Gordon Darroch interviews Wu Ming 1 in the Herald Scotland:
GD: So are you using historic warfare to raise a point about modern warfare and the way it’s been sanitised and turned into an export industry? Is that why the description of the violence is so explicit? I found some of the battle scenes had an epic, Virgillian quality in the way they described every slash and thrust.
WM1: Thank you for calling our writing “Virgilian”, I’m a big fan of the Aeneid. The difference with the ancient classic epics is that we try to stress the sense of loss and waste in every single death. There’s no glory in Manituana, even heroic deeds are impregnated with sorrow, they leave a bitter taste in the characters’ (and the readers’) mouths. We tried to describe the acts of dying and giving death with utter honesty. Violent death is always disgusting. Sometimes it may be necessary (for self-defence etc.), but that doesn’t make it less disgusting. Dread Jack’s death is disgusting, even if it’s told in a farcical way. And think of the way we describe torture in Manituana.
GD: What are the problems – or challenges, if you prefer – involved in writing a novel with four people? How do you resolve disputes? Is there a set structure and editing process? How do you ensure cohesion of style, narrative and character – or am I wrong to suppose these are important to you?
WM1: You aren’t wrong at all, they are extremely important to us. We have no fixed method, the way we work evolves with every book, because we evolve, our lives evolve. For example, when we wrote Q none of us had children, now three of us are fathers. That doesn’t only change your perspective, it also changes your days, the way you have to organise your time etc. Of course, the most important thing is that we’ve been friends for so many years, we’ve shared so many experiences that there’s almost telepathy between us. The methods we adopt for writing together wouldn’t work for anyone else, that’s the reason it is difficult to explain them. We usually resort to two examples: collective improvisation in jazz and 1970’s “Total Football”. We’re a cross between a jazz combo and one of those old Dutch football teams.
GD: Hang on – you’re from a country that’s won the World Cup four times and you’d rather play like the Dutch? To a Scot, that just sounds perverse!
WM1: Italy stole the 2006 World Cup. Australia deserved to win the second-round match. Grosso dived to win the penalty, Totti scored it, Italy reached the quarter-finals. I was so ashamed, I wrote to all my Australian friends and acquaintances to apologise.