Mitchell says that "the truth is, I've never experienced a novel-sized eureka moment. My books coagulate, very slowly indeed, in a gloppy primordial idea-soup."
Cloud Atlas (2004) was inspired by an accretion of ideas around cultural drift and forgetting, russian-doll structures, interrupted narratives, ambiguous master-student relationships, and the Nietzschean will to exercise power over others.
The rest of the story is trial and error, rewrites, red sheep, wild herrings, brilliant ideas that became risible on the page and emails to my patient editor at Sceptre. But, many months later, Cloud Atlas got written. The gap between pristine perfection and the actual book remains a gap, but hopefully I've learnt how to make the gap narrower next time.
Note to self (and to prospective writers): keep reading omnivorously. All our relationships, shallow and deep alike, begin with chance encounters.
More How we work.