At the Atlantic, David Mitchell discusses his new novel, the poem he keeps above his desk, and how to write. He explains that his work involves writing about distance and time, and that requires figuring out how one culture differs from another:
Much of my work involves writing about scenes set far in the future or deep in the past. How to immerse oneself in the moment-to-moment nature of a time and place you’ve never personally experienced—and perhaps cannot?
Well, I would put a question to you. What’s the difference between you and your great great great-grandfather? What makes you different?
I think the answer is this: What you take for granted.