Death metal on repeat helps me write calmer fiction, says Elif Shafak


Best-selling author Elif Shafak has said she writes her books listening to the same song up to 80 times in a loop.

The writer's novels, which have included The Forty Rules Of Love and The Bastard Of Istanbul, have been translated into 47 languages.

Speaking on Desert Island Discs, Shafak said listening to death metal helps create "calmer fiction".

"I hate silence, I panic when there's too much silence," she said.

"I always write with music and on repeat; sometimes I listen to the same song, maybe 75 or 80 times while I'm writing.

"It's a loop, I enter that loop and I listen again and again."

Introducing one of her song choices, death metal band Arch Enemy's track War Eternal, she said: "I love listening to this music when I'm writing fiction, somehow when I'm listening to these songs I produce calmer fiction."

The mother-of-two, who lives in London and is the most popular female novelist in her Turkish homeland, also writes non-fiction and song lyrics.

She told the BBC Radio 4 programme: "Books were always my best friend ... I was a very lonely child ... the need to write goes all the way back to my childhood.

"I have that faith in the transformative power in books."

In 2006, Shafak was tried in her absence, on charges of "insulting Turkishness", over remarks made by a fictional character in The Bastard Of Istanbul.

"My Turkish lawyer had to defend my Armenian fictional character in the courtroom; it was so surreal and absurd," she told presenter Kirsty Young.

Her 2012 novel Honour looked at traditional codes of honour in three generations of a family coming from Istanbul to London. 

"I'm trying to question this notion of masculinity, how we raise our sons differently from our daughters. Unfortunately women sometimes take part in the continuity of those very old and wrong traditions," she said.

"I wanted to question mother-son relationships and how a son is raised, in so many traditional, Middle Eastern, Turkish or immigrant families, sometimes, thinking that they have a right to keep an eye on the so-called modesty of their sisters, female family members...

"The way we raise them as if they're small sultans in the family, that needs to change."

She also hit out at the "murky" recent referendum, increasing the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"We have seen a very unfair campaign, it was very one-sided ... People who dared to say no were either intimidated or lost their jobs," she said.

"On the day of the referendum all of a sudden the electoral board changed the rules ... the country deserves better ... I don't want anyone in Turkey to have that much power, it doesn't matter who, it's just not healthy."

:: Desert Island Discs is broadcast on Radio 4 on Sunday at 11.15am.