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Marc Burrows - The Magic of Terry Pratchett Interview

November 2023 will mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Colour of Magic, the first book in the landmark comic fantasy Discworld series by Sir Terry Pratchett OBE, one of the world’s most widely read authors.
Marc Burrows is the celebrated author of the much loved first ever biography of Sir Terry, The Magic of Terry Pratchett, which explores the life, influences, and impact of someone who is arguably one of the greatest storytellers of all time. The book received strong critical acclaim, won a Locus Award, was wholly embraced by fans. 
Marc then adapted his book into a, multimedia comic lecture, which was endorsed by the late author’s estate and which has just played at the Edinburgh Festival 2023 in the comedy section of the festival to rave reviews (and was named one of the best reviewed shows of the fringe  by the British Comedy Guide which collates all the reviews shows receive and releases a list of those who averaged the very best star rating.).

Photo by I Was There Photography

Now Marc is bring that show to the Bloomsbury Theatre on 12th October (and then later on tour in 2024). We caught up with Marc to discuss the show further.

Where did your love for Terry Pratchett begin?
I discovered Terry Pratchett when I was 12 years old, back in [YEAR REDACTED]. My parents had a friend down at the pub who had read "The Colour of Magic" and "Guards! Guards!" and knew instinctively that these books were right up my alley. So, they passed both books onto me, knowing my love for comedy and fantasy. I've always felt getting Pratchett books from a bloke down the pub is the ideal way to discover his work. After that, I went to my village library and read every single Pratchett book they had. Then, I found out you could order books from other libraries, and I was hooked—becoming a card-carrying, buy-it-on-the-day-it-comes-out, nerdy super fan.
What is it about his writing that you love?
There are two aspects of his writing that I completely adore. One is his boundless humanity; he fundamentally understands humans and how societies work. Terry is often dismissed by people who've never read him because they think it's just nerdy nonsense. What they're missing is how achingly, smartly human his books are. The other thing I love is the secret language of references in his books. Every one of his books has a joke that you feel is meant just for you, and some of those jokes will be lost over time as society changes—that's wonderful.
When did you decide to start writing your celebrated biography of Terry?
I started writing the book in 2019 and was given a year to finish it. I actually managed it in six months because I wanted to launch it at the Discworld convention in 2020. I worked harder on that book than anything else in my life, basically sacrificing my mental health to get it finished on time. Then, of course, the pandemic happened and the convention … didn’t.
How did you approach adapting the book into a stage piece?
My first instinct was to tell Terry's story in a straightforward manner for the show, almost like a Reduced Shakespeare Company version of the book. The theory is pretty simple: he was born in 1948, he dies in 2015, and it's just about joining the dots between the two. I thought that would work. So, the first draft was basically a retelling of Terry's life in order. But, there just wasn't enough time in a stage show to do that justice, and condensing it left something that felt unsatisfying. I remember reading it to my girlfriend and thinking, "I'm boring myself with this." So, I changed my approach. I started thinking about what was important in Terry's life and work, the themes, what I wanted people to take away. I was influenced by Moonage Daydream, a documentary about David Bowie that came out last year; you didn’t come out of it knowing Bowie’s birthday or mother’s maiden name or favourite colour, but you came out knowing exactly who he was as an artist. it gave you an impression of Bowie, not just a list of facts. I wanted to do that – not just a narrative story, but an impression of who Terry was and what his work meant. It's also a stand-up comedy show because Terry's books are always funny, even when they're profound and serious. He knew that “serious” wasn’t the opposite of funny. The opposite of funny is “not funny”. I wanted to honour that.

Photo by I Was There Photography

What can audiences expect from "The Magic of Terry Pratchett"?
Well, it really depends on what you bring to it. If you're a huge Terry fan, there are plenty of in-jokes and trivia you're going to get. But more than that hopefully you’re going to think about his writing and his life in a different way. You'll probably cry at the end; sorry about that. If you know nothing about Terry Pratchett, you'll learn about a life that really, truly meant something. But whoever you are, I really hope you're going to laugh.
How do you reflect on your recent run at the Edinburgh Fringe?
The run at the Fringe went better than I could have ever hoped. You never really know, there are so many shows to compete with - happening at the same time, in the same building, let alone across town. But what was wonderful is that people really took a chance on it. At the Fringe, there was a larger contingent than I ever expected of people who had never read a Pratchett book. Several people told me it was one of their favourite shows and they were going to start reading Terry's work. That meant the absolute world to me; I think I created some new fans, which is more than I could have ever hoped for. I imagine Terry’s estate will be happy about that as well.
What keeps you inspired as a creative?
I find the term "a creative" kind of peculiar. What does it mean? It’s weirdly generic. It’s not really a hobby or a job, so what am I? An artist? A workman? What worries me is when you start calling yourself “a creative” the word “content” is probably hovering into view somewhere, and I don’t like to think of what I do being “content”. Although I suppose everything is, to someone. But I prefer to be a writer or a musician or a comic. I don’t think I make content; I think I make…books and music and shows. For me, it's always a quest for something else that's going to satisfy and challenge me and ultimately probably distract me from something else. Distract me from real life, if I’m lucky, or distract me from something I need to do for money if I’m not. I do a lot of things; I write books, articles, music, and comedy shows. What tends to happen is halfway through a big project, right at the point where it shifts from being this new, exciting endeavour to hard work—that's when I'll often get side-tracked. Like, if I'm drafting and redrafting rather than creating from scratch, suddenly I'll get this urge to start writing an album. Then halfway through recording that album, when that starts to feel like work, I'll get this impulse to start writing a novel. And so it goes. I just find the act of creating new things really satisfying. 
Oh … okay, maybe I am a creative after all?
What would you want an audience to take away from seeing "The Magic of Terry Pratchett"?
Firstly, I'd like them to take away a copy of my book, available in the foyer at a very reasonable price. Beyond that, I'd like them to go home and read the first Terry Pratchett book they can get their hands on.
Marc Burrows’ ‘The Magic of Terry Pratchett’ will be at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London on Thursday 12th October 2023 at 19:30. Tickets from £16.50 from here:
He will also tour the show in 2024 – see dates here -

Photo by I Was There Photography

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