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Author Markus Zusak Reveals Process Behind "Bridge Of Clay"

Charity Nebbe
Iowa Public Radio
Author Markus Zusak joins Talk of Iowa to discuss his latest book: Bridge of Clay.

Thirteen years after the release of his internationally bestselling novel, The Book Thief, author Markus Zusak has emerged with a novel he describes as his most personal yet. 

Bridge of Clay tells the story of five brothers living alone together after their mother's death and their father's abandonment. The fourth brother dreams of achieving greatness through building a bridge. As the nonlinear plot jumps through time, the many pieces of the boys' lives are revealed. 

Zusak says the first spark of inspiration for the novel came to him more than 20 years ago while walking around Sydney, Australia.  He began imagining a boy by the name of Clayton crafting a bridge. 

"It was always about that idea of this kid that wanted to build this beautiful thing," Zusak says.

He rewrote multiple manuscripts over the course of 20 years before settling on its finalized version.  At times, he halted the novel completely while laboring over the details. Zusak edited the book so meticulously he knew all of the over 500 pages like the back of his hand, he says. 

"I think that every book is its own life," Zusak says. "It's like learning a new language." 

Zusak says the beginning, ending, and title of a book are often the first things he comes up with while establishing a new story. In the case of Bridge of Clay, Zusak wanted to convey in the title that Clayton poured himself into the molding of the bridge.

While discussing the writing process, Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe and Zusak also talk about the inspirations behind Zusak's most well-known work, The Book Thief, which follows a young girl living in Nazi Germany.

This program originally aired on October 21, 2019.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa