Q The National Army Museum is about to hold an exhibition War Horse: Fact and Fiction based in part on your novel War Horse. How did that come about?
The museum put on an exhibition of my friend Michael Foreman’s illustrations a few years ago that I thought was wonderful, so when there was a chance of doing this, I was very keen. It is a subject I still feel very strongly about of course – it still shocks me to think that a million horses went to war and only 65,000 came back. I’ve lent the museum the very first maquette of Joey, the horse at the heart of War Horse, that Handspring Puppets went on to make full size for the show at the National Theatre.
Q And there is more exciting news in the pipeline too, with the release of Steven Spielberg’s film of War Horse next year.
Yes. That has been fascinating. I’ve been on set to watch them film, and I can confirm that the dark side of the trenches is fully plumbed, but I haven’t seen anything more than anyone else yet, so I’ll be very interested to see the rest.
Q Were you anxious about others adapting your work?
My work was first adapted 20 years ago, so I am used to it. I have to admit I was nervous, but I was glad to see Spielberg had a copy of my book sitting on his table next to the script.
Q You say you are not a writer so much as a story maker.
Yes. I know I am not a great writer. I’m not Dickens or Tolstoy, but I have written over 120 books now, and I’ve been refining my craft from being a simple storyteller to being a story maker. My hero and mentor is Robert Louis Stevenson. Reading him you hear the music of the words and you get a real sense of excitement at the story. I just want to be able to pass that on.