantly having to stop himself from saying, ‘I was there’ or ‘Shakespeare had really bad breath.’ Matt explained that as he comes from a family of teachers, if he wasn’t a writer he’d probably be a teacher much like Tom from How to Stop Time. Drawing more similarities between Tom and Matt, music seems to be a big part of both of their lives. ‘I have strange taste in music. For example, I like country music, and not even good country music!’

Matt also said that having music playing in the background while writing is a necessity for him. ‘I have a playlist in my head for every book.’ For How to Stop Time it was a lot of Talking Heads and Don Henley. The book is being made into a full-length movie, and portraying Tom Hazard will be none other than Benedict Cumberbatch. There’s also an illustrated version of the book coming out next month, ‘but you should still buy the original, or the illustrated one won’t make any sense!’ laughed Matt.

Matt also spilled some exciting news for the non-fiction fans, sharing that he is currently working on a new non-fiction book about mental health and how the world is slowly driving us all mad. The new non-fiction book will be out in July, but while we’re patiently waiting, why not catch up on the rest of Matt’s work!